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Public Policy Report for 05/12/2003

  • European Commission releases roadmap for investing 3% of GDP in research by 2010
  • NSF and Professional Scientific Societies Discuss Interdisciplinarity in Science
  • Anti-Evolution Update: Louisiana and South Carolina (Action Alert)
  • AIBS Announces New Federal Register Resource for Biologists
  • Now Online: The Evolution of Research Taxonomy

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].


EUROPEAN COMMISSION RELEASES ROADMAP FOR INVESTING 3% OF GDP IN
RESEARCH BY 2010

The European Commission has released a plan to boost the level of
investment in research in the EU from 1.9% to 3% of its average Gross
Domestic Product (GDP). A European-wide consultation followed the
release of a September 2002 report; responses from public and private
sectors were all supportive of the 3% objective and its focus on
business investment in research. Two-thirds of the increase in
research would be financed by the private sector, as called for by
the March 2002 Barcelona European Council. Meeting the 3% objective
is expected to create 0.5% additional growth of GDP and 400,000
additional jobs every year after 2010. Key actions include setting up
European technology platforms, strengthening links between industry
and public research, redirecting public spending towards research and
innovation, making research careers more attractive and developing
better fiscal incentives for research.

"This blueprint for action marks the start of a process which has the
potential to turn around Europe's R&D fortunes. This is Europe's
chance to boost its competitive potential and [improve] people's
quality of life," Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin told
reporters at the plan's launch. "However, this requires the
determined and coordinated efforts of all interested parties -
current and future EU Member States, and public and private sector
stakeholders."

One major component of the plan is to build the human resource
capacity necessary to meet the increased demand for researchers under
the plan. The commission estimates that Europe will need an
additional 1.2 million research personnel, in addition to the
expected replacement of the aging workforce in research. The
Commission noted that achieving the human resource goals will come
about as a combination of initiatives at national, region and
community levels, aimed at attracting more students to research, the
facilitation of student mobility, attracting international
researchers to Europe and fostering mobility between the academic
world and industry, and maintaining researchers in the profession and
in European research area by giving favorable career development
prospects and a positive image of the researcher's profession.

While many current and future EU Member States indicate that they
have put in place policies to improve their performance, many plan to
focus their investment in more attractive environments outside of
Europe, such as the United States and Asia. Representatives from
industry and business called for major policy changes to restore
Europe's attractiveness for research investment to reverse this
trend. Dr. Erkki Ormala, Director, Technology Policy in Nokia Group,
supports the plan, noting "governments should ensure that large
global companies find Europe an attractive place for R&D investments
and encourage new knowledge intensive firms to emerge and grow. They
should also improve conditions for public research and create
incentives for academia to work more closely with industry."

The plan, including public comments from the draft, is available at:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/era/3pct/index_en.html


NSF AND PROFESSIONAL SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES DISCUSS INTERDISCIPLINARITY
IN SCIENCE

On May 7th, representatives of the National Science Foundation, the
Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, and
professional societies, including AIBS, met in Washington, DC for the
4th NSF/CPST/Professional Societies Workshop on "Mapping Academic
Disciplines to a Multi-Disciplinary World." The need or desire among
researchers to pursue multi- or inter- disciplinary research is
increasing, triggering questions about departmental organization,
administration, funding, and many others. Workshop participants
shared disciplinary information and discussed a range of issues
related to the changing academic environment. For example: Are "new
fields" defined by the system studied, the tools used, or a common
theoretical framework? Is departmental organization the result of
budget contraction or ease of administration? Are departments the
best unit for organizing academic programs?

Workforce survey data presented by some professional societies
illustrate changing patterns in where scientists work, and how they
are trained and educated. The American Institute of Physics has
found that only a fraction of undergraduate physics majors go on to
complete doctorates in physics. However, physics undergraduates
often double major. Thus, physics majors are completing their
undergraduate study in a "multi-disciplinary" framework that prepares
them for a wide array of careers, including biophysics, business,
medical-related fields, and law. This information may be useful to a
growing number of biologists concerned with ensuring that
undergraduate and graduate students in the biological sciences are
prepared for "non-traditional" careers outside of academia,
education, medicine, and government. In fact, participants at the
2003 AIBS Council Meeting identified the need to prepare biology
undergraduates for a broader array of careers in fields such as
journalism, finance, public policy and law.

The workshop's agenda was timely as the National Research Council is
conducting an assessment of methodologies for defining and evaluating
research doctoral programs. A major challenge confronting the NRC
has been the identification of academic fields and the development of
methods for assessing their quality. A draft academic taxonomy
released in January 2003 as part of this assessment did not include
evolutionary biology and significantly reclassified a number of
fields in the "life sciences." Following more than one-hundred
comments from biologists and professional societies, however,
evolutionary biology has been reinstated as part of the "ecology and
evolutionary biology" category.

The NRC's assessment was the subject of the Washington Watch article
in the May 2003 issue of BioScience. Washington Watch articles are
available free of charge at
http://www.aibs.org/governmentaffairs/txtww.ldml. With proper
attribution, AIBS Member Societies and Organizations may reprint
Washington Watch articles; contact the AIBS Public Policy Office for
more information (afroelich@aibs.org).

ANTI-EVOLUTION UPDATE: LOUISIANA AND SOUTH CAROLINA ACTION ALERT

Louisiana. As reported in the April 28th issue of the AIBS Public
Policy Report, the Louisiana State House of Representatives has been
considering House Bill 1782. This legislation would "prohibit any
branch, department, agency, official, employee, or other entity of
state government or of any political subdivision from knowingly
printing or distributing material that contains information that is
false or fraudulent." Evolution education advocates worry that if
this legislation becomes law it would provide creationists with a
legal tool that can be used to tie evolution up in the courts. As
reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the implications of the
legislation have not gone unnoticed by House leaders who have moved
to block the measure. The Louisiana House has tabled the legislation
by a vote of 57-34. Tabling legislation generally means it lacks the
necessary support to pass.


ACTION ALERT: South Carolina - Apparently troubled by South
Carolina's inclusion on lists of states that have strong science
education content standards, SC State Senators have taken action. On
April 29, 2003, the South Carolina State Senate passed S 153, which
would amend state laws governing the adoption of instructional
materials for the public schools and establish a committee to review
evolution and science. The legislation now moves to the House for
consideration before the Education and Public Works Committee.

The legislation would create the "South Carolina Science Standards
Committee." Committee membership is spelled out in the legislation
and includes individuals appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the
House, President of the Senate, State Board of Education, the State
Superintendent of Education, State Commission on Higher Education,
South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, Chamber of Commerce and
State Medical Association. The committee would be charged with
reporting to the General Assembly on the following issues: (1) study
science standards regarding the teaching of the origin of species;
(2) determine whether there is a consensus on the definition of
science; and (3) determine whether alternatives to evolution as the
origin of species should be offered in schools.

South Carolina activists, science educators, and science education
administrators are concerned about this legislation because it
undermines South Carolina's strong science standards and targets
evolution. Interested South Carolinian's are encouraged to share
their thoughts with their elected state officials, especially their
members in the State House of Representatives.

-For a current version of S 153:
http://www.lpitr.state.sc.us/sess115_2003-2004/bills/153.htm
-For South Carolina legislative information: http://www.lpitr.state.sc.us
-South Carolinian's interested in following SC education developments
may wish to subscribe to the SC node of the AIBS/NCSE Evolution List
Serve Network, visit www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html for more
information.
-Information about threats to evolution education is available from
the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org.


AIBS ANNOUNCES NEW FEDERAL REGISTER RESOURCE FOR BIOLOGISTS

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is pleased to
announce the launch of the AIBS Federal Register Resource. This new
web tool provides biologists and educators with the information
needed to participate in the federal rulemaking process.

The Federal Register is the official daily publication of the
executive branch of the government. Executive branch (federal)
departments/agencies (e.g., National Science Foundation, Department
of Agriculture, and Department of Interior) implement and enforce
laws and programs that are authorized by Congress. Generally
speaking, federal agencies establish Rules or Regulations (hereafter
referred to as Rules) that govern how a law or program is
administered. Under existing law, all federal agencies must consider
public input when developing and implementing Rules. The executive
branch solicits comments by publishing rules, proposed rules, and
notices of federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive
Orders and other Presidential documents in the Federal Register. For
example, before the National Park Service can issue a Rule limiting
certain activities in a given Park, a request for public comment on
the Proposed Rule must be published in the Federal Register. The
public and special interest groups submit comments in response to
this Federal Register notice. The various stakeholders commenting
will typically identify what they perceive to be the strengths and
weaknesses of the proposal. Even if comments do not result in
changes to the Proposed Rule prior to the issuance of a Final Rule,
they become part of a record that may in time be the basis for
changes to the Rule.

To facilitate the participation of biologists in these topics, AIBS
has launched the new Federal Register Resource. Each week, the AIBS
Public Policy Office identifies items in the Federal Register that
have national or international implications for biological research
and education. These items are compiled and posted to the AIBS
Federal Register Resource website each Monday. Some current items
include EPA's notice of proposed rulemaking concerning human testing,
the inaugural meeting of the HHS Secretary's Advisory Committee on
Genetics, Health and Society, a meeting notice for the Department of
Interior's Invasive Species Advisory Committee, a meeting notice for
the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research Science Advisory
Board, and an opportunity to comment on the Interior Department's
Strategic Plan for FY 2003-08.

The website also provides basic information on the federal rulemaking
process, tips for preparing and submitting comments to federal
agencies, and useful internet links for electronic submission of
comments. Visit AIBS Federal Register Resource at
http://www.aibs.org/publicpolicy/index.html and remember new items
will be posted each Monday.


NOW ONLINE: THE EVOLUTION OF RESEARCH TAXONOMY

Below is an excerpt from the May 2003 Washington Watch column of
BioScience. The entire article can be viewed free of charge at
http://www.aibs.org/biosciencelibrary/vol53/may03ww.html.

It's that time again. The National Research Council (NRC) of the
National Academy of Sciences is preparing to assess and rank the
quality of United States research doctoral programs. Previous
exercises, in 1982 and 1995, have been widely cited and utilized
despite concerns raised in the academic community about their
methodology. Critics held the assessments responsible for spurious
precision of program rankings and for confounding research reputation
and educational quality, claiming they relied on soft criteria for
assessments of programs and on out-of-date academic taxonomic
categories. In response, NRC has charged its Board on Higher
Education and Workforce (BHEW) with reviewing previous efforts and
surveying the current academic environment to determine whether new
measures can address the weaknesses of the 1982 and 1995 studies.
Continue reading at http://www.aibs.org/biosciencelibrary/vol53/may03ww.html.



- IBRCS updates online at http://ibrcs.aibs.org : (1) from the May
2003 BioScience, "NEON: Planning for a New Frontier in Biology" and
(2) the March 2003 IBRCS white paper, "Rationale, Blueprint, and
Expectations for the National Ecological Observatory Network."
Coming later in 2003: the NEON Coordination and Implementation
Conference.

- Link your website to AIBS at http://www.aibs.org/link/index.html

 


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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