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Public Policy Report for 12/19/2001

  • Santorum anti-evolution amendment to Elementary and Secondary Education Act modified, removed from language of final bill
  • Math and Science Partnership provision of Elementary and Secondary Education Act falls far short of intended funding level
  • AIBS aims to persuade OMB to reverse decision on shifting Smithsonian research programs, Sea Grant funding, and portion of USGS funding to NSF
  • NOAA seeks public input on coral reef conservation program implementation guidelines
  • Bush names advisors to President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology with heavy emphasis on technology and economy
  • AIBS participates in stakeholder meeting for Department of Interior strategic plan

The AIBS Public Policy Report is distributed broadly by email every two weeks to AIBS membership leaders and contacts, including the President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Director, AIBS Council Representative, Journal Editor, Newsletter Editor, Public Policy Committee Chair, Public Policy Representative, and Education Committee Chair of all AIBS member societies and organizations (see the Membership Directories for contact information).

All material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded. Please mention AIBS as the source; office staff appreciate receiving copies of materials used. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the AIBS Director of Public Policy, Dr. Robert Gropp [publ...@aibs.org; 202-628-1500 x250].


SANTORUM ANTI-EVOLUTION AMENDMENT TO ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT MODIFIED, REMOVED FROM LANGUAGE OF FINAL BILL - At the end of the long conference process to reconcile the Senate and House bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) original Sense of the Senate resolution - which opened the door to the teaching of intelligent design concepts - is gone from the final version of the legislation. However, the conferees added similar language to what is known as the committee report. The new language reads:

"The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

That text can be found in the "Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference." Report language is not part of the legislation. However, it is nonetheless important because it can be cited, much like any other legislative history, such as debates and speeches that are found in the Congressional Record, to support varying interpretations of the law. It is also important because, like the original Sense of the Senate resolution, which was also nonbonding, it has significant symbolic value to the advocates for teaching of intelligent design and creationism. AIBS fully expects that these groups will use both the original Sense of the Senate resolution and the report language to press school officials, school boards, state boards of education, and state science supervisors to teach intelligent design and other "alternatives" to evolution in the public schools in the coming year.


MATH AND SCIENCE PARTNERSHIP PROVISION OF ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT FALLS FAR SHORT OF INTENDED FUNDING LEVEL - Title II of the final version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and is more commonly known as the "No Child Left Behind Act" authorizes funding for a variety of teacher improvement programs, including the Math and Science Partnership. For what is known as the Math and Science Partnership, the bill authorizes $450 million of spending. However, at the time of this report, the conference committee reconciling the differences between the House and Senate appropriations bills for the Department of Education was reportedly planning to appropriate as little as $12.5 million for the Math and Science partnership programs. A vote on the final version of the appropriations bill was expected on 19 December 2001. It should be noted that under the VA-HUD appropriations bill, the National Science Foundation received $160 million for a Math and Science partnership to encourage academic institutions and schools to work together to improve math and science education.


AIBS AIMS TO PERSUADE OMB TO REVERSE DECISION ON SHIFTING SMITHSONIAN RESEARCH PROGRAMS, SEA GRANT FUNDING, AND PORTION OF USGS FUNDING TO NSF - Although the Administration's proposed budget for FY2003 will not be sent to Congress and released to the public until February, AIBS and other scientific organizations learned last week that the Office of Management and Budget has proposed to take the federal funding that provides base support for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), and the Astrophysics Lab and assign it to NSF. Subsequently, we learned that OMB also proposes to move Sea Grant funding and a significant portion of the USGS Water Resources Division's national research program funding to NSF. Although we have concerns about the merits of these proposed transfers, we are also greatly concerned that the decisions were made without careful consideration to the potential costs and benefits to these research programs. Therefore, AIBS is mounting an effort to persuade OMB to reverse these decisions and to engage in a more careful, deliberative process. We have circulated a sign-on letter to our colleagues and have also sent a separate letter on behalf of AIBS. Both letters point out that, with regard to the Smithsonian, there is an independent Science Commission advising the Smithsonian on the reorganization of the SI scientific research programs. That commission has only started on what is likely to be a year-long effort, and we suggested that OMB might wish to await the commission's findings. Out letter also pointed out that the NSF may not be the best home for Sea Grant and the USGS national research program, which fund applied research. We are also worried that OMB plans to offer these transfers in lieu of an increase for NSF or for the NSF Biology Directorate.


NOAA SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT ON CORAL REEF CONSERVATION PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION GUIDELINES - The Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 was enacted:

(1) To preserve, sustain and restore the condition of coral reef ecosystems;
(2) To promote the wise management and sustainable use of coral reef ecosystems to benefit local communities and the Nation;
(3) To develop sound scientific information on the condition of coral reef ecosystems and the threats to such ecosystems;
(4) To assist in the preservation of coral reefs by supporting conservation programs, including projects that involve affected local communities and non-governmental organizations;
(5) To provide financial resources for those programs and projects; and
(6) To establish a formal mechanism for the collecting and allocating of monetary donations from the private sector to be used for coral reef conservation projects.

Under the Act, the NOAA is authorized to provide matching grants of financial assistance for coral reef conservation projects; through FY2004, $8,000,000 per year was authorized for this matching grant program. The number of individual awards to be made each year will depend on the total amount of funds appropriated for coral reef activities within NOAA and the portion of those funds that are allocated to this Program. For fiscal year 2002, Congress appropriated over $25 million dollars for coral reef programs; of this amount, NOAA anticipates that approximately $5 million will be available for the matching grants program. The total annual Program funding amount, suggested ranges for funding requests, and specific funding categories under which an applicant may choose to be considered will be published in the Program's annual Federal Register solicitation. Federal funds for any coral conservation project funded under this Program may not exceed 50 percent of the total costs of such project. The match may comprise a variety of public and private sources and can include in-kind contributions and other non-cash support. Federal funds may not be considered as matching funds. For applicants who cannot meet the match requirement, as per section 6403(b)(2) of the Act, the Secretary may waive all or part of the matching requirement if the Administrator determines that the project meets the following two requirements: (1) No reasonable means are available through which an applicant can meet the matching requirement, and (2) The probable benefit of such project outweighs the public interest in such matching requirement.

On 10 December 2001, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requested comments on NOAA's proposed Implementation Guidelines (Guidelines) for the Coral Reef Conservation Program, through which NOAA will provide matching grants of financial assistance for coral reef conservation projects. NOAA has developed this set of proposed Implementation Guidelines for the Program for Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 through FY 2004. NOAA proposes to use several existing grant programs and mechanisms to implement the Program. Final Guidelines and specific Program information including available funding, dates, and detailed application requirements and proposal evaluation criteria will be published annually in a separate Federal Register solicitation.

In order to be considered, comments on this document must be received by NOAA on or before January 14, 2002. Only written comments will be accepted. Please send your comments by mail or fax to: David Kennedy, NOAA Coral Program Coordinator, Office of Response and Restoration, N/ORR, NOAA National Ocean Service, 1305 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, Fax: 301-713-4389. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Millhouser, Pacific Regional Manager, CPD/OCRM, N/ORM-3, NOAA National Ocean Service, 1305 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; 301-713-3155 extension 189, Internet: bill.millhouser@noaa.gov; or Robin Bruckner, Community-based Restoration Coordinator, NOAA Restoration Center, F/HC3, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; 301-713-0174 extension 162, Internet: robin.bruckner@noaa.gov.

Projects considered for funding under this Program must be consistent with the National Coral Reef Action Strategy, scheduled to be published concurrently in the Federal Register with the FY 2002 solicitation for proposals, in the first quarter calendar year 2002. In addition, per the same section, the Administrator may not approve a project proposal unless it will enhance the conservation of coral reefs by addressing at least one of the following:

(1) Implementing coral conservation programs which promote sustainable development and ensure effective, long-term conservation of coral reefs;
(2) Addressing the conflicts arising from the use of environments near coral reefs or from the use of corals, species associated with coral reefs, and coral products;
(3) Enhancing compliance with laws that prohibit or regulate the taking of coral products or species associated with coral reefs or regulate the use and management of coral reef ecosystems;
(4) Developing sound scientific information on the condition of coral reef ecosystems or the threats to such ecosystems, including factors that cause coral disease;
(5) Promoting and assisting to implement cooperative coral reef
conservation projects that involve affected local communities, non-governmental organizations, or others in the private sector;
(6) Increasing public knowledge and awareness of coral reef ecosystems and issues regarding their long term conservation;
(7) Mapping the location and distribution of coral reefs;
(8) Developing and implementing techniques to monitor and assess the status and condition of coral reefs;
(9) Developing and implementing cost-effective methods to restore degraded coral reef ecosystems; or
(10) Promoting ecologically sound navigation and anchorages near coral reefs.

No less than 40 percent of funds available shall be awarded for coral reef conservation projects in the Pacific Ocean within the maritime areas and zones subject to the jurisdiction or control of the United States; and no less than 40 percent of funds available shall be awarded for coral reef conservation projects in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea within the maritime areas and zones subject to the jurisdiction or control of the United States. The remaining funds shall be awarded for projects that address emerging priorities or threats, including international priorities or threats, identified by the Administrator.

Eligible applicants include: any natural resource management authority of a state or other government authority with jurisdiction over coral reefs or whose activities directly or indirectly affect coral reefs or coral reef ecosystems, or educational or non-governmental institutions with demonstrated expertise in the conservation of coral reefs. As a matter of policy, funding Federal agency activities under this Program will be a low priority unless such activities are an essential part of a cooperative project with other eligible governmental or non-governmental entities.

NOAA is also in the process of developing a National Coral Reef Action Strategy (Strategy), as also required under the Act. The purpose of the Strategy is to provide an implementation plan to advance coral reef conservation, including a basis for funding allocations to be made under the Program. The Final Strategy will be published concurrently with the Final Program Guidelines and the FY 2002 Program Solicitation in the first quarter of calendar year 2002.


BUSH NAMES ADVISORS TO PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL OF ADVISORS ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY WITH HEAVY EMPHASIS ON TECHNOLOGY AND ECONOMY - On December 12, President Bush appointed on Wednesday the members of the President's Advisory Council on Science and Technology (PCAST). Most of the 24 members come from information-technology businesses, and only seven from academe -- a shift from previous councils, on which active researchers were better represented. For instance, under the Clinton administration, PCAST included biologists Peter Raven and Francisco Ayala, along with Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell- Mann. In contrast, all but one of the current panel's academic representatives are administrators. Among them are Gerald W. Clough, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology; Mary Anne Fox, chancellor of North Carolina State University; Martha Gilliland, chancellor of the University of Missouri at Kansas City; Walter E. Massey, president of Morehouse College, in Atlanta, and a former director of the National Science Foundation; Luis M. Proenza, president of the University of Akron; and Charles M. Vest, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The sole member of the panel who is an academic laboratory scientist is Charles J. Arntzen, a professor of plant biology at Arizona State University who has developed genetically engineered crops that secrete vaccines. Most of the other appointees represent industry, with an emphasis on the high-tech sector. They include Gordon E. Moore, a founder of the Intel Corporation, and Michael S. Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of the Dell Computer Corporation, and Robert J. Herbold, executive vice president, Microsoft Corporation. Other industry representatives, Norman R. Augustine, former chairman and chief executive officer, Lockheed Martin Corporation; Carol Bartz, chairman and chief executive officer, Autodesk Inc.; Stephen B. Burke, president, Comcast Cable Communications; E. Kenneth Nwabueze, chief executive officer, SageMetrics; Steven G. Papermaster, chairman, Powershift Group; and George Scalise, president, Semiconductor Industry Association

The council will be organized into four subcommittees that are expected to meet quarterly. They have been charged with bringing recommendations to Mr. Bush on specific topics. Those include how to combat terrorism, improve energy efficiency, and enhance the nation's broadband Internet links. A fourth subcommittee will examine whether the federal government should alter its pattern of spending on research projects, and emphasize scientific applications that could help stimulate the economy.

The science community expressed concern about the composition of the panel, and particularly about the lack of research scientists. The Chronicle of Higher Education quoted Albert H. Teich, director of science-policy programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as saying "People who do the research ought to have some role in thinking out the priorities. Both university administrators and active scientists "ought to be represented to a larger extent." Presidential Science Advisor John Marburger stated told the Chronicle that the membership was deliberately selected not to include people with particular technical skills, but rather with leadership skills. And he noted that the council will tap outsiders with relevant technical expertise, as needed. Teich also noted the lack of expertise on environmental and biotechnology issues, subject areas that are also lacking from the subcommittee structure and charges. This follows Marburger's termination of the position of the associate director for environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Marburger intends to subsume environmental matters within the two remaining OSTP divisions - science and technology.


AIBS PARTICIPATES IN STAKEHOLDER MEETING FOR DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR STRATEGIC PLAN - AIBS Public Policy Representative Ellen Paul took part in a two-day stakeholder meeting convened by P. Lynn Scarlett, Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, to help develop DOI's strategic plan. Prior to this time, DOI strategic planning comprised a collection of bureau and agency strategic plans. Now, DOI intends to develop its own strategic plan, consistent with Secretary Gale Norton's "Four C's" - conservation through communication, cooperation, and consultation. This session - one of six - focused on the preservation and restoration of natural resources, although it also touched on resource use and recreation, which are the themes of future meetings. Ultimately, DOI will use the input and resulting strategic plan to shape its FY2004 budget request. A prior stakeholder session - the USGS Listening Session, held in October - was attended by Ellen Paul and AIBS Public Policy Review Committee member David Blockstein, in his capacity as senior scientist for the National Council for Science and the Environment. Blockstein also participated in the natural resources preservation and restoration session.


 


The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association headquartered in Washington DC, with a staff of approximately 30. It was founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences and has been an independent organization since the mid-1950s, governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership. The AIBS membership consists of approximately 6,000 biologists and 80 professional societies and other organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 240,000 biologists. AIBS is an umbrella organization for the biological sciences dedicated to promoting an understanding of the natural living world, including the human species and its welfare, by engaging in coalition activities with its members in research, education, public policy, and public outreach; publishing the peer-reviewed journal, BioScience; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening scientific meetings; and performing administrative and other support services for its member organizations.


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