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AIBS Washington Watch

From the pages of BioScience magazine, the online version of our government affairs column, with discussions of the latest happenings related to our mission.

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Columns

November 2014: White House Takes Steps on Climate Adaptation, but Path Forward is Unclear

by Kevin Todd

At the start of the Obama presidency, many climate change advocates felt that they had an opportunity to achieve meaningful government action on global warming. Although the House of Representatives passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2009, there was little White......

January 2014: It's That Time Again: Congress Considers NSF Legislation

by Robert E. Gropp

Beyond making appropriations to fund federal research programs, Congress is responsible for authorizing the activities and funding levels for federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF). Last renewed by the America COMPETES Act reauthorization of 2010, the agency's......

December 2013: Life Science Graduates Face Daunting Labor Market

by Julie Palakovich Carr

In my position as CEO of a firm employing over 80,000 engineers, I can testify that most were excellent engineers. But the factor that most distinguished those who advanced in the organization was the ability to think broadly and read......

September 2013: Harnessing the Power of Big Data in Biological Research

by Eve S. McCulloch

From the dawn of civilization to 2003, humankind generated five exabytes [5 billion gigabytes] of data. Now we produce five exabytes every two days ... and the pace is accelerating. —Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google, quoted in R. Smolan......

May 2013: Balancing Privacy and Progress: Biobanks and Genome Sequencing

by Eve S. McCulloch

Genome sequencing coupled with medical and personal data holds enormous promise for unraveling the mysteries of the human body and advancing disease treatment. Increasingly, research projects are collecting data on large numbers of people to determine links among diseases, lifestyle,......

January 2013: Researchers Take on a New Role: Advocate for Profession, Science

by Julie Palakovich Carr

Scientists pride themselves on being objective purveyors of information. For some, this may seem at odds with delving into the world of public policy, where politics and spin seemingly reign supreme. For others, advocating on behalf of their profession and......

September 2012: New Farm Bill Could Have Devastating Effects on Water Quality

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

Agricultural nonpoint-source pollution has repeatedly been cited as a leading cause of degraded water quality in water bodies ranging from tributaries to coastal estuaries. Approximately 40 percent of US agricultural land—roughly 15 percent of all the land in the United......

July 2012: Data Show that Federal Investment in Research Pays Dividends

by Julie Palakovich Carr

In 1990, the federal government formally launched an ambitious initiative to sequence the human genome, to identify all the genes in human DNA, and to develop the tools to store and allow access to this information. The effort took 13......

February 2012: White House Begins to Map Course toward Bio-Based Economy

by Robert E. Gropp

Politicians and pundits clogged the airwaves last year with rhetoric about the state of the nation's economy. Amid this noise, a few economic policy initiatives did begin to take shape. For instance, last fall, the White House Office of Science......

January 2012: Will Lawmakers Reform Immigration Rules for STEM Graduates?

by Julie Palakovich Carr

Ranjini Prithviraj is at the start of a promising career in neuroscience. She is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), serves as an editor on the NIH Fellows Editorial Board, and mentors students interested in careers......

April 2011: Synthetic Biology Promises Risk and Reward

by Julie Palakovich Carr

In May 2010, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute announced the creation of the world's first synthetic organism....

February 2011: New Congress, Old Climate Rhetoric?

by Robert E. Gropp

Last month, members of the 112th Congress were sworn into office, making the composition of the new Congress very different from that of the 111th. Although the election is over, it remains unclear whether members of the new Congress will......

November 2010: Major Changes in Congress May Mean Major Changes for Science Policy

by Julie Palakovich Carr

This month, voters across the nation will head to the polls for the midterm elections. Regardless of the final results, the departure of several long-standing science and education advocates will most likely change the way science is viewed in the......

October 2010: Congress Learns about 21st Century Biology

by Robert E. Gropp

Last year, the National Research Council (NRC) issued A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution. Described by some scientists as biology's "moon shot," the 112-page report makes a case for new......

June 2010: Science Advice in the States

by Julie Palakovich Carr

In 2006 this column posed the question, "Where are all the state science advisers?" With states challenged to make more decisions about investments in research, science education, and tech-based industry, author Gillian Andres asked, Who is advising the governors? She......

February 2010: Stimulating Science: One Year After the Recovery Act

by Julie Palakovich Carr

A year ago, as the US economy was on the brink of meltdown, Congress and President Obama enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; PL 111-5). The $787-billion economic stimulus promised a new future for America, a......

December 2009: A Research and Education Agenda for Biology?

by Robert E. Gropp

For some time, biologists have argued that a greater federal investment in biological research and education is required to move science forward and solve urgent societal problems. Argu­ably, this call has been heard, but a response has been muted by......

November 2009: Turning the Tide on Aquatic Invaders

by Julie Palakovich Carr

Ports in the United States are among the busiest in the world—ships made more than 60,000 port calls here in 2008. Along with the 2.3 billion metric tons of goods moved through these ports were untold numbers of aquatic hitchhikers,......

October 2009: Stem Cells: Growth and Development...in Policy

by Jenna Jadin

Many scientists and patient advocates cheered earlier this summer when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released new guidelines for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. The guidelines came after President Obama's March 2009 executive order lifting the restrictions on......

September 2009: Debate over Science Funding Heats Up in Canada

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

Two years ago, the Canadian government launched a new strategy to improve the country's scientific competitiveness by, among other things, promoting partnerships with industry and improving scientific infrastructure. In June, the government trumpeted its success in Mobilizing Science and Technology......

July 2009: A Rising Tide of Support for a National Climate Service

by Robert E. Gropp

Climate change is a hot topic in the halls of Congress. News coverage has centered on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454), which the House passed by a slim margin—219......

June 2009: Will Congress Include Ecosystem Monitoring in Climate Legislation?

by Julie Palakovich Carr

Coral bleaching, earlier leaf budding, pika range shifts—these are only a few of the documented effects of climate change on species and ecosystems. Congress is trying to pass legislation responding to climate change, yet some scientists are wondering whether policymakers......

May 2009: Great Lakes: Sailing to the Forefront of National Water Policy?

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

While all eyes were on the presidential election last fall, the US Congress quickly—and rather unceremoniously—approved legislation that will shape the face of US water policy for years to come. On 3 October, then President George Bush signed into law......

April 2009: Grand Theories: How Far Have We Come and Where Will We Go?

by Jenna Jadin

President Obama's call for science to be "restored to its proper place" excites science policy advocates. Science, it appears, may play an important role in informing societal decisions and restarting the country's economic engines. Lawmakers heeded his call during the......

March 2009: US Struggles to Clear Up Confusion Left in the Wake of Rapanos

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

For two decades, Michigan developer John Rapanos battled the US government over the extent of protection for wetlands and streams under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Now, more than two years after the Supreme Court issued its 4-1-4 split decision,......

February 2009: On Moral Grounds: Bioethics Training for Scientists

by Natalie Dawson

The philosophical exploration of ethical concerns in the life sciences—"bioethics"—has focused largely on research protocols involving research subjects in medical studies. Now, however, the application of biotechnology to environmental problems is triggering ethical questions. Today's scientists confront this question: "Can......

January 2009: Nothing Average about Change

by Robert Gropp

On 4 November 2008, a long, expensive, and unprecedented general election finally concluded. By the next morning, one would have been hard-pressed to find a field biologist even in the most remote locale who had not learned of the historically......

December 2008: The Cost of Conservation: The National Wildlife Refuge System

by Sarah A. Smiley

More than a century ago, the federal government established the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) to conserve fish, wildlife, and plants, as well as their habitats; today the NWRS manages more than 40 million hectares of federal land on 548......

November 2008: The Sound of Silence at the Environmental Protection Agency

by Megan Debranski Kelhart

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created on 2 December 1970 to "establish and enforce environmental protection standards, conduct environmental research, provide support to others combating environmental pollution, and assist the White House Council on Environmental Quality in developing and......

October 2008: Science Advice for the Next President

by Robert E. Gropp

Next month, voters will choose the next president of the United States. Whether they elect Senator Obama or Senator McCain, the president's responses in coming years to national and global problems and opportunities will require access to scientific and technical......

September 2008: Sweating the Small Stuff: Environmental Risk and Nanotechnology

by Natalie G. Dawson

Nanoscience, or nanotechnology, is science or technology that creates functional materials from atomic particles. Once considered to be little more than science fiction, nanotechnology is now a well-established field, as evidenced by various new journals and federally funded research programs,......

July 2008: A New Farm Bill, Research Structure at USDA

by Megan Debranski Kelhart

The significant challenges facing national food, fiber, and bioenergy systems call for a robust agricultural research system, whether for addressing food safety, security, and availability; thwarting disruptions to food supplies; or managing agricultural and natural resource systems. The federal framework......

June 2008: Shale Oil: Alternative Energy or Environmental Degradation?

by Noreen Parks

In the continuing quest to diminish US dependence on foreign oil, in 2005 Congress passed the Energy Policy Act (EPAct), which calls for developing unconventional fuels. To fast-track the commercial development of oil shale and tar sands, the law directed......

May 2008: Big Bucks for Biosecurity Research--But Who's Doing What?

by Holly Menninger

After 11 September 2001 and the anthrax attacks that followed, President Bush made it a government priority to protect human health and food systems from biological attack. Federal agencies have allocated billions of dollars to biological security programs and new......

April 2008: Political Science

by Megan Debranski Kelhart

Whether in response to the "politi­cization" of science, or simply to ensure that public policy is informed by science, many scientists are mobilizing and becoming more active in the public policy arena. Whatever the reason, science is more prominent in......

March 2008: Theory and Funding for 21st Century Biology—Maybe

by Holly Menninger and Robert Gropp

Compared with other scientific disciplines, some leaders in the science community have said, biology is too heavily centered on facts, with too little emphasis on underlying theory. The propagation of this misperception in recent years has very likely contributed to......

February 2008: Fertilizing the Seas for Climate Mitigation—Promising Strategy or Sheer Folly?

by Noreen Parks

As the effects of global warming appear more ominous, and the world community makes minimal progress in curbing fossil-fuel emissions, geoengineering schemes for climate mitigation are taking on new allure. One proposal, “fertilizing” ocean waters with micronutrients such as iron......

January 2008: FYI: Threats Remain for Evolution Education

by Robert E. Gropp

Just over two years ago, intelligent design and creationism (IDC) proponents suffered a stunning legal defeat when a federal judge ruled that intelligent design is no different from religious belief in creationism and has no place in the science classroom.......

December 2007: Feds Seek to Ignite Bioenergy Research

by Megan Debranski Kelhart

Whether from a desire to reduce dependency on foreign oil, to develop new rural economies, or to reap potential environmental benefits, bioenergy-related research has captured enormous national attention in the last couple of years. In June 2007, the Department of......

November 2007: Ocean Acidification: The Biggest Threat to Our Oceans

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

When it comes to the oceans and carbon dioxide, there’s good news and bad news. To date, the world’s oceans have absorbed nearly a third of the excess carbon dioxide emitted as a result of anthropogenic activities. That may be......

October 2007: Government Looks into Health of Federal Science Collections

by Holly Menninger

Researchers at university-based natural science collections have long known that their institutions face daunting budgetary and infrastructure challenges. It is becoming equally apparent that federal collections face comparable challenges. Recent circumstances at the Smithsonian Institution (SI), the flagship for federal......

September 2007: Congress Advances Multiyear Science and Education Plan

by Robert E. Gropp

Before leaving Washington, DC, for the August district work period, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed legislation authorizing $43.3 billion for science and science education programs at various federal agencies, and President George W. Bush signed the act......

July 2007: National Wildlife Refuges: Death by a Thousand Cuts?

by Noreen Parks

There’s no other wildlife conservation network like it in the world—547 reserves covering nearly 100 million acres (40.5 million hectares) of wetlands, forests, grasslands, islands, and deserts that support thousands of plant and animal species, including 260 listed as endangered......

June 2007: Congress Considers NSF Authorization

by Holly Menninger

Washington, DC, is abuzz with talk about innovation. Leaders in government, business, education, and science are calling for action to enhance the US science and technology enterprise for the 21st century. Both the White House and Congress—the former through the......

May 2007: Wildlife Triggers Change in Congressional Debate on Climate

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

The 110th Congress is taking a new approach to climate change. Rather than debating whether or not climate change is a “hoax,” the Democratic-majority Congress is moving full steam ahead. With the creation of a select House committee on climate......

April 2007: Transforming the Rules on Federal Regulations

by Noreen Parks

In mid-January, as national attention focused on congressional reorganization and the never-ending controversies surrounding the Iraq war, the White House rewrote key chapters of the book on federal regulations. In one fell swoop, Executive Order 13422 made economic criteria the......

March 2007: Just Another Report, or a Sea Change for Ocean Research?

by Robert E. Gropp

For several years, ocean science advocates have been buoyed by various reports focusing attention on the importance of invigorating and prioritizing ocean research. Indeed, the US Ocean Action Plan called for the development of a long-range national ocean research agenda.......

February 2007: Declining Amphibian Populations: What Is the Next Step?

by Megan Debranski Kelhart

Declines in global amphibian populations have been in news headlines around the world since they were acknowledged in 1989 at the First World Congress of Herpetology. Eager to explain the causes, biologists have established ambitious research, monitoring, and inventory programs.......

January 2007: Post Postdoc: Are New Scientists Prepared for the Real World?

by Natalie Dawson

Postdoctoral researchers are an essential part of the scientific community, yet their status in the academic community often fails to reflect their significant role in advancing the nation’s scientific research programs. Postdoctoral scholars often spend long periods of time in......

December 2006: Supreme Court Ruling Leaves Future of Clean Water Act Murky

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

In early 2006, more than 50 briefs were submitted to the Supreme Court in connection with two cases challenging the federal government’s authority to regulate streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act (CWA). At issue in Rapanos v. United......

November 2006: National Academy of Sciences Issues Gender Equity Plan

by Robert E. Gropp

Over the past several decades, various agencies, committees, and individual scientists have called for greater gender equity within the ranks of the science and engineering faculty at colleges and universities in the United States. Despite these calls to action, most......

October 2006: Global Warming: Congress Still Stalled, States and Cities Act

by Barton Reppert

Back in 1992, Representative Henry A. Waxman (D–CA) introduced legislation aimed at dealing with global climate change by controlling emissions of greenhouse gases. Fourteen years later, the California Democrat and other environmentally conscious lawmakers are still waiting for Congress to......

September 2006: Where Are All the State Science Advisers?

by Gillian Andres

Since World War II, the federal government has set the science policy agenda for the United States. In recent years, however, states have increasingly sought to expand their role, at least perceptually, in an effort to nurture economic development. Although......

August 2006: Senators Propose Fundamental Change to Scholarly Publishing

by Robert E. Gropp

Proposals to require free and open access to scholarly publications have spawned an active public policy debate. Until recently, the focus was on making articles arising from research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) available through an NIH-maintained......

July 2006: Republicans Wrangle over Environmental Legislation

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

In real estate, the key to success is location, location, location. In Congress, the key to passing legislation is assignment, assignment, assignment—committee assignment, that is. In the 109th Congress, Republicans are attempting to reauthorize two pieces of environmental legislation that......

June 2006: NSF's New Strategic Plan

by Barton Reppert

The National Science Foundation is developing its latest strategic plan, which offers veteran NSF-watchers a window into basic priorities and senior-level policymaking at the agency, and also provides an opportunity for input by the scientific community on the foundation's policies......

May 2006: Are There Signs of Life in the Innovation Budget?

by Robert E. Gropp

For years, members of the scientific community have sounded alarm bells warning of a decline in the competitiveness of US research, development, and education systems. During the past year, taking note of high-profile innovation initiatives from Representative Frank Wolf (R–VA),......

April 2006: Evolution after Dover

by Erin Heath

The scene: a press conference featuring scientists and religious leaders. The date: 21 December 2005, the day after US District Court Judge John E. Jones III struck down the Dover, Pennsylvania, Area School District's inclusion of intelligent design in the......

March 2006: The Cost of Doing Business: Should the United States Create Incentives for STEM Labor?

by Gillian Andres

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......

February 2006: Europe Gears Up to Double Its Investment in Research

by Adrienne Froelich Sponberg

In late 2005, much of the talk around Washington, DC, focused on competitiveness and innovation in science and technology. The National Academy of Sciences released "The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," warning policymakers of......

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