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].
The following are the President's fiscal year 2007 budget requests for several federal programs that support biological research. More detailed analyses of these budget requests have been provided in previous policy reports. The following are intended to provide a quick reference point for the President's request. It is important to keep in mind that these numbers are requested amounts and subject to change by congressional action.
NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network) would receive a total of $24 million. Of this amount, $12 million comes from NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account. Of the other $12 million, half would come from BIO's Emerging Frontiers program and half from the Biological Infrastructure account.
Additionally, the budget slashes funding for the Science To Achieve Results (STAR), Greater Research Opportunities (GRO), and Environmental Science and Technology (EST) fellowship programs. If enacted at the requested level, the budget would eliminate funding for 37 fellows.
The Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) supports research falling under one of four categories: life sciences, climate change, environmental remediation, and medical science. The purpose of BER research is to "develop the knowledge base necessary to identify, understand, and anticipate the long-term health and environmental consequences of energy use and development." Planned areas of focus in the budget include: global climate change; environmental remediation; molecular, cellular, and systemic studies on the biological effects of radiation; structural biology; medical applications of nuclear technology; and the Human Genome Program. Other areas that continue to receive attention include efforts to understand carbon sequestration, sustaining progress toward the development of coupled general circulation models, and sequencing the genomes of microbes that convert carbon dioxide into methane and hydrogen.
For FY 2007, the President has requested $510.0 million for BER, an increase of nearly $50.0 million over the FY 2006 request. However, the request is nearly $81.0 million below the amount Congress appropriated for FY 2006. In essence, Congress provided and directed how the agency would spend nearly $129.0 million in FY 2006. Thus, while the FY 2007 request is a positive sign and a significant increase over the FY 2006 mark, it would potentially represent a cut in the amount available for grant programs if Congress directs expenditures at the same magnitude as FY 2006 without providing an infusion of funds at least equal to the FY 2006 level.
NOAA supports intramural and extramural research related to its mission to "understand and predict changes in Earth's environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation's economic, social, and environmental needs." Three major mission goals: 1) ecosystems; 2) climate; and 3) weather and water, guide R&D funding in FY 2007.
If funded at the requested levels, 13.9 percent of the NOAA budget would be dedicated to R&D in FY 2007. Of this, 69 percent is allocated to intramural and 31 percent to extramural funding, with 87 percent supporting research and 13 percent development. The majority of NOAA research funding, 56 percent, is managed by the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). The balance of funding is from NOAA's mission-driven units, such as the National Ocean Service (NOS).
The request for OAR is $348.7 million, $30.9 million less than the FY 2006 enacted appropriation. Within the request, however, a number of biological and ecological research programs would receive increased funding. To provide scientists with the high-tech tools and expertise required to investigate the undersea environment, the budget would add $5.0 million to the National Undersea Research Program (NURP). The increase, which would put the program at $9.1 million, would be used to restructure the east coast program to better serve the research community. With a request of nearly $2.5 million, the budget for the Aquatic Invasive Species program would more than double. A $741,000 increase for the National Sea Grant College Program would increase the program's base funding to $54.8 million. The budget request for ocean, coastal and Great Lakes research is $102.9 million, just under $25.0 million less than the FY 2006 appropriation. However, the request is an $8.6 million increase from the "FY 2007 adjusted base" budget, which includes program terminations and the removal of congressionally earmarked projects.
For FY 2007, $413.1 million has been requested for NOS. This is roughly $177.4 million less than the FY 2006 enacted appropriation. Within this request, however, the Response and Restoration, Extramural Research, and National Estuarine Research Reserve System budget functions would receive modest increases. The Ocean Assessment Program, which funds monitoring projects such as coastal observing systems, is slated to receive $54.7 million in FY 2007, a sharp drop from the $121.1 million approved by Congress for FY 2006. NOS also requests $47.0 million for National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) programs, which includes a proposed $15.8 million for extramural research, roughly $6.0 million more than in FY 2006.
From an impressive and highly competitive applicant pool, the AIBS Public Policy Office is pleased to announce that Cornell University PhD candidate Madhura Kulkarni and University of Maryland Baltimore County PhD candidate Christopher Hofmann have been selected as the 2006 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award recipients. This is the fourth year that AIBS has recognized graduate students poised to make a contribution in both the biological sciences and science policy.
The pair will receive a trip to Washington, DC, where they will participate in a two-day congressional visits event sponsored by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) and the Coalition on Funding Agricultural Research Missions (CoFARM). They will meet with members of Congress and attend briefings by key government officials, as well as a reception honoring Representatives Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ) for their work on behalf of science. Additionally, the recipients receive a one-year AIBS membership and subscription to BioScience.
Kulkarni is working toward a doctorate in biogeochemistry and environmental biocomplexity. She earned an undergraduate biology degree from Duke University in 1999 and a master of science in marine, estuarine and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland in 2003. Her doctoral research is a study on nitrogen pollution management. She has received a variety of awards and grants, including a NASA Earth Systems Science Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Integrated Graduate Education and Research Training Fellowship.
Hofmann is working toward a doctorate in biology. He earned an undergraduate biology degree in 2000 from Towson University, where he graduated summa cum laude. Like Kulkarni, Hofmann has received several awards and grants, including two National Science Foundation Fellowships. He is coauthor of a review chapter in a forthcoming Harvard University Press volume entitled Bird Coloration. Hofmann serves as the student member of the American Ornithologists' Union Committee on Public Responsibility.
AIBS also named two Honorable Mentions this year, Holly Menninger and Mindy Richlen. Menninger is a PhD candidate in behavior, ecology, evolution and systematics at the University of Maryland. Richlen is a PhD candidate in marine science at Boston University.
Legislation to authorize billions of dollars for Energy Department research and new recruitment programs to attract students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields has been approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The legislation, S 2197, would create a program resembling the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which specializes in high-risk defense research. The similar energy-related program would be called ARPA-E and would focus on cutting-edge energy technologies.
ARPA-E is one of three measures moving through the Senate that make up a bipartisan legislative package called "Protecting America's Competitive Edge" (PACE). PACE is based on the National Academies report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," which warns of an impending decline in U.S. competitiveness. The other two, S 2198 and S 2199, focus on education and tax credits. They remain in Senate committees at present. The PACE package was introduced by Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
On 8 March 2006 the South Carolina Board of Education voted 11-6 to reject an anti-evolution proposal from the state Education Oversight Committee (EOC). The EOC proposal would have required teachers to include a "critical analysis" of evolution in their lesson plans. Science education experts say that such language has emerged as one of intelligent design/creationism proponents' main strategies in the wake of the Dover, Pennsylvania verdict, that prevented the inclusion of intelligent design in a science curriculum. [See the 1 January 2006 Public Policy Report at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/public-policy-reports-2006_01_03.html for more information on the Dover decision.]
According to the National Center for Science Education, the EOC cannot now revise the state's science standards, but it still has the power to approve or reject the standards as a whole. If the EOC and the Board cannot agree on new standards, the state will continue to use the current standards. South Carolina residents interested in learning more about these standards should contact South Carolinians for Science Education (http://www.sc-scied.org/EE/index.php).
After serving five years as Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton announced her resignation on Friday, 10 March. In a letter to President George W. Bush, Norton credited the department for "great work in the face of hurricanes, record-setting wildfires and droughts, acrimonious litigation and expanded post 9/11 security responsibilities." Among the accomplishments Norton included in her letter of resignation was Interior's effort to increase cooperative conservation by working with land owners and local communities. Throughout her tenure, Norton repeatedly came under fire by environmentalists for her support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other policies viewed as pro-development. A replacement has not yet been nominated.
The American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) and American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) are pleased to announce the availability of a graduate student public policy internship. For more information and application instructions, please see the full announcement in the Classifieds section of the AIBS website at
In the March issue of BioScience Gillian Andres reports on the growing momentum for new federal incentives to attract new students into careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The article is available at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/.
Following is a brief excerpt from "The Cost of Doing Business: Should the United States Create Incentives for STEM Labor?"
"Academics, business leaders, and policymakers have all issued the warning: The United States is facing an imminent workforce shortage in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) that threatens the country's economic competitiveness in the global marketplace. Some nonprofit research groups and members of the science community, however, are chary of adding their voices to the chorus because past predictions concerning the STEM workforce have proved erroneous."
"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), STEM employment will grow three times faster than employment in other fields, with the total number of STEM jobs increasing by 47 percent between 2000 and 2010. If STEM employment does grow as expected, can US universities produce enough skilled graduates to meet the demand? Many fear the answer is no: From 1994 through 2003, reports the Government Accountability Office, the number of STEM degrees earned failed to keep pace-by 22 percent-with the national average increase in all degrees earned, a possible early indicator of future STEM labor shortages."
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.