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Public Policy Report for 12/08/2003

  • NSF to receive 5% increase if omnibus conference report adopted
  • Congress directs NSF to continue refining NEON plan
  • A look at NSFs Education and Human Resources funding
  • USGS funding rises, slightly
  • Nonprofit organizations can lobby
  • National Toxicology Program seeks input on a roadmap to increase predictability of toxicology
  • NRC recommends new assessment of doctoral programs
  • New report on academic libraries released
  • Plan to participate: 2004 Congressional Visits Day

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].


NSF TO RECEIVE 5% INCREASE IF OMNIBUS CONFERENCE REPORT ADOPTED

Congress continues to play catch-up on the overdue FY 2004 budget. Due to their inability to pass several appropriations bills independently, Congress has combined 7 of the 13 annual appropriations bills into one large omnibus appropriations bill; the Agriculture Appropriations bill serves as the vehicle for the omnibus. Two months after the budget was to be passed, conferees released the report language to accompany the omnibus appropriations bill. The numbers we report here include an anticipated 0.59% across the board cut to all programs. NSF would receive an overall increase of $5.56 billion, a 5% increase. The Research and Related Activities at NSF, which houses the disciplinary directorates, received a $195 M increase (4.8%). The Biological Sciences Directorate would receive $589 M, an increase of $18 M over last year's levels. Even though the conferees provided more funding for BIO than either the House or Senate version of the NSF funding bill, the percentage increase for BIO (3.1%) continues to be the lowest among the directorates (average increase of 5.2%). These funding levels fall far short of the amount authorized in last year's legislation to double the budget of NSF over five years. Rising budget deficits and other national priorities made it difficult for lawmakers to meet the goal for FY 2004. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chair of the House Science Committee noted that appropriators did the best they could, "being sympathetic to the needs of science at a time of budget stringency. Obviously, we did not get everything we had sought, but that is par for the course in any legislative process -- and we did better than par." Boehlert added, "We will continue to push for an even faster rate of growth, in line with the NSF Authorization Act, which calls for doubling the agency over five years."


CONGRESS DIRECTS NSF TO CONTINUE REFINING NEON PLAN

A House-Senate Conference Committee report, expected to be adopted in the coming weeks, directs NSF to continue refining the NEON plan with funding from the Research and Related Activities account. NSF had sought $6 M in that account to fund NEON activities. NSF also had sought $12 M for implementation of NEON from the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, but the committee declined that request without prejudice, instead requesting further development of NEON in light of a recent report from the National Academy of Science, "Neon: Addressing the Nation's Environmental Challenges". The NAS report endorsed the NEON concept but suggested that certain aspects of the implementation plan need improvement. Further analysis of the NAS report is included in this month's Washington Watch column of BioScience, "Third Time a Charm for NSF's National Ecological Observatory Network" (http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2003_12.html )


A LOOK AT NSF'S EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES FUNDING

Congressional negotiators appear to have reached a compromise agreement on FY04 funding for NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate. The funding would be provided as part of an omnibus appropriation. This legislation groups together various appropriations bills that Congress has not yet passed, including the VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriation that includes the National Science Foundation. If the omnibus appropriation passes without amendments, NSF's EHR will receive roughly $944.5 million instead of the $910.6 M proposed by the House and $975.8 M proposed by the Senate.

Within the $944.5 M, Congress provides $140 M for the Math and Science Partnership grant program. This is $60 M below the President's FY04 budget request. The EPSCoR program will receive $95 million, $20 M above the President's request and a compromise between the House's proposed $90 M and the Senate's proposed $100 M. Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education receive $207 M, nearly $13 M more than the President's budget request. Undergraduate Education programs will increase to nearly $162.9 M, roughly $20 M more than the President's request. Within the $162.9 M, $45.5 M is appropriated for the Advanced Technological Education program, $25 M for the STEM Talent Expansion Program, and $8 M for the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program. Congress did not provide funds for NSF's Workforce for the 21st Century initiative. Funding for Graduate Education programs is at $156.8 M, the same amount requested by the President and proposed by the House and Senate. Congressional negotiators noted that this amount is sufficient for NSF to reach its goal of increasing graduate student stipends to $30,000. Human Resources Development programs will receive roughly $13 M more than the President's budget request of $103.4 M: $34.5 M is for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation; $24 M for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduates Program; $15 M for the Alliance for Graduate Education and Professorate; and, $15 M for the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) program and HBCU Research University Science and Technology (THRUST) initiative within CREST. Research, Evaluation and Communication programs will receive the $66.2 M requested by the President.

In Congressional instructions accompanying the omnibus appropriation, Congress continued to express concern with NSF's dependence upon temporary term employees (rotators). Congress has requested that the Director of the Office of Personnel Management "conduct a review of NSF policies and practices" regarding the use of rotators. Congressconcern is with the percentage of the NSF professional workforce staffed through temporary appointments and its impact on the career civil service system at NSF, the use of temporary appointments to staff senior positions at NSF, and the level of compensation paid to individuals filling senior staff positions through temporary appointments.


USGS FUNDING RISES, SLIGHTLY

On 10 November 2004 the President signed H.R. 2691, An act making appropriations for the Department of Interior and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004 and for other purposes,into law (P.L. 108-108). The appropriation for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was $949,686,000, which is an increase of nearly $55 million over the Presidents budget request for FY04. While this increase is a sign of Congressional support for the research conducted by the USGS, much of the increase comes from earmarks to support USGS projects of special interest to members of Congress. Of the USGS' total appropriation, $176,099,000 is dedicated to the biological research activity and the operation of the Cooperative Research Units, a modest increase over the FY03 appropriation of $170,926,000. From the overall USGS appropriation, Congress directed roughly $64.5 million for cooperative efforts with states or municipalities for water resources lestigations, just over $16 million for conducting inquiries into the economic conditions affecting mining and materials processing industries, $8 million for satellite operations, and just over $24 million for the operation and maintenance of facilities and deferred maintenance.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS CAN LOBBY


A widely held belief is that 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations can not lobby. According to a survey conducted by Jefferey M. Berry and published in the Washington Post (Sunday, November 30, 2003, page B01), the chief executives of nonprofits are "remarkably ill-informed about the primary law that governs their operations." Berry states, "not only can charitable nonprofits engage in more lobbying than is commonly accepted, they can lobby extensively if they take advantage of a 1976 law that the Internal Revenue Service seems to have
no interest in publicizing." Berry and a research team surveyed 1,700 of the 900,000 tax-deductible nonprofits registered with the IRS. Among the findings is that with the exception of larger nonprofit organizations, most nonprofits sharply limit their advocacy before government out of fear of violating lobbying laws. Almost half of those surveyed "are so ignorant of the law that they don't even believe their organization has the right to take a public stand on federal legislation (perfectly permissible), while 45 percent believe they are not allowed to sponsor a debate featuring candidates running for public office (they cant support a candidate, but a candidate forum is just fine)," according to Berry. At least part of the misunderstanding is attributed to confusing and ambiguous provisions of the tax code.

"The Lobbying Law is More Charitable Than They Think," is available (for a limited time) for free at www.washingtonpost.com.


NATIONAL TOXICOLOGY PROGRAM SEEKS INPUT ON A ROADMAP TO INCREASE
PREDICTABILITY OF TOXICOLOGY

The United States Public Health Service's National Toxicology Program
(NTP) was established in 1978 to coordinate toxicological testing programs within the Department of Health and Human Services, develop and validate improved testing methods, develop approaches and generate data to strengthen scientific knowledge about potentially hazardous substances and communicate with stakeholders. The NTP has maintained a number of complex, interrelated research and testing programs that provide unique and critical information needed by health regulatory and research agencies to protect public health.

Because of technological advances in molecular biology and computer
science, NTP is ready to evaluate its activities and, in a focused and concerted effort, determine how best to incorporate these new scientific technologies into its research and testing strategies and broaden scientific knowledge on the linkage between mechanism and disease. The "NTP Vision" is to move toxicology from a predominately observational science at the level of disease-specific models to a predominately predictive science focused upon a broad inclusion of target-specific, mechanism-based, biological observations. Over the next year, NTP intends to develop a roadmap for implementation of its vision and to strategically position the program at the forefront for providing scientific data and the interpretation of those data for public health decision-making. The NTP will seek input to this roadmap from numerous groups, icluding its federal partners, its advisory committees, and the public. Additional information about the NTP Vision is available online at http://ntp-server.niehs.nih.gov, select NTP Vision Public Meeting under What's New.

The NTP will convene a public meeting to provide all interested parties an opportunity to express their views about the NTP Vision, provide input to a roadmap for implementation of the NTP Vision and comment on the views expressed by others. The meeting will be held on January 29, 2004, at the Lister Hill Center Auditorium (Building 38A), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on January 29. On-site registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. on January 29. Attendance at the meeting is limited only by the space available. Additional details about the meeting, including background information, agenda, written comments, registration and security information are available from the NTP Web site at http://ntp-server.niehs.nih.gov, select NTP Vision Public Meeting under What's New.

NOTE: Any individual seeking access to the NIH campus to attend this meeting will need to be prepared to show two forms of identification--a government-issued photo ID (e.g., Federal employee badge, driver's license, passport or green card, etc.) along with another type of identification, and, if asked, to provide pertinent information about this meeting (e.g., a copy of the meeting announcement, title of the meeting, or meeting host). Additional information about access to the NIH campus and parking is available from the NTP Web site (http://ntp-server.niehs.nih.gov, select NTP Vision Public Meeting under What's New?).


NRC RECOMMENDS NEW ASSESSMENT OF DOCTORAL PROGRAMS

Throughout 2003 many in the biological sciences community have watched with interest as the National Research Council's Committee to Examine the thodology to Assess Research-Doctorate Programs reviewed the NRC's 1995 assessment of research doctorate programs. The Committee was charged with identifying strengths and weaknesses with the 1995 assessment and recommending whether and how the NRC should conduct future assessments. In brief, the Committee's recently released report, "Assessing Research-Doctorate rograms: A Methodological Study," recommends NRC continue to conduct assessments. However, the Committee proposed an array of detailed recommendations for improving future assessments.

A concern for many biologists has been the NRC's method for selecting fields to be assessed and the organization of these fields. In the 1995 assessment, biological science disciplines primarily located in colleges of agriculture and medicine were not assessed. The Committee sought to develop a new academic taxonomy that would include these fields. However, early drafts of a new taxonomy of life sciences raised flags among scientists concerned that the attempt to include additional fields was leading to inappropriate groupings of traditional basic biological science fields. With respect to the taxonomy of fields, the Committee made 10 detailed recommendations. Among these are: 1) "The quantitative criterion for inclusion of a field used in the preceding study should be, for the most part, retained--i.e., 500 degrees granted in the last 5 years"; 2) "Some fields should be included that do not meet the quantitative criteria, if they had been included in earlier studies"; 3) "The proposed study should add research-doctorate programs in agriculture to the fields in egineering and the arts and sciences that have been assessed in the past. In addition, it should make a special effort to include programs in the basic biomedical sciences that are housed in medical schools"; and, 4) "Biological Sciences, one of the four major groupings, should be renamed 'Life Sciences'".


NEW REPORT ON ACADEMIC LIBRARIES RELEASED

The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) has published "Academic Libraries: 2000." This report is based on information from the 2000 Academic Libraries Survey. The tables in this publication summarize services, staff, collections and expenditures for libraries in degree granting postsecondary institutions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. To download, view and print the report, please visit: http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2004317


PLAN TO PARTICIPATE: 2004 CONGRESSIONAL VISITS DAY

The Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group (SETWG), a cross-disciplinary coalition of professional societies and industry has announced that its annually sponsored Congressional Visits Day (CVD) will be held on 3-4 March 2004 in Washington, DC. During CVD, scientists, science educators, and science students meet with their members of Congress and key staffers to educate hem about the vital importance of federal support for scientific research and development. CVD has grown over the years and is increasingly recognized as a significant event by members of Congress. Given the growing number of competing budget priorities, record breaking budget deficits, and the 2004 elections, March 2004 will be a particularly important time for a large number o biologists to make their presence known in Washington, DC. If you would like additional information about participating in CVD 2004, please contact Robert Gropp in the AIBS Public Policy Office at rgr...@aibs.org or (202) 628-1500 x 250.


- 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

- Register online for the AIBS Annual Meeting, 16 - 18 March 2004, Washington DC. Theme: Invasive Species. See http://www.aibs.org/annual-meeting-2004

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

BioScience for $12/yr! 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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