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Public Policy Report for 04/15/2003

  • Creationism Makes Gains in Louisiana and Tennessee
  • EU Limits Stem Cell Research, Nebraska Considers Cloning Ban
  • NSF Budget Scrutinized by House and Senate Appropriators
  • AIBS Participates in the 8th Annual Science, Engineering and Technology Congressional Visits Day
  • Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition and Co-Farm Honor Rep. Nick Smith

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].


CREATIONISM MAKES GAINS IN LOUISIANA AND TENNESSEE

LOUISIANA - A resolution has been introduced into the Louisiana House
of Representatives urging local school districts to reject the
adoption of science textbooks that present evolution as fact. The
complete text of the resolution can be found at:
http://www.legis.state.la.us/leg_docs/03RS/CVT1/OUT/0000K4Q7.PDF.
Louisiana scientists, educators and others are strongly urged to
contact their State Representatives to express their opinion on the
resolution. Following are excerpts from a National Center for Science
Education (www.ncseweb.org) letter that may be used as the basis for
personal letters and phone calls.

"On April 1, Louisiana representative Ben Nevers introduced House
Concurrent Resolution 50, which '[e]ncourages city, parish, and other
local public school systems to refrain from purchasing certain
text-book.' On April 2nd, that resolution was assigned to the House
Education Committee. The resolution states that 'in the effort to
encourage the development of students' critical thinking skills,
city, parish, and other local public school systems should refrain
from purchasing textbooks that do not present a balanced view of the
various theories relative to the origin of life but rather refer to
one theory as proven fact.'

Observers of the evolution/creationism controversy will recognize
this language as an attempt to downgrade evolution from a sound and
well supported scientific theory to one of questionable status,
thereby making it easier for school districts to reject textbooks
that present it accurately. The phrase may also open the door to the
teaching of "creation science" and other faith-based views."

The Louisiana House of Representatives Education Committee website is
located at:
http://house.legis.state.la.us/WebRepresentatives/edcommittee.asp.

Resolutions and other resources from national organizations
supporting evolution education are available from the AIBS website at
http://www.aibs.org/evolution/index.html.


TENNESSEE- On March 5th the Blount County, Tennessee board of
education rejected the adoption of three biology textbooks because
they covered evolution but do not include creationism. The vote was
2-1 with four board members not voting because they were reluctant to
engage in the controversial issue. The rejected biology books were
selected from a state approved list by the county's high school
science teachers. According to reports in the Maryville, TN Daily
Times, Mike Treadway, one of the board members that voted against the
textbooks, explained he is not against evolution but wants it taught
as a theory along side creationism. Treadway further explained the
biology textbooks have overwhelming references to evolution.

It is now expected that the high school science teachers will be
asked to develop a new curriculum that includes creationism. If the
curriculum includes creationism, the board is expected to adopt the
biology books.

Tennessee scientists and science education advocates are encouraged
to become engaged in this process by letting the non-voting members
of the board no that their failure to defend science education is
unacceptable. For more information on state evolution education
developments and resources from national scientific societies and
organizations may be obtained from the AIBS website at
http://www.aibs.org/evolution/index.html. Individuals in Tennessee
may wish to subscribe to the Tennessee node of the AIBS/NCSE
Evolution-L list serve network. Instructions for subscribing may be
found at http://www.aibs.org/evolution/index.html. Evolution
education information is also available from the National Center for
Science Education at www.ncseweb.org.

EU LIMITS STEM CELL RESEARCH, NEBRASKA CONSIDERS CLONING BAN

On April 10, 2003 the European Union approved a measure that calls
for severe limitations on human embryo stem cell research. The
measure would ban human reproductive cloning. While the measure is
not an outright ban on human stem cell research, it imposes
limitations that some believe would effectively discourage scientists
from pursuing this line of research. To become law, the measure must
be approved by the EU's 15 member nations. The vote follows the
April 7th release of an EU Commission report on embryonic stem cell
research and human cloning. The report addressed the myriad of
scientific, legal, ethical and social issues associated with human
stem cell research and human cloning.

As reported in the March 3, 2003 edition of the AIBS Public Policy
Report, the U.S. House of Representatives on February 27th passed
H.R. 534, The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003. The legislation
would ban nuclear transplantation or therapeutic cloning research.
President Bush strongly supports the legislation and would likely
sign it into law if the Senate passes the measure. However, H.R. 534
faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate. Congress' failure to
reach agreement on whether or how to regulate stem cell and
therapeutic cloning research may lead states to implement their own
regulations.

Meanwhile, individual states are also considering cloning measures.
The Nebraska Legislature is considering LB 602, The Human Cloning
Prohibition Act. Reports suggest the measure is actively moving
through committee. Speaking on his own behalf, Clay Farris Naff,
Executive Director of the Nebraska-based Center for the Advancement
of Rational Solutions, notes the intent of LB 602 is to ban all
cloning, including research on individual cells and therapeutic
cloning.


NSF BUDGET SCRUTINIZED BY HOUSE AND SENATE APPROPRIATORS

On the heels of a successful Congressional Visits Day (see next
story), it appears that momentum may be building on the Capitol Hill
for increased NSF funding. However, supporters are urged to keep up
the pressure.

During an April 3rd Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on the
NSF budget request for FY 2004, Bush administration science adviser,
Dr. John H. Marburger III, and NSF Director Dr. Rita Colwell were
questioned by Senators frustrated by the administration's meager
budget request for NSF. Subcommittee Chairman Senator Christopher
Bond (R-MO) and Ranking Member Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
expressed concerns with the administration's request for a 3.2
percent or $171 million dollar increase over the current
appropriation. The administration countered that the FY 04 budget
request was based on the FY03 budget request and not the amount
actually appropriated for FY 03 by Congress. Senator Bond committed
to finding more funds for NSF. When asked what she would do with
increased funding, Dr. Colwell noted the agency's desire to increase
the size and duration of its average grant. NSF is seeking to
increase the average size of its grants from $127,000 to $250,000.

Further frustrating subcommittee members, however, is NSF's apparent
failure to adequately address key management issues raised in recent
NSF Office of Inspector General reports to Congress. The IG's office
has raised issues with NSF's oversight and management of large
infrastructure projects and awarded grants. Additionally, NSF has
failed to convince auditors that it is successfully addressing an
impending workforce crisis resulting from the fact that nearly 40% of
the foundation's full-time employees are eligible for retirement.

On April 10th, Dr. Colwell testified before the House appropriations
subcommittee for VA, HUD and Independent Agencies. Dr. Colwell
stressed the importance of continued investment in science and
engineering research and education noting, "Today, our nation faces
significant challenges - in security, health, the economy, and the
workforce. The surest way to keep our nation prosperous and secure
is to keep it at the forefront of learning and discovery. The NSF
budget proposal for FY 2004 aims to do just that." Dr. Colwell
further noted that NSF invests in three strategic areas: people,
ideas, and tools.

Among the priorities identified by Dr. Colwell is NSF's effort to
increase graduate fellowship stipends from "a low of $15,000 in
1999." NSF has increased stipends by 19% between 2001 and 2002 and
is now requesting an increase to $30,000. NSF also seeks to increase
the number of graduate fellowships awarded.

Biocomplexity was also a focus of Dr. Colwell's testimony. NSF has
requested $100 million for research in Biocomplexity in the
Environment. According to Dr. Colwell, "This investment will
continue support for microbial genome sequencing and the ecology of
infectious diseases, two areas that are of vital importance to the
nation's anti-terrorism efforts."

Members of Congress have returned home until April 25th for a
district work period, a time members of Congress use to meet with
their constituents. This is an excellent opportunity for biologists
and science educators to meet with their Senators and
Representatives. You may wish to schedule a meeting with your
Representative at one of their district offices or attend a town hall
meeting to share with them why federal investment in science is
important to you, their district and your state.

AIBS PARTICIPATES IN THE 8TH ANNUAL SCIENCE, ENGINEERING AND
TECHNOLOGY CONGRESSIONAL VISITS DAY

On April 3rd, nine biologists representing AIBS and its member
societies met with members of Congress and their staff to discuss the
importance of a strong investment in science and technology.
Participants included board members from the Organization of
Biological Field Stations, the American Society of Limnology and
Oceanography, and the Estuarine Research Federation. AIBS was one of
many societies to participate in the event, which brought together
200 scientists from the broad spectrum of scientific disciplines. The
AIBS contingent met with 15 congressional offices over the two days.
In addition to the core message of the CVD, AIBS scientists and staff
emphasized the importance of providing increases for all disciplines
funded by the National Science Foundation. The group emphasized that
not all biology is funded through the NIH and that NSF funds nearly
65% of the non-medical biological sciences. The message was well
received, with a senior committee staff member noting that many
congressional staff simply need more education about the types of
biology represented by AIBS. A full report and images from the event
will be published in the AIBS News section of the June issue of
BioScience.

BIOLOGICAL AND ECOLOGICAL SCIENCES COALITION AND CO-FARM HONOR REP. NICK SMITH

Two Washington-DC based science coalitions honored Chairman Nick
Smith (R-MI) who, as leader of the House Sciences Subcommittee on
Research, has championed numerous efforts for which the agricultural
and biological science communities are grateful. The Biological and
Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) focuses on the vitality of
research in the biological sciences across agencies including the
National Science Foundation. The Coalition on Funding Agricultural
Research Missions (CoFARM) works to raise awareness and support for
the agricultural research community, especially through the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.

"BESC and CoFARM would like to thank you, Chairman Smith, for your
unwavering support of the National Science Foundation and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture," said Dr. Ann Bartuska, President of the
Ecological Society of America, which is a member of BESC.

Among his many accomplishments, Chairman Smith spearheaded the
recently passed reauthorization bill that proposes substantial
funding boosts for the National Science Foundation. NSF is the only
federal agency to support science and education across all
disciplines. In addition, Smith is a passionate supporter of plant
biotechnology, and has worked to further biotechnology research on
crop challenges unique to the developing world. Smith has also
worked to improve the nation's ability to combat accidental or
deliberate introductions of plant diseases.

The BESC/CoFARM breakfast event on April 3 honoring Chairman Smith
also featured a short session presented by Adrienne Froelich,
Director of Public Policy at the American Institute of Biological
Sciences and Co-Chair of BESC. Many of the agricultural and
biological scientists at the event were heading off to meet with
their congressional offices and Froelich's presentation provided
participants with context and areas of concern, such as the frequent
misperception that the biological sciences have benefited from the
well-deserved funding boosts to the medical sciences in recent years.

"BESC and CoFARM are working to ensure that the important
contributions these fields make to our ability to better understand
our environment and to equip us to sensibly manage our natural
resources are heard by Members of Congress," said Froelich.

Added CoFARM Chair Karl Glasener, "Today's awards breakfast honoring
Congressman Smith marks the coming together of the agricultural and
biological sciences communities in recognition of the importance of a
broader, single voice in support of the non-biomedical biological
sciences."


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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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