SEA GRANT REAUTHORIZATION CLEARS HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE; ADMINISTRATION'S PROPOSED TRANSFER OF SEA GRANT TO NSF REJECTED - Following approval on 14 March 2002 by the House Science subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards, the full House Science Committee on 20 March 2002 passed H.R. 3389, National Sea Grant College Program Act Amendments of 2002. The bill authorizes the Sea Grant program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at $550 million over six years, capping at $85 million in Fiscal Year 2008, with additional authorization for $130 million for the Coastal Ocean Research Program. Under the 1998 National Sea Grant College Program Authorization Act, Sea Grant's authorization rose to $60 million for Fiscal Year 2003, with additional amounts authorized for research on zebra mussel control and oyster disease.
The bill rejects the Administration's proposal to move the Sea Grant program from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Subcommittee significantly amended the bill, which had previously been approved on 27 February 2002 by the House Resources Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the program with the House Science Committee. The key changes approved by the Subcommittee were:
- Elimination of the merger of the Sea Grant program and the Coastal Ocean Program. The amendment keeps the two programs separate, but strongly encourages cooperative work between Sea Grant, the COP and NSF.
- Directing how new funds are to be spent. The amendment specifies that if the Sea Grant program receives a higher appropriation than it did for fiscal year 2002, the additional funds can be used only for competitive grant programs for states and universities, and cannot be distributed to the states by formula. This is designed to improve the quality of sea grant research, and to make the quality more consistent across states.
- Eliminating the earmark for the Pacific Islands Regional Consortium. The amendment eliminates a provision added in the Resources Committee because no other state program receives a set-aside in statute.
The full Committee also added language to ensure equal access for minority students to the program and clarified how extra funds are to be distributed to the states. The Committee will now resolve differences with the House Resources Committee, which also passed a version of the bill, before the legislation moves to the House Floor.
Subcommittee Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) commended the bill's sponsor, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), and stated, "I strongly support the Sea Grant program, and I want to work with all my colleagues to increase funding and exposure for this important research and extension program. I believe that the Administration's proposal to move the program has provided us an opportunity to look more deeply into how to improve the program, and I believe my amendment does just that."
Rep. Constance Morella (R-MD) added, "Peer review and merit-based funding provide the bedrock for almost all of our scientific endeavors. Our efforts to increase their utilization in the allocation of funds at Sea Grant can only be a positive step forward for the program."
NSF PUBLISHES RESEARCH INTEGRITY RULES - On 18 March 2002, NSF published its research misconduct rule. This revision of the existing NSF research misconduct rule (which can be found in Chapter IX, Section 930 of the NSF Grant Policy manual at http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/cpo/gpm95/start.htm) implements the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct issued by the Executive Office of the President's Office of Science and Technology on December 6, 2000. The revised rule, which is effective 17 April 2002, is essentially the same as the federal rule in its definitions of research misconduct:
(a) Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing or performing research funded by NSF, reviewing research proposals submitted to NSF, or in reporting research results funded by NSF.
(1) Fabrication means making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
(2) Falsification means manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
(3) Plagiarism means the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.
(4) Research, for purposes of paragraph (a) of this section, includes proposals submitted to NSF in all fields of science, engineering, mathematics, and education and results from such proposals.
(b) Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.
The balance of the NSF rule describes NSF procedure in the event of an allegation or suspicion of misconduct. Ordinarily, NSF expects awardee institutions bear primary responsibility for prevention and detection of research misconduct and for the inquiry, investigation, and adjudication of alleged research misconduct. However, there are also provisions for awardee institutions to defer the matter to NSF.
The new rule is summarized in an on-line brochure issued by the NSF Office of the Inspector General at http://www.oig.nsf.gov/brochure.pdf.
NEW RULE PROPOSED ON SUBMISSION ON PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE ANIMAL WELFARE ASSURANCE - The NIH is proposing to change the PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy) to permit institutions with PHS Animal Welfare Assurances to submit verification of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval for competing applications subsequent to peer review but prior to award. Current PHS Policy, applicable to all PHS-conducted or supported activities involving live, vertebrate animals, provides institutions with a PHS approval Animal Welfare Assurance the option of submitting IACUC approval for competing application subsequent to the submission of the application of proposal, but within 60 days from the receipt date. NIH grants policy mandates that applications lacking IACUC approval are considered incomplete; thus IACUC approval is presently required prior to initial NIH peer review. The proposed change is intended to enhance the flexibility of institutions and reduce the burden on applicants and IACUCs, allowing resources to be focused on substantive review of proposals likely to be funded.
Comments must be submitted on or before May 28, 2002 to Anthony Demsey, Ph.D., Senior Advisor for Policy, Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health, Building 1, Room 154, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.
The NSF Fast Lane submission process already allows the submission of IACUC approval subsequent to peer review. Applicants who have checked "vertebrate animal" on the submission form can then submit the IACUC approval date or check "planned" if approval has not yet been secured. The NSF Grant Manual section pertaining to animal welfare requirements can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/cpo/gpm95/ch7.htm#ch7-35.
SCIENCE IS FOCUS OF TWO PENDING BILLS ON THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT - The House Resources Committee on 20 March 2002 heard numerous witnesses on the subject of two pending bills that address the scientific basis of decisions made under the Endangered Species Act. The Sound Science for Endangered Species Planning Act of 2001, introduced by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (H.R. 2829) to require the Secretary of the Interior to give greater weight to scientific or commercial data that is empirical or has been field-tested or peer-reviewed in determining that a species is an endangered or threatened species; and (2) promulgate regulations that establish criteria for data to be used as the basis of such a determination. It would also prohibit a listing of a species unless the determination is supported by data obtained by observation of the species in the field. These provisions seems to preclude the use of modeling as a basis for an endangered species listing.
Directs the Secretary: (1) to solicit recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences and develop a list of qualified reviewers to participate in independent scientific review actions; (2) before any proposed action becomes final, to appoint from such list three individuals who shall report on the scientific information and analyses on which such action is based; and (3) to include such report in the official record of the proposed action.
A bill introduced by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), named the Sound Science Saves Species Act of 1973 (H.R.3705) would require the Secretary of the Interior to use the best sound science available in implementing the Endangered Species Act. It would also require a petition to add or remove a species from either the endangered or threatened species list to contain: (1) evidence of the species' known and historic ranges, the most recent population estimates and trends, and the reason that the petitioned action is warranted, including known or perceived threats; (2) a bibliography of scientific literature on the species; and (3) a description of all available data on the species' historical and current range, population, and distribution, an explanation of the methodology used to collect such data, and an identification of the location where it can be reviewed. It also would limit re-petitions for listings.
Despite titles and language that seem to increase the use of scientific information in implementation of the Endangered Species Act, these bills, if enacted, could limit the consideration of certain kinds of information, including monitoring data and the results of modeling. Several of the 10 witnesses who testified suggested that these proposals would actual hinder endangered species protection. Michael Bean, Chairman of the Wildlife Program of the Environmental Defense Fund, stated that, "They make aspects of the Endangered Species Act still more complex, rather than simpler; they slow agency decision-making, rather than expedite it; they provide no new resources to cope with new procedural obligations; and they do nothing to create positive incentives for conservation action by private landowners. All of that is not to deny that there is a problem with the scientific bases for decision-making under the Endangered Species Act. These bills, however, misdiagnose that problem and prescribe a remedy that will do little or nothing to solve it. More troubling still is that in places, the bills reveal a dizzying ignorance of science itself."
Bean went on to say that, "Since listing decisions and jeopardy determinations are, by definition, judgments about the risk of extinction that are always made with incomplete data, it is erroneous and misleading to label such judgments as correct or incorrect. Yet, that is exactly what the Pombo bill (HR 3705) requires when it obliges the Secretary to evaluate a review board judgment that differs from his own prior judgment about the need to list a species." Bean also suggested that the drafters of this language really intend is to discourage the use of models, and cited the National Research Council's report on the use of science in endangered species decision-making, which said, "although most of these models have shortcomings, they do provide valuable insights into the potential impacts of various management (or other) activities" (p. 142).
A representative of the National Marine Fisheries Council expressed that agency's opposition to the bills. She said of Walden's bill that, "While we support the goal of basing our decisions on sound science and peer reviewed science, we believe that if we give greater weight to scientific or commercial data that is empirical or field tested, when evaluating comparable data, we may not be using the best information available. There are other scientific methods (e.g., modeling and statistical analyses) that produce valuable scientific data. It is usually a combination of various types of scientific data that form the basis of our evaluations."
Witnesses also noted that both bills would impose significant new procedural requirements that would make it virtually impossible to meet many of the statutory deadlines prescribed by the ESA. For example, both bills require additional independent reviews and new Federal Register notices for listing decisions and jeopardy determinations under Section 7 of the ESA. Both listing decisions and Section 7 consultation requirements are subject to statutorily prescribed deadlines. Michael Bean pointed out that, "It is worth noting that a very large portion, perhaps most, of recent Endangered Species Act litigation is due to the government's failure to make listing and other decisions within the statutorily prescribed deadlines. Indeed, the administrators of the Endangered Species Act in both the Clinton and Bush administrations have decried the fact that their agendas have been driven by litigation, much of which consists of various deadline suits. The new procedural requirements of these two bills virtually guarantee that the government will miss even more of its statutory deadlines, thus exacerbating the very problem that has vexed the current and former administrations."
WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET SEEKS TO IMPROVE REGULATIONS THROUGH "SCIENCE-BASED QUALITY REGULATION" - According to a 20 March 2002 Washington Post article, the Bush administration wants to hire more scientists for its White House regulatory review office. This plan was part of a draft report to Congress on the costs and benefits of federal regulations. In real terms, this means that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)of the White House Office of Management and Budget will hire four new staffers to provide science and engineering expertise to OIRA. In addition, OIRA will form a scientific advisory panel. However, the advisory panel envisioned by OIRA does not seem to be one that will provide scientific peer review, but rather, will undertake scientific assessments of the costs and benefits of regulations. According to the report, OIRA expects to panel to be "comprised of academics with specialized expertise in economics, administrative law, regulatory analysis, risk assessment, engineering, statistics, and health and medical sciences."
It should be noted that agencies are already required to assess the potential costs of the regulations they promulgate if the rule is economically "significant," meaning that implementation of the rule is likely to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or state, local, or tribal governmental or communities. But OIRA is apparently dissatisfied with the agency determinations of cost. Graham said in the report that Bush's OIRA, housed in the Office of Management and Budget, has returned 20 significant rules to agencies on the ground of inadequate analysis. By comparison, the report noted, during the last three years of the Clinton administration, OIRA returned "exactly zero" rules.
UPDATE ON EFFORT TO WEDGE INTELLIGENT DESIGN INTO OHIO STATE SCIENCE STANDARDS - As scientific societies predicted last year, proponents of the effort to persuade the Ohio State Board of Education to include intelligent design concepts, or language that would promote the teaching of such concepts, into the Ohio State Science Standards, have been relying on the Santorum amendment for support. Indeed, Santorum himself entered the fray with a March 14 editorial in the Washington Times, implying that Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), the sponsor of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed into law late last year, supported the teaching of intelligent design. Scientific societies that opposed the Santorum amendment, which was ultimately removed from the actual bill and relocated to "report language" that does not have the force of law, warned Kennedy staffers that this would happen. Kennedy has now been forced to state publicly that Santorum (R-PA) erroneously suggested that Kennedy supports the teaching of "intelligent design" as an alternative to biological evolution. In a letter to the Washington Times, responding to an editorial by Santorum, Kennedy wrote, "That simply is not true. Rather, I believe that public school science classes should focus on teaching students how to understand and critically analyze genuine scientific theories." Going one remarkable step further, Kennedy wrote, "Unlike biological evolution, 'intelligent design' is not a genuine scientific theory and, therefore, has no place in the curriculum of our nation's public school science classes."
Meanwhile, the Ohio State Board of Education heard from scientists at a 11 March 2002 hearing to gather information on whether "intelligent design" ought to be part of the science curriculum in Ohio schools as a counter to evolution. "The question of whether there is a divine intelligence behind creation of the universe is not a question that science can address," said Case Western Reserve University physicist Lawrence Krauss. According to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "It is, however, the question that proponents of intelligent design think science should address."
Proponents of the teaching of intelligent design insisted there is scientific controversy about the theory of evolution, although, the Plain Dealer said, "evidence suggests it is largely because they say there is." The intelligent design supports argued for a compromise - they don't oppose the teaching of evolution, but want students to hear about intelligent design. Characterizing intelligent design as "fun and exciting," they told Board of Education members that, "Your voters overwhelmingly favor this."
The Board of Education will vote later this year on the standards prepared by the Ohio State science supervisors, with input from an advisory panel of experts. Those standards are considered by scientific experts to have strong, scientifically-acceptable standards for the teaching of evolution. Reportedly, at least one-third of the Board of Education members favor the inclusion of intelligent design concepts.