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Public Policy Report for 10/28/2003

  • ACTION ALERT: Letters and calls can help fund the USGS
  • ACTION ALERT: Ecosystem researchers needed to complete funding survey
  • House Government Reform Committee report charges Bush Administration with misuse of science in the political process
  • NIH sets course for increased collaboration with other disciplines
  • AIBS/NCSE Evolution Network complete
  • Applications available: International Young Scientists 2004 summer program
  • Scientists sought for agricultural biotechnology advisory committee
  • Wanted: Beautiful biology experiments

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].


ACTION ALERT: LETTERS AND CALLS CAN HELP FUND THE USGS

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have passed H.R. 2691 and S. 1391, respectively. These two measures would provide fiscal year 2004 appropriations for the Department of Interior, which includes the United States Geological Survey and its Biological Resources Discipline. Both measures would restore cuts that were proposed in the President's FY 2004 budget request. A joint House-Senate conference committee has been charged with resolving the differences between the two bills. Key appropriations staffers have indicated that strong grassroots support for the USGS would help congressional supporters defend a higher funding level for the Survey. Biologists that utilize and value USGS data, products and resources may wish to communicate the importance of the USGS and its biological research programs to members of the Interior appropriations conference committee (see list below). If your Representative and Senators are not on the conference committee, you can request that they express their support for the USGS to their colleagues on the committee.

Speculation abounds as to when Congress may complete its work for the year, but it is possible that Congress could adjourn as early as the first week of November. Thus, time is short, so telephone calls, faxes or emails to your Representative and Senators Washington, DC offices will be the most effective methods of communication. You may call your Representative or Senator via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You may email your Representative by going to www.house.gov/writerep/ and Senators via www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

Suggested elements of your message:
--You recognize the challenges facing Congress and appreciate their efforts to support funding for the valuable science programs at the United States Geological Survey
--Request they support a funding level for the United States Geological Survey of AT LEAST $935.7 million -- the funding proposed in H.R. 2691
--The United States Geological Survey conducts science that is utilized by other Interior Department bureaus for land and resource management decision making (consider including an example)
--United States Geological Survey research and data is important to biological scientists and contributes to other biological research and education programs (consider an example, ideally related to your work and/or your state)
--United States Geological Survey cooperative research units play an important role in helping train natural resource professionals

Fact sheets with information about USGS/Biological Resources Discipline activities in your state are available online at http://search.usgs.gov/query.html?col=&qp=&qs=&qc=&pw=100%25&ws=1&la=&qm=1&ct=1628170799.

House Interior Appropriations Conferees:
Rep. Taylor (R-NC, 11th, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior), Rep. Regula (R-OH, 16th), Rep. Kolbe (R-AZ, 8th), Rep. Nethercutt (R-WA, 5th), Rep. Wamp (R-TN, 3rd), Rep. Peterson (R-PA, 5th), Rep. Sherwood (R-PA, 10th), Rep. Crenshaw (R-FL, 4th), Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL, 10th Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations), Rep. Dicks (D-WA, 6th Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Interior), Rep. Murtha (D-PA, 12th), Rep. Moran (D-VA, 8th), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY, 22nd), Rep. Olver (D-MA, 1st), Rep. Obey (D-WI, 7th Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations)

Senate Interior Appropriations Conferees:
Sen. Burns (R-MT, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior), Sen. Stevens (R-AK, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations), Sen. Cochran (R-MS), Sen. Domenici (R-NM), Sen. Bennett (R-UT), Sen. Gregg (R-NH), Sen. Campbell (R-CO), Sen. Brownback (R-KS), Sen. Harkin (D-IA, Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations), Sen. Byrd (D-WV, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations), Sen. Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Hollings (D-SC), Sen. Reid (D-NV), Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Mikulski (D-MD)

ACTION ALERT: ECOSYSTEM RESEARCHERS NEEDED TO COMPLETE FUNDING SURVEY

In cooperation with the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers (AERC), AIBS is conducting a survey of funding trends in ecosystem research. The information from this survey, combined with the construction of a research funding database at AIBS, will provide baseline information regarding trends in ecosystem research funding that is currently not available. This information is vital to our efforts to increase available funding for ecosystem research.

If you are a director of a research center, a department secretary, dean, or chairperson, please help us distribute this survey as effectively as possible by forwarding it to students, researchers, and professors at your organization or university.

The survey can be accessed at:
http://surveys.aibs.org/index.php?sid=3&newtest=Y


HOUSE GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE REPORT CHARGES BUSH ADMINISTRATION WITH MISUSE OF SCIENCE IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS

The American Association of Advancement for Science (AAAS) hosted Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee on 6 October to discuss his report "Politics and Science in the Bush Administration" with the science policy community. The report was released on 7 August and is available for download at www.politicsandscience.org. The minority staff of the Government Reform Committee prepared the report, which assessed the treatment of science and scientists at the request of Rep. Waxman. According to the website, the report documents "numerous instances where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings. Beneficiaries include important supporters of the President, including social conservatives and powerful industry groups."

The charges against the Bush Administration fall into three categories: manipulation of scientific committees, distortion of scientific information, and interference with scientific research. Waxman told attendees at the AAAS briefing that the Bush administration's pattern of disrespect to science: undermines the government's ability to develop effective policy, undermines public confidence in science-based agencies, and risks the exodus of talented scientists from government. Waxman cited specific examples involving EPA positions on climate change, a government website touting a link between abortion and breast cancer, and the all-time low morale at NIH despite record budgets as evidence for these three impacts (see report for full story).

According to Waxman, the only official response to the report from the Bush Administration was a quote from White House spokesperson Scott McClellan in the New York Times (Aug 8), in which he "dismissed" the report, adding, "This administration looks at the facts and reviews the best available science based on what's right for the American people. The only one who is playing politics about science is Congressman Waxman. His report is riddled with distortion, inaccuracies and omissions." During the AAAS briefing, Rep. Waxman quipped that he was particularly interested in the "omissions."

Waxman said he will continue to investigate these matters. The website for the project allows users to sign up for email updates, as well as to provide anonymous tips regarding the politicization of science. Waxman expressed pleasure with the response of the scientific community to the report and website, noting that there have been over 60,000 independent hits on the website and over 1,000 requests for the email updates.

NIH SETS COURSE FOR INCREASED COLLABORATION WITH OTHER DISCIPLINES

Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently stated in Science (Vol 302, Oct 3, 2003) that NIH is at a "critical moment" in its history. The scientific advances triggered by the historic doubling of the NIH budget have produced knowledge and challenges that NIH must consider. Director Zerhouni stated that "as science grows more complex, it is also converging on a set of unifying principles that link apparently disparate diseases through common biological pathways and therapeutic approaches. Today, NIH research needs to reflect this new reality." Over the past year, NIH evaluated how it can define a "compelling, limited set of priorities that can be acted on and are essential to accelerate progress across the spectrum of the institute missions." This process has produced the NIH Roadmap that identifies three major themes that all NIH institutes and centers will support: New Pathways to Discovery, Research Teams of the Future, and Reengineering the Clinical Research Enterprise. In fiscal year 2004, NIH will begin launching research efforts to support initiatives in these areas. Briefly, New Pathways to Discovery seeks to address the need to understand complex biological systems. This area will address issues such as improving the quantitative knowledge of the structure and function of interconnected networks of molecules. Research Teams of the Future will support efforts to help biomedical researchers move beyond the confines of their own discipline and explore new organizational models for team science. For example, NIH proposes stimulating new ways of combining skills and disciplines by developing innovative teams with members representing the biological sciences, engineering, mathematics, computing, engineering and the physical sciences. The agency will promote the establishment of centers for interdisciplinary research and training to support the development of a new interdisciplinary workforce. Finally, NIH will support efforts to catalyze change in the clinical research enterprise. NIH proposes working more closely with patient advocacy groups and through networked clinical trial centers to ensure the continued use and effectiveness of clinical trials.

Within days of the release of the NIH Roadmap Dr. Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Dr. Ray Orbach, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, were featured speakers at a Capitol Hill briefing "Advances in Medicine and Health: Understanding the Physical Sciences Behind the Curtain." The briefing was cosponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) on behalf of the American Chemical Society's Science and the Congress Project and the Senate Science and Technology Caucus. The speakers explained how developments and tools from physical sciences have contributed to medical advances and treatments.

AIBS/NCSE EVOLUTION NETWORK COMPLETE

The American Institute of Biological Sciences and the National Center for Science Education are pleased to announce that the AIBS/NCSE Evolution List Server Network now has list serves in every state, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Alberta and Ontario, Canada. New list serves were recently launched in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, and Washington DC. The Network enables scientists, teachers, and other supporters of evolution-education to be in touch with each other locally, nationally, and internationally. In addition to serving as a support system for some educators teaching evolution in a difficult local environment, the Network facilitates rapid communication and grass-roots activity when school boards or legislatures consider policies that promote the teaching of anti-evolutionary ideas in science classes. The discussions and information shared on each local list serve are at the discretion of the list members and the state list moderator, and are not necessarily those of AIBS or NCSE. Information about these and other list serves in the Network is available at
http://www.aibs.org/mailing-lists/the_aibs-ncse_evolution_list_server.html.


APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE: INTERNATIONAL YOUNG SCIENTISTS 2004 SUMMER PROGRAM

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international institution supported by the United States and sixteen other governments. IIASA, located near Vienna, Austria, engages in scientific research aimed at providing policy insight on issues of regional and global importance. Projects and initiatives are presently underway in the areas of Natural Resources and Environment, Energy and Technology, and Population and Society. Each summer, IIASA hosts a selected group of graduate students, primarily doctoral, from around the world in its Young Scientist's Summer Program. These students work closely with IIASA senior scientists on projects within the Institute's three project theme areas. The U.S. Committee for IIASA provides airfare and a modest living allowance for the applicants from U.S. institutions who are selected to participate. The application deadline is 15 January 2004. The 2004 program runs from 1 June to 31 August 2004. Specific information about IIASA programs and the application process are available online at http://www.iiasa.ac.at/.


SCIENTISTS SOUGHT FOR AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The Agricultural Research Service is requesting nominations for qualified persons to serve as members of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). The charge for AC21 is two-fold: to examine the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and USDA; and to provide guidance to USDA on pressing individual issues, identified by the Office of the Secretary, related to the application of biotechnology in agriculture.

AC21 members serve staggered 2-year terms, with terms for half of the Committee members expiring in any given year. Nominations are being sought for open Committee seats. The terms of 9 members of the AC21 will expire in early 2004. The AC21 Charter allows for flexibility to appoint up to a total of 11 members. Members can be reappointed to serve up to 6 consecutive years. Equal opportunity practices, in line with USDA policies, will be followed in all membership appointments to the Committee. Nominees of the AC21 should have recognized expertise in one or more of the following areas: recombinant-DNA (rDNA) research and applications using plants; rDNA research and applications using animals; rDNA research and applications using microbes; food science; silviculture and related forest science; fisheries science; ecology; veterinary medicine; the broad range of farming or agricultural practices; weed science; plant pathology; biodiversity; applicable laws and regulations relevant to agricultural biotechnology policy; risk assessment; consumer advocacy and public attitudes; public health/epidemiology; ethics, including bioethics; human medicine; biotechnology industry activities and structure; intellectual property rights systems; and international trade. Members will be selected by the Secretary of Agriculture in order to achieve a balanced representation of viewpoints to address effectively USDA biotechnology policy issues under consideration.

Nominations for AC21 membership must be in writing and provide the appropriate background documents required by USDA policy, including background disclosure form AD-755. Applications should include: A brief summary of no more than two (2) pages explaining the nominee's suitability to serve on the AC21; A resume or curriculum vitae; and, Completed copy of form AD-755. Written nominations must be received by fax or postmarked on or before November 24, 2003. All nomination materials should be sent to Michael Schechtman, Designated Federal Official, Office of the Deputy Secretary, USDA, 202B Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250. Forms may also be submitted by fax to (202) 690-4265. Questions should be addressed to Michael Schechtman, Designated Federal Official, and telephone (202) 720-3817; fax (202) 690-4265; e-mail mschechtman@ars.usda.gov. To obtain form AD-755 ONLY please contact Dianne Harmon, Office of Pest Management Policy, telephone (202) 720-4074, fax (202) 720-3191; e-mail dharmon@ars.usda.gov.


WANTED: BEAUTIFUL BIOLOGY EXPERIMENTS

BioScience invites biologists to nominate candidates for the most beautiful biology experiments ever. The journal will commission authoritative essays on those judged most worthy by an expert panel. For details, see
http://www.aibs.org/bioscience/current_issue.html



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

- The IBRCS NEON Coordination and Implementation Conference draft report is now open for comment from the biological community. Submit your comments and attend the 10 November 2003 conference in person, by telephone, or online. See http://ibrcs.aibs.org/NEONCoordConf/

- Announcing the BioScience Bulk-Purchase Program for Member Societies and Organizations. See
http://www.aibs.org/announcements/031002_announcing_the_bioscience_bulkpurchase.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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