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Public Policy Report for 06/09/2003

  • National Science Board Requests Comments on Education and Workforce Report
  • Pew Oceans Commission final report calls for doubling of ocean science research budget
  • Action Alert: Creationists Threaten Louisiana Public Education, Again
  • College Loan Rates Drop to Historic Low
  • State Science Education Profiles Available

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].


NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD REQUESTS COMMENTS ON EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE REPORT

The National Science Board (NSB), which oversees and provides policy guidance to the National Science Foundation (NSF), is soliciting public comments on a draft report from NSB's Task Force on National Workforce Policies for Science and Engineering. All comments should be submitted via email to nsbcomments@nsf.gov by July 1, 2003.

The context for the report is the important role that qualified science and engineering (S&E) practitioners with two- and four-year degrees, doctorates, and pre-college science and mathematics educators play in ensuring economic growth and national security. The report warns that the future of our national S&E workforce is imperiled by two trends. First, "Global competition for S&E talent is intensifying, such that the US may not be able to rely on the international S&E labor market to fill unmet skill needs." Second, "The number of native-born S&E graduates entering the workforce is likely to decline unless the National government intervenes to improve success in educating S&E students from all demographic groups, especially those that have been underrepresented in S&E careers."

After examining these issues, the NSB has found that it is imperative for the federal government to reassess its role in the preparation of the Nation's S&E workforce. Moreover, the federal government has an important role to play in "developing and implementing a coordinated, effective response to our long-term needs for science and engineering skills in the US workforce in ways unlikely to be addressed by market mechanisms or interventions at the state and local levels."

The NSB recommends a National Policy Imperative: "The Federal Government and its agencies must step forward to ensure the adequacy of the US science and engineering workforce. All stakeholders must mobilize and initiate efforts that increase the number of US citizens pursuing science and engineering studies and careers." To attain this policy imperative, the NSB presents a series of recommendations targeted at undergraduate education, advanced education, the pre-college teaching workforce, US engagement in the international S&E workforce, and improvements to the knowledge base about S&E workforce trends. The specific strategies for attaining these policy objectives largely focus on financial incentives to students, teachers and institutions.

AIBS is currently reviewing the report in anticipation of submitting comments. However, it is important that the NSB receive feedback and suggestions from individual biologists, teachers and students. In addition to commenting on specific recommendations and findings in the report, biologists may wish to support specific programs or initiatives (e.g., EPA's STAR program) they have participated in that contribute to the development of skilled biological scientists and educators. Recommendations for how existing programs may be improved through greater coordination or funding would likely be beneficial. This NSB report also represents an opportunity for biologists working for institutions facing tight budget conditions (e.g., state universities or natural science collections) to highlight the important role that federal support plays in their ability to develop skilled scientists.
The full NSB report is currently available online at http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/.


PEW OCEANS COMMISSION FINAL REPORT CALLS FOR DOUBLING OF OCEAN SCIENCE RESEARCH BUDGET

After three years of consultations with various ocean constituencies, the Pew Oceans Commission released its 144-page final report on June 4. Throughout the report, the Commission emphasizes the need for "a new conservation ethic that embraces the oceans as a public trust, recognizes our dependence on healthy marine ecosystems, and practices precaution as we manage ocean resources."

While the Commission focused its recommendations on conservation of living marine resources, it also addresses the future of ocean science. Among the leading findings and recommendations is a call to double the funding for basic ocean research to a total of $1.5 billion. The federal ocean research budget has hovered near 755 million dollars, less than four percent of the nation's total research budget, for more than a decade. "As the nature, scale and complexity of threats to marine ecosystems have increased, our investment in ocean science and research has stagnated."

This recommendation is likely to be echoed by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, a federally appointed commission examining all aspects of ocean policy. During its April public meeting, the Commission's Working Group on Research, Education and Marine Operations proposed a doubling of the ocean research budget from today's $630 million to $1.3 billion over the next 5 years. The U.S. Commission's final report is not due to be released for several months.

The Pew Commission noted that increased capacity is needed in four areas to improve applied ocean science and research: acquisition of new information, knowledge and understanding; monitoring to evaluate status and trends; capability to integrate and synthesize existing and new information; and sharing of information and knowledge with the public.

The report noted, however, that improving the use of existing information is the first step. In particular, the commission emphasized the need to insulate scientific work from political and economic pressures. They argued that this is most critical in fisheries management, where the commission recommends separating science-based conservation decisions from economic and political allocation decisions.

While the report has been lauded by conservation organizations and several members of the House Oceans Caucus, its warm reception has not been universal. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), chair of the House Resources Committee (which has jurisdiction over fisheries management), referred to the report as a "$5.5 million coffee table picture book" that "contributes about as much to fisheries management as a coffee table book about coffee tables." It is unlikely that Congress will begin action on any of the Pew Commission's recommendations until the U.S. Commission has released its final report as well.

The Pew report can be viewed in full at www.pewoceans.org.

ACTION ALERT: CREATIONISTS THREATEN LOUISIANA PUBLIC EDUCATION, AGAIN

Despite a recently thwarted attempt to censor Louisiana public school teachers, creationist and intelligent design advocates in Louisiana are continuing their assault on public science education. The latest threat is aimed at textbooks and course materials. Louisiana State Representative Ben W. Nevers (D, 75th District) has introduced House Concurrent Resolution Number 50 "To encourage city, parish, and other local public school systems to refrain from purchasing textbooks that do not provide students with opportunities to learn that there are differing scientific views on certain controversial issues in science."

Louisiana Concurrent Resolution 50 builds on U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) effort to amend the No Child Left Behind Act with anti-evolution rhetoric. While the U.S. Senate defeated the Santorum Amendment, he was successful at including conference committee language so as to provide state and local creationist and intelligent design advocates with the idea that they have a federal mandate to include their religious beliefs in public science courses. While this is not the case, Representative Nevers refers to the No Child Left Behind Act in an attempt to bully this resolution through the State House. Concurrent Resolution 50 states that "WHEREAS, included in the No Child Left Behind conference report is the following language: '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". Louisiana science education advocates believe proponents of intelligent design will use this language to pressure local school systems into including intelligent design or creationism into science courses.

Science education advocates in Louisiana are concerned that if this resolution is approved it would send a dangerous message to local school districts and could have a negative impact on the selection and use of quality science textbooks throughout the state. Louisiana education advocates have requested that supporters of evolution education make their voices heard. Citizens from other states (e.g., those that have received negative attention for attempting to remove evolution or add creationism/intelligent design to curriculum) could tell Louisiana legislators about the negative attention their state has received. Louisiana residents should contact their elected officials to make their thoughts and feelings known.

-For a complete version of Louisiana Concurrent Resolution 50, visit http://www.legis.state.la.us/leg_docs/03RS/CVT1/OUT/0000K4Q7.PDF.
-For information about the Louisiana State Legislature, including contact information, visit http://www.legis.state.la.us/
-For additional information on evolution education you may wish to visit the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org. -To track evolution-related issues in you state or province, consider joining an AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve. For more information, go to http://www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html


COLLEGE LOAN RATES DROP TO HISTORIC LOW

The United States Department of Education has announced that federal student loan interest rates will drop to a historic low of 3.42%, effective July 1. Borrowers with $10,000 in loan debt and a 10-year standard repayment plan can save about $362 in interest over the life of the loan. To ensure borrowers receive the lowest possible rates, the Department of Education will hold applications to consolidate loans until the new rates are official. For more information, please visit http://www.studentaid.ed.gov/.


STATE SCIENCE EDUCATION PROFILES AVAILABLE

State Profiles present key data about each state's student and school population and its National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing history and results. The profiles provide easy access to all NAEP data for participating states and links to the most recent state report cards for all available subjects. This National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) tool has been updated to reflect additional state elements collected via NCES' Common Core of Data (public elementary/secondary), for the
2001-2002 school year. To use the NAEP State Profiles Tool, please visit:
http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/states/



- IBRCS updates online at http://ibrcs.aibs.org : NRC study of NEON now underway and soliciting comments from the scientific community, 2 - 16 June 2003. See www.nationalacademies.org/neon

- 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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