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AIBS Public Policy Report for 5/24/04

  • APHIS seeks suggestions on proposed change in seed importation rules
  • You can help increase funding for NSF
  • National Science Board invites comments on draft report on broadening participation in science and engineering
  • Evolution education news: AL, KY, MN, MO
  • 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].


APHIS SEEKS SUGGESTIONS ON PROPOSED CHANGE IN SEED IMPORTATION RULES

Phytosanitary certificates are an internationally accepted form of pest risk mitigation. Pest risk mitigation at the place of origin is often viewed as the most viable means of preventing the introduction of plant pests. Signatories to the International Plant Protection Convention, which include the United States and over 100 other countries, agree that pest risk mitigation is a responsibility of the exporting country, and that they are willing and able to issue hytosanitary certificates. Prior to January 2002, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had not consistently and routinely enforced the phytosanitary certificate requirement. Shipments were not denied solely for lacking a phytosanitary certificate and APHIS inspectors had the latitude to allow entry of the shipment, even when not accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. In light of increased quantities, types, and sources of nursery stock, plants, and other propagative plant material offered for importation into the United States, coupled with the findings of a 1999 safeguarding report, APHIS reevaluated the policy regarding the enforcement of the phytosanitary certificate requirement. It was deemed necessary to enforce the phytosanitary certificate requirement on a consistent, mandatory basis with respect to all restricted articles offered for importation into the United States in order to effectively mitigate the risk of those articles introducing foreign plant pests into the United States.

Because obtaining a phytosanitary certificate is not feasible in some cases for those entities interested in importing small lots of seed, APHIS is proposing to allow the importation of small lots of seed using a permit rather than a phytosanitary certificate. A small lot of seed would consist of a maximum of 50 seeds of 1 taxon and a maximum of 50 seed packets per shipment. Some have expressed concern that large, commercial entities might be able to exploit the new rule to avoid paying costs related to phytosanitary certification by dividing their large shipments into numerous small lots that would not require a certificate. Thus, increasing the potential for pest plants to enter the United States. APHIS is accepting suggestions on specific issues to consider in the review of permit applications in order to protect against any misuse of the proposed provisions. Comments on the proposed change should be submitted to APHIS (regulations@aphis.usda.gov) by June 28, 2004. For more information on this proposed rule change, visit
//a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2004/04-9716.htm

YOU CAN HELP INCREASE FUNDING FOR NSF

An effort is underway in Congress to help secure increased fiscal year 2005 funding for the National Science Foundation. This year's spending levels have not yet been finalized, but a growing budget deficit and competing interests could reduce the amount available for the NSF. Thus, it is important that your members of Congress hear from you. It is not too late to ensure that your voice is heard. In addition to writing or calling your Representative and Senators, the coming months are an excellent time to visit them while they are back in their home states for the summer holidays. You can learn about district events your member of Congress will be participating in by contacting one of their district offices.

To learn more about what you can do to support funding for the National Science Foundation, please visit //www.aibs.org/announcements/040507_action_alert_letter_to.html.


NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD INVITES COMMENTS ON DRAFT REPORT ON BROADENING PARTICIPATION IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

The National Science Board is accepting public comments on a draft report entitled, "Broadening Participation in Science and Engineering Research and Education" (NSB-04-41). The report includes findings and recommendations resulting from a workshop hosted by the Board on August 12, 2003, and subsequent Board deliberations. One of the Board's seven findings was that the percentage of underrepresented minority faculty at post-secondary institutions is significantly lower than the percentage of underrepresented minority students at those institutions. The Board presents the following recommendations to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in faculty ranks: Establish an annotated and searchable database of recent doctorates associated with NSF programs to facilitate recruiting; Expand NSF programs leading to advanced degrees; and, Develop NSF programs that encourage the use of incentives and rewards to advance underrepresented minorities into the professoriate.

To view the workshop proceedings and the draft Report contact the Board office at NSBoffice@nsf.gov. Comments on the report should be sent to nsbreport@nsf.gov by June 18, 2004.

EVOLUTION EDUCATION NEWS: AL, KY, MN, MO

ALABAMA--

On May 17, 2004 the Alabama legislature adjourned for this legislative session without voting on a number of controversial measures, including SB 336 "the Academic Freedom Act." The original version of this legislation would have allowed teachers to present "alternative theories" of "biological or physical origins." The measure was unanimously approved by the Alabama Senate Education Committee and approved by the full state Senate. The House Education Committee passed a modified version of the legislation by a vote of 9 to 1. In the House version, "alternative theories" language was replaced by language protecting the presentation of only "scientific information" on the "full range of scientific views." The change in legislative language was likely in response to growing criticism that the legislation was religiously motivated. Evidence for this was provided by the Senate sponsor of the legislation, Wendell Mitchell, who was quoted on May 16 stating, "We are trying to take every step we can to ensure that the people who are operating under this legislation are not challenged on the idea it is a religious effort." Mitchell, a democrat, previously has stated, "This bill will level the playing field because it allows a teacher to bring forward the biblical creation story of humankind."

As a result of the seemingly continuous effort of the Alabama State Legislature to introduce non-scientific information into the science curricula, the Alabama Citizens for Science Education (www.alscience.org) was established to promote the best possible science in Alabama public schools.


KENTUCKY--

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) are pleased to announce that a new evolution list serve has joined the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network. The list, launched last week, is now accepting new subscribers. Scientists and science educators in Kentucky that are interested in issues related to evolution education or science education more generally are encouraged to participate in this free online exchange. For more information about the new KY list serve or evolution lists in other states, please visit //www.aibs.org/mailing-lists/the_aibs-ncse_evolution_list_server.html.


MINNESOTA--

Minnesota has adopted new science education standards. According to the National Center for Science Education, the standards do not include any of the changes or amendments proposed by those seeking to teach "evidence against" or "weaknesses" of evolution. The standard writing process in Minnesota has been contentious. Education advocates have worked tirelessly through what often appeared to be a questionable process to ensure the state adopted the strongest standards possible. Some may recall that earlier this year, then Education Commissioner, Cheri Pierson Yecke, modified draft science standards prepared by a writing committee comprised of scientists and educators. Yecke has also publicly advocated that local school districts should have the freedom to teach creationism if they desire. Yecke's standards would have seriously weakened science education standards. Prior to adjourning for the legislative session, the Minnesota Senate voted 35-31 not to confirm Yecke as the Education Commissioner.


MISSOURI--

The Missouri legislative session has ended without action on two House Bills (HB 911 and 1722) that would have weakened science education. HB 911 would have mandated "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design" in the public schools. The measure was less than favorably received by the House largely because it included provisions that "Willful neglect of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section shall be cause for termination of his or her contract" and that "Each public school classroom in this state from grades eight through twelve in which science is taught exclusively shall post a copy of this section in a conspicuous manner." HB 1722 omitted these provisions but retained the "equal time" requirement. HB 1722 died in the House Education Committee.


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

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- Give your society or organization a voice in public policy decisions affecting your areas of science. Support the AIBS Public Policy Office's ability to work with you, on your behalf. See //www.aibs.org/public-policy/funding_contributors.html

- AIBS special symposium. Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation. Nov. 12th and 13th, 2004, Chicago IL at the National Association of Biology Teachers annual conference. Program and registration at //www.aibs.org/special-symposia/

- BioScience for $12/yr! The BioScience Bulk-Purchase Program for Member Societies and Organizations. See //www.aibs.org/announcements/031002_announcing_the_bioscience_bulkpurchase.html

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

 


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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