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Public Policy Report for 01/05/2004

  • AIBS sends letter to NPS regarding young-Earth creationist book
  • AIBS responds to White House proposal to modify federal peer-review process
  • Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas switches parties, leaving Science Committee leadership in question
  • EPA Announces Environmental Monitoring Assessment Program (EMAP) 2004 Symposium
  • AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award Applications Available

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].



AIBS SENDS LETTER TO NPS REGARDING YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONIST BOOK

On December 30, 2003, AIBS sent a letter to Grand Canyon National Park to express concern about reports that a young-Earth creationist book, The Grand Canyon: A Different View, is being sold in bookstores throughout Grand Canyon National Park. The presidents of seven geoscience societies have also sent a letter to National Park Service officials. The concern to scientific societies is that the sale of the book within the National Park conveys to the public an impression that the National Park Service endorses the young-Earth creationist explanation for the age and formation of the Grand Canyon. AIBS requested that Grand Canyon National Park review its policy concerning the sale of this publication. The letters sent by AIBS and the geoscience societies can be viewed online at http://www.aibs.org/announcements/031231_aibs_letter_to_national.html. A review of The Grand Canyon: A Different View has been published in Eos and is available at http://www.agu.org/journals/eo/eo0338/2003EO380005.pdf#anchor.


AIBS RESPONDS TO WHITE HOUSE PROPOSAL TO MODIFY FEDERAL PEER-REVIEW PROCESS

The federal peer review process has recently been a subject of interest in Washington, DC policy circles. This month the White House's Office of Management and Budget is scheduled to release new guidelines for federal review of research used to formulate federal regulatory policy. The proposed guidelines would not change the peer-review process for research grant applications.

According to OMB, the guidelines increase the transparency of the federal regulatory process by allowing the public to know who served on a peer-review panel and whether they have received grants or contracts from the agency. The guidelines encourage agencies not to use experts that are employed by the government or have received funds from the agency. This is a concern for many scientific organizations that recognize that in many areas the number of qualified experts can be quite small and limited to researchers employed by a government agency or individuals that have received research support from the government because of their expertise. In comments submitted to OMB on the draft guidelines, AIBS (http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/resources/Comments_to_OMB_peer_rev.pdf) encouraged OMB to re-evaluate the peer-review panel selection criteria. While supporting the use of peer-reviewed science in federal decision making, scientists have also expressed concern that the proposed mechanism for selecting and instructing review-panel members could lead to panels being little more than debating societies; an outcome that would produce public frustration with the scientific community.

According to some environmental and consumer advocacy groups, the guidelines OMB has proposed are little more than a tool the administration can use to weaken federal regulations opposed by commercial interests. Many suspect the guidelines, which are proposed as recommendations to regulatory agencies-but can be required at the discretion of OMB, will be used by the Bush administration to influence the actions of the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, and Food and Drug Administration.

While OMB has been considering changes to the peer-review process used by regulatory agencies, the House of Representatives has included language in the pending omnibus FY 2004 appropriations legislation that would provide the director of the National Institutes of Health with a pot of money for making "high-risk" grants. These grants would reportedly be reviewed by experts from across NIH, but would not be subject to the standard NIH peer-review process. According to some supporters of the proposal, this flexibility would enable NIH to foster new high-risk research that review panels are unlikely to support. The Senate still must approve this new grant authority when it returns from recess on January 20th.


REP. RALPH HALL OF TEXAS SWITCHES PARTIES, LEAVING SCIENCE COMMITTEE LEADERSHIP IN QUESTION

Rep. Ralph Hall of the fourth district of Texas announced over the weekend that he will has joined the Republican party. Rep. Hall is currently the ranking member (leading Democrat) of the House Science Committee. It is unclear at this time how Hall's switch to the Republican party will affect the roster or leadership of the Science Committee. In announcing his decision to switch parties, Hall cited his inability to obtain congressional earmarks for his district as a major reason for the switch: "This year I was denied requests for district appropriations because I was a Democrat who voted against the bill. I have always stated that inasmuch as I was a Democrat representing a conservative and Republican district (66%), that if being a Democrat hurt my district, I would either resign or switch parties. Today I kept my word."


EPA ANNOUNCES ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING ASSESSMENT PROGRAM (EMAP) 2004 SYMPOSIUM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) Symposium 2004 will be a three and a half day symposium, jointly sponsored by EPA's Office of Research and Development, The Council of State Governments (CSG), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The symposium will be held at the Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island on May 3-7, 2004. It is expected that there will be approximately 300 participants from across the country.

This Symposium will focus on the following three (3) main themes; with sessions supporting each of these themes: 1. Monitoring the Condition of Aquatic Resources 2. Methods to Integrate Monitoring and Assessment for Clean Water Act [305(b)/303(d)] Reporting 3. Monitoring to Establish Aquatic Life Uses, Develop Criteria, and Evaluate Use Attainment

This Symposium will: Offer how advances in monitoring and assessment are targeted to meet emerging State and Tribal needs; Illustrate examples of research and technology transfer that have led to more efficient, less expensive, and more scientifically rigorous monitoring and assessment programs. Expert managers and scientists from Federal, State, Tribal Nations and local government agencies, academia, and nonprofit organizations will contribute to Platform and Poster presentations during this Symposium. Ample opportunity will be available for those with experience in the design and implementation of Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Programs to exchange ideas during the Poster Session, discussion groups, and Workshops to be conducted during the symposium.

Abstracts for Platform and Poster presentations related to any of the three main Themes will be accepted. All abstracts for both poster and platform presentations must be received by January 30, 2004. Details about the submission of abstracts can be found on the Symposium Web site.

Further information on the EMAP Symposium 2004 can be obtained from:

Brian D. Melzian, Ph.D. U.S. EPA (NHEERL) Atlantic Ecology Division Phone: (401) 782-3188 E-Mail: Melzian.Brian@epa.gov

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//about-aibs/031217_aibs_emerging_public_policy.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

- 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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