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AIBS Public Policy Report for 5/11/04

  • Office of Management and Budget seeks public comment on revised peer review plan
  • USGS hosts workshop for researchers on new federal grants web site
  • Free reports on the teaching of evolution from the National Academy of Sciences
  • Montana voters send strong pro-science message
  • New in BioScience- "Expanding Access to Natural History Collections"

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].


OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON REVISED PEER
REVIEW PLAN

On 15 September 2003, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a draft Bulletin on Peer Review for public comment. After holding a public meeting at the National Academies of Science, soliciting comments from federal agencies, and receiving 187 public comments on the draft Bulletin (including comments from AIBS), OMB has issued a significantly revised Bulletin. The current version of the Bulletin is open for public comment until 28 May 2004.

The initial plan, widely criticized by the science community, health advocacy organizations and environmental groups, would have prescribed when and how federal agencies use a scientific peer review procedure to evaluate science that is the basis for significant regulatory actions. The plan also set forth a peer review process that agencies would use to evaluate significant information prior to its public release. Concerns with the proposal were varied. Many in the science community noted that the proposal lacked clarity and could prevent the government from releasing time-sensitive public health information or that the process could politicize science by using the peer review process to stall politically unpopular regulatory decisions. In comments submitted by AIBS, it was also noted that the procedure set forth to ensure that scientists with a potential "conflict of interest" not serve on peer review panels was cumbersome and too restrictive.

The latest iteration of the Bulletin indicates that OMB seriously considered the comments provided by the science community. For example, the Bulletin now provides a mechanism for agencies to release time sensitive public health information. Some questions remain, however. For instance, the Bulletin would provide opportunities for public comment on the peer review process. It is unclear whether "public" is meant to be individuals with appropriate technical expertise or the public in general. While the later may be appropriate and certainly would contribute to open government, the value of public comment on technical matters is unclear. Further, the document does not clearly indicate the weight these comments would receive in the government's decision process.

Individuals and organizations interested in submitting comments on the revised Bulletin on Peer Review may obtain more information at: www.aibs.org/federal-register-resource/federal-register-resource-2004_04_30.html.

USGS HOSTS WORKSHOP FOR RESEARCHERS ON NEW GRANTS WEB SITE

Want to learn how to find federal research grant opportunities online? The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is hosting a free workshop for researchers wanting to know about //www.Grants.gov, the official E-Grants Web site where applicants use a single electronic system to find and apply for competitive federal grant opportunities. The USGS workshop will be held on Thursday, May 20, 2004, from 9:30 a.m. - noon, in the USGS National Center Auditorium in Reston, VA.

Individuals must register by May 18 to attend. To register, send an email with your name, company name, address, and phone number to: grantsworkshop@usgs.gov. For directions, see: //mac.usgs.gov/visitors/. For questions, call (703) 648-7349.

More than 900 competitive grant program opportunities are offered and more than $350 billion in awards are made each year by the federal government. The new Web site, www.Grants.gov, makes it easier for state and local governments, academia, non-profits and other organizations to find and apply for these opportunities.

The USGS National Spatial Data Infrastructure Program is currently offering grant opportunities posted on www.Grants.gov. Applicants can find information about the program and apply electronically on the Web site.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.


FREE REPORTS ON THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION FROM THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academies Press are disseminating three reports on evolution to science teachers. Those who visit //nap.edu/hawaii beginning Monday, May 3, 2004 and complete a questionnaire will receive a free pdf format copy of each of the following reports:

- Evolution in Hawaii: A Supplement to Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (2004) - Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (1998), and
- Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, 2nd ed. (1999).

Once you have completed the questionnaire, you will have the option to download all three reports immediately or to receive them on a CD-ROM that will be sent to you around May 17 (there are no shipping and handling costs).

The questionnaire will help the National Academies Press and the National Academies' Center for Education learn more about the needs and product preferences of teachers. A limited number of free copies are available, so act now!


MONTANA VOTERS SEND STRONG PRO-SCIENCE MESSAGE

Voters in the small Montana community of Darby turned out in force on Tuesday, May 4th to send a strong message to the school board -- teach science in science classes. In the weeks leading up to the election, Darby gained national attention for the school board's preliminary approval of an 'objective origins science policy' (for more information see Montana at: //www.aibs.org/public-policy/evolution_state_news.html). Science education advocates note that 'objective origins' is simply one of the new phrases used by creationism and intelligent design advocates. According to reports from the Ravalli Republic, the local newspaper, "voters flocked to the polls Tuesday to cast decisive votes." Incumbent Bob Wetzsteon and Erik Abrahamson, both opposed to the 'objective origins science policy' won seats on the board by a significant majority. The new school board should have adequate votes to effectively put an end to the proposed 'objective origins science policy.'


NEW IN BIOSCIENCE - "EXPANDING ACCESS TO NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTIONS"

At universities throughout the United States, tight budgets are threatening the continued vitality of research based on natural history collections (see "Are University Natural Science Collections Going Extinct?" BioScience 53: 550). In response, members of the taxonomy and natural history collection community undertook a self-assessment. Their finding: Natural history collections and collection-based research are vital to understanding biodiversity and to informing public policy on such issues as invasive species and emerging public health threats. Thus, scientists are also now thinking about the components of a new national initiative that could reinvigorate collection-based research.

Continue reading at:
//www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2004_05.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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