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Public Policy Report for 12/22/2003

  • Changing Climate Policy?
  • State Department Seeks Scientists for Climate Change Report
  • AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award Applications Available
  • Science Educators Needed to Help Review New Evolution Education Resource
  • American Association of Museums Issues Statement in Support of University-based Natural Science Collections
  • AAAS Science Policy Fellowships: Application Information

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].


CHANGING CLIMATE POLICY?

"Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth's history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century." This is part of the position statement issued by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) last week. AGU's position on Human Impacts on Climate (currently available at www.agu.org) represents a shift from the society's historically cautious stance on the human influence on global climate change.

AGU released their position statement at a Capitol Hill briefing for members of Congress and the media. Time will tell whether the statement will help move forward the development of U.S. climate change policy. However, the statement should present a challenge to some vocal elected officials, such as Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK)--chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee--and other members of Congress, who regularly contend there is no good science or scientific agreement that human activities are influencing climate. Following the release of the AGU statement, the centrist Democratic Leadership Council seized the opportunity to begin circulating a statement that in part reads, "As The Wall Street Journal reported, 'The scientific community that drafted the statement includes John Christy, a University of Alabama, Huntsville climatologist who has often sided with warming skeptics in the past. But scientific dissent now increasingly involves details of the warming phenomenon, not the basic result that man-made gas emissions are a probable cause of the warming trend.'"

The release of AGU's statement came shortly after the United Nations issued a new report on the impact of climate change on human health. The report, "Climate Change and Human Health Risks and Responses" (available at www.who.int/globalchange/en/), was co-authored by the UN's World Health Organization, the UN Environment Program, and the World Meteorological Organization. According to the report, climate change caused 150,000 deaths worldwide in 2000. The report provides governments and organizations practical advice on how to respond to problems associated with climate change.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also recently issued a statement warning of an urgent need for real progress in dealing with the causes and consequences of climate change. Annan called on governments to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. According to Annan, "The Kyoto Protocol is an essential first step in this direction, and its entry into force is of utmost importance. But of course, much more effort will be needed." The Kyoto Protocol has been rejected by President Bush and the U.S. Senate, which must ratify U.S. participation in the international agreement. According to published reports, Russia has also decided to reject the Kyoto Protocol.

STATE DEPARTMENT SEEKS SCIENTISTS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT

The United States Climate Change Science Program is seeking the nomination of U.S. experts for consideration as coordinating lead authors, lead authors, contributing authors, expert reviewers, and review editors for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis, the scientific, technical, and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC is comprised of three working groups. Working Group 1 assesses the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change; Working Group 2 assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it; and Working Group 3 assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change. The IPCC provides scientific, technical, and socio-economic advice to the world community, and in particular to the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through its periodic assessment reports and special reports. The IPCC will complete the AR4 in 2007.

Further information, such as the IPCC request for nominations, the approved outlines of the IPCC working groups for AR4, a description of the roles and responsibilities associated with them, and a nomination form that must be completed for each nominee, may be found at the IPCC Secretariat (www.ipcc.ch/ar4/nominations/nominations.htm) or at www.climatescience.gov/. Completed nomination forms should be returned to the Climate Change Science Program Office at ipcc_nominations@usgcrp.gov by noon on Monday, January 5, 2004. For additional information, interested parties should contact David Allen, U.S. Climate Change Science Program, Suite 250, 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.


AIBS EMERGING PUBLIC POLICY LEADER AWARD APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE

As part of its focus on engaging scientists in the public policy process, the American Institute of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce that it is accepting applications for the 2nd Annual AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award. The AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award is an opportunity for graduate students in the biological sciences to receive first-hand experience in the policy arena. AIBS will pay travel costs and expenses for 1-2 recipients of the award to participate in the Science, Engineering and Technology Working Group's annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) in Washington, D.C. on 3-4 March 2004. CVD is a two-day event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, science educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. CVD is hosted by more than 30 organizations spanning all scientific disciplines. Participants will attend briefings by key officials from the White House and Congress, and two receptions honoring members of Congress for their work on behalf of science and biology; they will also participate in meetings with members of Congress and their staff. Applications for the 2004 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award are due by 8 a.m. EST Wednesday, 2 February 2004. Application information and guidelines are available online at http://www.aibs.org/announcements/031217_aibs_emerging_public_policy.html.


SCIENCE EDUCATORS NEEDED TO HELP REVIEW NEW EVOLUTION EDUCATION RESOURCE

The University of California-Berkeley Museum of Paleontology has announced that in January 2004 it will launch "Understanding Evolution," an internet resource dedicated to assisting science educators with teaching evolution. This tool for teachers was developed with support from the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and is the product of a team of faculty, graduate students, teachers, staff from the National Center for Science Education, and web experts. Judy Scotchmoor, who led the effort to develop "Understanding Evolution," thinks "that it will be an excellent resource for the teaching community." Teachers will be able to utilize the web site to obtain information on issues such as the Nature of Science (the essentials of how science works); Evolution 101 (the central ideas of biological evolution); Evidence (the evidence relating to evolution); Relevance of Evolution (the importance of evolution in our daily lives); Misconceptions (confusions that cloud public understanding of evolution); and, History of Evolutionary Thought (the history of scientific thinking). Also on the site is a rich resource section that includes a conceptual framework and classroom resources to support the teaching of evolution. Before Understanding Evolutiongoes public in January, Scotchmoor would like to increase the number of teachers willing to participate in the on-line summative evaluation. Teachers from all geographic areas and levels of expertise and teaching experience are sought. If you are a science educator and interested in participating, please go online to the sign up survey at http://survey.rockman.com/ucmp/ucmpsurvey4.htm, or contact Nicole Presber, the project evaluator at nicole@rockman.com.


AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF MUSEUMS ISSUES STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF UNIVERSITY NATURAL SCIENCE COLLECTIONS

During the past year, a number of university-based natural science collections have have faced closure or significant reductions in their programs (e.g., see: http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2003_06.html). While all collections may not be in immediate jeopardy, these challenges may not abate until economic conditions improve or university administrators fully recognize the importance and value of natural science collections. To help articulate the importance of university-based collections and museums, the American Association of Museums recently issued a position statement.

The AAM statement reads:

"The American Association of Museums (AAM) expresses its deep concern that a significant number of Americas natural history museums and collections affiliated with universities are currently threatened with sever financial cutbacks, dispersal of collections, and outright closure.

At risk are collections of irreplaceable objects, such as geological, paleontological, zoological and botanical specimens, anthropological and historical artifacts, and archives. These collections are held in trust for the public; they are the priceless heritage of this and future generations; and they constitute critically important resources for new knowledge.

University museums provide unique contributions to the public good through education and research. Their collections are a shared legacy, serving as a constantly growing database to document the diversity and history of life on earth, to develop strategies for the management of natural resources, and to find solutions to some of the worlds most pressing problems, from biodiversity conservation to the discovery of new medicines. In addition, exhibits and programs in university museums help to advance broader understanding of the scholarly and scientific enterprise.

AAM urges university administrators, trustees, state legislators, and alumni to do everything in their power to preserve, protect and support their university museums and collections of natural and cultural history. Temporary financial difficulties must not be allowed to interfere with the overriding responsibility of the governing authority to be effective stewards of these collections and to safeguard the public interest by assuring continued access to them.

AAM strongly urges the leadership of universities, and their museums to work together to develop creative financial and organizational strategies that will secure their museums and collections for future generations.

AAM also strongly urges universities, museums, governmental agencies, foundations, and other stakeholders to begin a national dialogue with the aim of providing long-term stability for Americas university museums of natural history and their irreplaceable collections. A major aim is to strengthen connections to constituencies that can speak in support of these important museums."

AAAS SCIENCE POLICY FELLOWSHIPS: APPLICATION INFORMATION

Scientists and engineers are invited to apply for one-year science and technology policy fellowships in Washington, DC, beginning September 2004. These programs, administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), are designed to provide each Fellow with a unique public policy learning experience and to bring technical backgrounds and external perspectives to decision-making in the U.S. government. Fellows serve in the Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Agency for International Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and other federal offices. Applicants must have a PhD or an equivalent doctoral degree by the application deadline (January 10, 2004) from any biological, physical, or social science, any field of engineering, or any relevant interdisciplinary field. Individuals with a master's degree in engineering and at least three years of post-degree professional experience also may apply. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and federal employees are ineligible. Stipends begin at $60,000. For application instructions and further information about the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Programs, contact: 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, Phone: 202/326-6700, E-mail: fellowships@aaas.org, Web: www.fellowships.aaas.org. Underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.


- 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/

 


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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