HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE QUESTIONS TERMINATION OF STAR FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM AND PROPOSED BUDGET FOR EPA RESEARCH - Strong support for EPA's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowship program dominated a 23 April hearing by the House Science subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards on EPA's budget request for Fiscal 2003. Subcommittee Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) made mention in his opening statement of the plan to eliminate STAR. Ehlers stated that he wouldn't object to the transfer of the fellowship program to NSF, but that there is no indication in the NSF budget request that the program would continue at all, much less in its present form. Witnesses Genevieve Matanoski, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health and a member of both EPA's Research Strategies Advisory Committee and Science Advisory Board, noted that discontinuance of the STAR fellowship is inconsistent with the Strategic Plan of EPA's Office of Research and Development.
Paul Gilman, EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development, said that EPA will still make environmental science to young researchers, through extramural grants and an internal postdoctoral program. While Gilman noted that OMB planned to consolidate all competitive research programs at NSF and had requested additional funding for NSF, Ehlers countered that without specific funding and guidelines, the program would be likely to disappear.
Generally, there was support by the witnesses for increasing the EPA research budget; Matanoski even suggested that it be doubled, particularly to attract new scientists to the EPA. Ehlers reminded Gilman that EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman had agreed to name a science advisor; Gilman said that an announcement should be made within the next thirty days, both as to the appointment and the tasks assigned to the advisor. And, in response to Ehler's reminder that Administrator Whitman had agreed to publish a state of the environment report, Gilman said that EPA's target release date is November of this year, and that EPA will seek public comments before final publication.
PEW OCEANS COMMISSION RELEASES REPORT ON COASTAL SPRAWL - The Pew Oceans Commission is conducting the first independent review of national ocean policies in over 30 years. In addition to meeting with citizens across the country, the Commission has received science reports on marine pollution, introduced species, and aquaculture, with reports on fishing and marine reserves forthcoming. The latest of these reports, "Coastal Sprawl: The Effects of Urban Design on Aquatic Ecosystems in the United States" was released on April 16. Although U.S. coastal counties account for 17 percent of the nation's area, they are home to more than half the population. An additional 27 million people are estimated to funnel into this narrow corridor over the next 15 years. The report, authored by Dana Beach of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, details the effects of urban design and land-use practices on aquatic ecosystems in the United States. Beach presents new strategies and tools that communities may use to preserve the same ecosystems that attract residents, tourists, and businesses to the coasts. The report is available on the web at www.pewocean.org.
UPDATE ON CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP OF INTERNATIONAL GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE PANEL - We reported on 15 March that, according to a New York Times article, the Bush administration was attempting to force Robert T. Watson, chief scientist of the World Bank, from his unpaid position as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced April 20 that Rajendra K. Pachauri, an expert in economics and technology, was elected to head the IPCC, defeating Watson, a Clinton administration nominee who guided a panel report that global warming's causes are related to human activity. Dr. Pachauri heads the Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi; Tata is one of India's largest industrial groups. Dr. Pachauri, assured the session of his strong commitment to the IPCC process, its scientific integrity and the spirit of consensus by which it functions so effectively. Harlan Watson, who headed the U.S. delegation in Geneva, told The Associated Press he "wouldn't give any weight to some kind of a campaign." Watson claimed that the U.S. wasn't against Watson, but was for Pachauri.
However, two weeks ago, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group, said the White House's Council on Environmental Quality received a memo from Exxon Mobil in February 2001 that asked, "Can Watson be replaced now, at the request of the U.S.?"
NSF ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES MEETS TO DISCUSS 21ST CENTURY BIOLOGY - The shape and direction of NSF's funding programs are guided and informed by advisory committees of experts that provide advice, recommendations, and oversight concerning major program emphases, directions, and goals for the research-related activities to the research directorate. The 19-member advisory committee on biological sciences or "BIOAC" met on April 25 and 26, focusing much of its attention on education issues. Education subcommittee co-chair Marvalee Wake (AIBS Board member and President of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology) gave a report on the education activities in the BIO directorate at all levels. Joann Roskoski, BIO's Executive Officer, gave a comprehensive report on the directorate's current portfolio of education activities and Judith Ramaley, NSF assistant director for the Education and Human Resources directorate spoke on the vision of education activities at NSF.
On the second day of the meeting, the BIOAC turned its attention to planning for 21st century biology. Mary Clutter, NSF assistant director for biology, previewed a new "virtual division" that was developed largely at the request of researchers and the BIOAC to provide funding for ideas that don't fit neatly into the traditional BIO divisions of molecular and cellular biosciences, integrative biology and neuroscience, environmental biology, biological infrastructure, and plant genomics. The virtual division will have no new staff although some funding will come from the existing divisions. The May 10 AIBS Public Policy report will provide a full report about the BIOAC's discussions of planning for 21st century biology.
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