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Public Policy Report for 08/18/2003

  • Enjoy research funding? Now's the time to tell your members of Congress
  • Attention Texans: Evolution Education Threatened
  • Botanical Society of America issues statement on evolution
  • AIBS Public Policy Office expands with support from Association of Ecosystem Research Centers

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].


ENJOY RESEARCH FUNDING? NOW'S THE TIME TO TELL YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Whether you are currently supported by federal research grants or are frustrated by low proposal success rates, now if the time to let your members of Congress know the value of federal research funding. As you may be aware, the House and Senate are in recess until after Labor Day. During this time, most members of Congress will be in their home state or district. Many members will likely host or attend community events over the next few weeks in order to hear from their constituents. AIBS would like to encourage you to try and make contact with your elected officials in the next couple of weeks to remind them to support increased funding for federal research and development. If you are unable to meet with your elected official in person, a letter faxed to their office (D.C.) would also be valuable. You may also want to call their D.C. office to speak to the staff person handling science funding issues directly.

Priorities for the biological sciences community remain fully funding the National Science Foundation at its authorized level of $6.39 billion, increased funding for the National Science Foundation's biology directorate, and funding for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). NSF provides more than 60% of the funding for academic research in the nonmedical biological sciences. If there are other agencies (e.g., NOAA or USGS) you would like to support in your communications, AIBS staff can help you track down their budget information.

When Congress returns to work in September, the appropriations will be a major focus of their work. The House Appropriations Committee has already drafted their version of the bill that funds NSF. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to draft their version in September. The House bill would fund the NSF at $5.69 billion. Included in this legislation was $12 million for NSF to begin the process of implementing NEON. Additionally, the House legislation would provide modest increases to NSF's various Research and Related Activities accounts. The increase for the Biological Sciences Directorate was once again the lowest increase granted for a scientific discipline. However, the measure has yet to pass the full House and is still subject to change so it is important that members of Congress hear from you and your colleagues--their constituents. They need to know that you support granting an increase to BIO that is at the level of other directorates, providing funding for NEON, and that you support funding NSF at its authorized level of $6.39 billion for FY 2004.

Please also recall that last year the nonmedical life sciences faced an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate. To avoid the same occurrence this year, please communicate to your Senators the importance of NSF to the nonmedical life sciences. You may also want to encourage them to fully support funding for the National Ecological Observatory Network in the FY 2004 appropriation for the National Science Foundation and to fully fund NSF at its authorized level of $6.39 billion for FY 2004.

As always if you need assistance in preparing for or scheduling meetings, please contact the AIBS Public Policy Office at rgr...@aibs.org.

ATTENTION TEXANS: EVOLUTION EDUCATION THREATENED

The Texas State Board of Education is in the final stages of its textbook adoption process. The result of the process will be a list of approved science textbooks from which local public schools must select the science books they will use. As most residents of Texas are now aware, advocates for intelligent design/creationism have been largely unable to get intelligent design/creationism included in the Texas science curriculum. Thus, they have changed their focus and are now working aggressively to influence the content of science textbooks used in the public schools throughout the state. A core component of their strategy is to use the Discovery Institute's "Icons of Evolution" to get textbooks modified in ways that would reduce the clarity and integrity of the presentation of evolution. An analysis of Icons of Evolution has been prepared by Dr. Alan Gishlick of the National Center for Science Education and is available at www.ncseweb.org/icons/.

According to the National Center for Science Education, the Discovery Institute has submitted an analysis of each of the textbooks under consideration in which the books are analyzed in terms of four of the Icons from Jonathan Well's book. These are the Miller-Urey experiment, the Cambrian "explosion", vertebrate embryos and Haeckel, and the peppered moth. National and state representatives for the Discovery Institute are registered to testify before the Texas State Board of Education at its next public hearing on September 10. Thus, scientists and educators are encouraged to consider submitting oral and written testimony.

The Texas State Board of Education will hold its second and final public hearing concerning instructional materials under consideration for adoption in November 2003 at 1 p.m. on September 10th. This hearing is currently scheduled to be held at the Travis Building in Austin. Texas residents have until August 21, 2003 to request time to provide oral testimony at the September 10th public hearing. August 21st is also the final date for receipt of written comments. Please consult the Texas State Board of Education (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/) for official details concerning the public comment process.

For more information about threats to evolution education, visit www.ncseweb.org
Residents of Texas that are interested in staying informed about evolution-related developments throughout the state may wish to join the Texas node of the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network. For more information, visit http://www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html.

BOTANICAL SOCIETY ISSUES STATEMENT ON EVOLUTION

The Botanical Society of America (BSA) recently approved a statement in support of evolution education. The comprehensive statement includes examples and explanations of the central importance of evolutionary theory to the plant sciences. The statement reads in part:
"The Botanical Society of America has as its members professional scientists, scholars, and educators from across the United States and Canada, and from over 50 other countries. Most of us call ourselves botanists, plant biologists, or plant scientists, and members of our profession teach and learn about botanical organisms using well established principles and practices of science.

Evolution represents one of the broadest, most inclusive theories used in pursuit of and in teaching this knowledge, but it is by no means the only theory involved. Scientific theories are used in two ways: to explain what we know, and to pursue new knowledge. Evolution explains observations of shared characteristics (the result of common ancestry and descent with modification) and adaptations (the result of natural selection acting to maximize reproductive success), as well as explaining pollen:ovule ratios, weeds, deceptive pollination strategies, differences in sexual expression, dioecy, and a myriad of other biological phenomena. Far from being merely a speculative notion, as implied when someone says, "evolution is just a theory," the core concepts of evolution are well documented and well confirmed. Natural selection has been repeatedly demonstrated in both field and laboratory, and descent with modification is so well documented that scientists are justified in saying that evolution is true."

To read the complete statement from the BSA, visit www.botany.org/newsite/announcements/evolution.php.

AIBS PUBLIC POLICY OFFICE EXPANDS WITH SUPPORT FROM THE ASSOCIATION OF ECOSYSTEM RESEARCH CENTERS

The AIBS Public Policy Office is pleased to welcome Alexandra (Sasha) Gennet as the newest member of the AIBS staff. Sasha will work at AIBS for three months on a project to track and analyze research funding over recent years for ecosystem research. The project is a joint effort with and funded by the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers.

Sasha recently completed her M.S. in ecosystem science at the School of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California - Berkeley. She also holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Yale. Following her internship with AIBS, Sasha will return to UC - Berkeley for her Ph.D.

Please join us in welcoming Sasha to the AIBS Public Policy Office.


- Support the AIBS Public Policy Office and gain important benefits for your society or organization. Find out how at http://www.aibs.org/publicpolicy/funding.html

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

- The plenary lectures from the 2003 AIBS Annual Meeting (theme: Bioethics in a Changing World) are now online for free viewing at http://www.aibs.org/pubaibs/virtuallibrary.html

- 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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