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Public Policy Report for 06/23/2003

  • NAS study on NEON underway; several AIBS members submit comments at first meeting
  • AIBS showcases NEON at annual congressional exhibit
  • FY2004 appropriations to get underway soon; subcommittee allocations approved
  • PBS in Florida, NY City and Ohio Will Air Discovery Institute Intelligent Design Video
  • EPA drafting "Report on the Environment" and seeking nominations for advisory board
  • EPA Seeks Scientists for Ozone Review Panel
  • NOW ONLINE: Are University Natural Science Collections Going Extinct?

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].


NAS STUDY ON NEON UNDERWAY - SEVERAL AIBS MEMBERS SUBMIT COMMENTS AT FIRST MEETING

The National Research Council committee charged with reviewing NSF's proposed National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) held their first workshop in Washington, D.C. on June 10. The public session of the workshop consisted of briefings from NSF, as well as federal agencies that have an interest in NEON such as the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. The panel also heard comments from several scientific societies, including AIBS. In general, the presentations were favorable towards NEON. All speaker comments can be accessed on the NAS website at: http://dels.nas.edu/bls/neon/. Comments from the web forum can also be viewed at the site.


AIBS SHOWCASES NEON AT ANNUAL CONGRESSIONAL EXHIBIT

Since 1995 the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) has sponsored an exhibition and reception each spring, showcasing research made possible by the National Science Foundation. Over 30 booths display a wide range of scientific research and education projects and university researchers and educators are on hand to describe their work to interested members of Congress and their staffs. Each year, the event draws over 100 congressional staff, members of Congress, and White House leaders.

The June 17 event was one of the most successful CNSF events ever, attracting over 270 attendees during a very busy week in Congress. AIBS co-sponsored a booth with the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). The exhibit was entitled "NSF's Environmental Observation Networks" and showcased the National Ecological Observatory Network and the Ocean Observing Initiative. Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington represented AIBS and spoke directly with several highly placed congressional staff regarding NEON.

Several members of Congress attended the exhibition to view the displays and meet with NSF-funded researchers. Among those in attendance was Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), who recently sent a letter to CNSF thanking their members (which includes AIBS) for their hard work gathering signatures for his annual "Dear Colleague" letter to appropriators regarding NSF. In his letter, Rep. Ehlers noted "When we started this effort, we had just a handful of Members on the letter. Once the community was fully engaged, the numbers of signers jumped up significantly. I knew the word was really spreading in the scientific community when I happened to call one scientist about an unrelated manner. She said she knew who I was, because she had just received an e-mail asking her to contact her Representative and ask him to sign on to my letter." AIBS also appreciates the efforts of those of you who contacted your representatives as part of this effort.

More information, including photos, about the event can be viewed at CNSF's website: www.cnsfweb.org.

FY2004 APPROPRIATIONS TO GET UNDERWAY SOON; SUBCOMMITTEE ALLOCATIONS APPROVED

Last week, the House Appropriations committee moved one step closer to getting the annual appropriations process rolling. At its first full committee markup for FY 2004 bills, the committee approved the "302(b)" allocations to divide the $784.7 billion in discretionary budget authority permitted by the fiscal 2004 budget resolution (H Con Res 95) among the 13 Appropriations subcommittees. The vote in favor of the allocations was 35-26 on a party-line vote. The "302(b)" allocations often set the stage for funding policy priorities and are critical in gauging the probability of success in increasing an agency's budget over the President's request. For example, if a bill is allocated a much lower amount than what was requested in the President's budget, it is highly unlikely that any program on that bill will receive a significant increase as it would require an offsetting decrease somewhere else within the bill.

This year, the House has allocated approximately $90 billion to the the VA-HUD (Veterans' Affairs, Housing and Urban Development) and Independent Agencies bill (usually referred to as VA-HUD or VA-HUD IA), which contains funding for NSF. This amount is about $3 billion above last year's enacted amount and $600 million larger than the President's request for FY2004. To put these numbers in perspective, the President's budget is $1 billion below the authorized amount for NSF for FY2004; the amount requested for the Biological Sciences Directorate is $9 million below last year's appropriated level. This allocation for VA-HUD does not mean that Congress won't be able to provide funding above the President's request for NSF, but it does show that Congress would have to cut an additional $400 million from other programs on the bill to boost NSF to the level required for a 5 year doubling. Also, the $600 million increase over the President's request must cover all programs funded by VA-HUD, including several veteran's programs which are expected to have widespread support this year.

PBS IN FLORIDA, NYC, AND OHIO WILL AIR DISCOVERY INSTITUTE INTELLIGENT DESIGN VIDEO

"Unlocking the Mystery of Life" is a video produced by the Discovery Institute-a Seattle, Washington-based center that advocates for the inclusion of "intelligent design theory" in the public school science curricula. Some evolution education advocates have described "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" as an infomercial for intelligent design. The video presents what appear to be scientific arguments that lead one to reject Darwinian evolution. The religious underpinnings of the video are held to the end of the video. According to the Discovery Institute, however, the video "explores what DNA and the inner workings of the cell reveal about the origin of life. Fifty years ago, Watson and Crick discovered that the DNA molecule carries hereditary information in the form of code that scientists have likened to computer software or written language. Unlocking addresses a question that the discovery left unanswered: Where did this genetic information come from? How did the software in the cell arise? A growing number of scientists now think that DNA and the complexity of life point to purpose and design in nature."

This video has already been carried by Public Broadcasting Stations in Maryland, Michigan, and Texas. It is believed that the video has been provided to NTEA, a South Carolina-based organization that makes materials available to PBS and educational broadcasting systems.
Upcoming Airings:

July 3, 2003: Miami/Ft Lauderdale on WLRN
July 4, 2003: Miami/Ft Lauderdate on WLRN
July 6, 2003: New York City, NY on WNYE
July 8, 2003: Cleveland, OH on WEAO
July 8, 2003: Youngstown, OH on WNEO

Interested individuals may wish to view these airings and provide your local PBS station with your perspective on the "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" video.


EPA DRAFTING "REPORT ON THE ENVIRONMENT"; SEEKING NOMINATIONS FOR ADVISORY BOARD

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) is announcing the formation of a new Panel to provide advice to the Agency on the EPA's Report on the Environment (ROE). The ROE is a report that seeks to address the status of and trends in environmental conditions and their impacts on human health and the nation's natural resources. This project is intended as a six month advisory effort that may be repeated yearly to revise the ROE as needed or requested; the background for the effort and the charge to the Panel is described below. The SAB is soliciting nominations to establish the membership of this new Panel.

EPA's "Environmental Indicators Initiative'' will improve the Agency's ability to report on the status of and trends in environmental conditions and their impacts on human health and the nation's natural resources. Background materials are provided on the EPA Web site at http://www.epa.gov/indicators. Using available data and indicators, EPA and its partners are drafting a "Report on the Environment'' (ROE) that will address many of the public's frequently-asked questions and document the progress that the United States is making in meeting our national environmental and health protection goals. The ROE will:
(1) Describe current national environmental trends using existing data and indicators;
(2) Identify data gaps and research needs;
(3) Discuss the challenges government and our partners face in filling those gaps; and
(4) Be accompanied by supporting technical information.

The report consists of two parts, a technical document and a summary or synthesis document designed for general public review. The report covers five "theme'' areas':
(1) Cleaner Air: Impacts of indoor air quality on human health and of outdoor air quality on health and ecosystems.
(2) Purer Water: Drinking water, recreational water use, the condition of the nation's water resources, and the living resources sustained by them.
(3) Better Protected Land: Land use and activities that affect the condition of the American landscape, including information on agricultural practices, Integrated Pesticide Management, waste
management, emergency response and preparedness, and recycling.
(4) Human Health: Trends in diseases, human exposure to environmental pollutants, and diseases thought to be related to environmental pollution.
(5) Ecological Condition: A look at our living and natural resources, current pressures or stressors on those resources, and a look at their sustainability into the future.

A final chapter discusses key challenges and proposed partnerships and ``next steps'' to address those challenges.

Charge to the Panel: The specific details of the charge remain to be finalized, however, in general, the SAB Review Panel is requested to: (1) Assess the adequacy of the report in defining the purpose, scope and value to public health of the report, (2) consider the adequacy of the technical content of the five theme areas with regard to completeness of the technical data used to identify and establish the environmental indicators and their relevance to the area of concern, and, (3) evaluate appropriateness of the conclusions/future directions identified. The review will occur in two stages, with a review of the technical chapters of the report, and a review of the Synthesis chapter of the report. The reviews will be held in Washington, DC with the first meeting tentatively planned for September, 2003.

SAB Request for Nominations: The EPA requests nominations of individuals who are highly regarded national level experts with one or more of the following disciplines necessary to address the charge:

(a) Epidemiology of environmental pollutants
(b) Human exposure to environmental pollutants
(c) Human health risk assessment of environmental pollutants
(d) Natural resources management
(e) Whole ecosystems research
(f) Ecological risk assessment
(g) Ecosystems sustainability
(h) Environmental indicators
(i) Water resources management
(j) Land use management
(k) Waste management
(l) Emergency response and preparedness
(m) Air quality

Nominations should be submitted in electronic format at: http://www.epa.gov/sab/sab_panel_form.htm no later than July 8, 2003. Any member of the public wishing further information regarding this request for nominations may contact Dr. James Rowe, Designated Federal Officer, EPA Science Advisory Board Staff, by telephone/voice mail at: (202) 564-6488, by fax at (202) 501-0323, or via email at: rowe.james@epa.gov.


EPA SEEKS SCIENTISTS FOR OZONE REVIEW PANEL

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting nominations (including self-nomination) for scientists to serve on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Ozone Review Panel. The panel will organizationally be placed under the EPA's Science Advisory Board, but will report to the EPA Administrator. Specific areas of scientific expertise requested include ecology, toxicology, and biostatistics. You may access the complete public request from the Federal Register notice and link provided in the AIBS Federal Register Resource Weekly Summary for June 2-6, 2003, available at http://www.aibs.org/publicpolicy/frr_notices.html. Additional information about the panel and the nomination process is available from the EPA Science Advisory Board website at www.epa.gov/sab. Nominations may be submitted electronically via the Science Advisory Board website, but must be received by July 3, 2003.

NOW ONLINE: ARE UNIVERSITY NATURAL SCIENCE COLLECTIONS GOING EXTINCT?

Below is an excerpt from the June 2003 Washington Watch column of BioScience. The entire article can be viewed free of charge at http://www.aibs.org/biosciencelibrary/vol53/jun03ww.html.

"Across the United States, university natural science collections are scaling back programs or closing their doors. The cutbacks are attributed largely to poor state budgets, but some biologists believe the problems illustrate the bias of many university administrators toward molecular biology.

According to the National Governors Association, nearly all states are in a fiscal crisis, requiring policy makers to scour budgets to find money to fund education, health care, and public safety programs. University natural science collection managers are not quietly allowing their programs to be dismantled, however. The Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSCA), a Washington, DC based association of natural science collections, has stressed the importance of collections to scientists working on conservation and environmental issues. Terry Yates, vice president of NSCA, testified before a University of Nebraska Lincoln planning committee considering severe cuts to the University of Nebraska State Museum (UNSM), stating, in part, that the university has an obligation to assist in training the next generation of systematists."

Continue reading at http://www.aibs.org/biosciencelibrary/vol53/jun03ww.html.



- IBRCS updates online at http://ibrcs.aibs.org
- 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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