House subcommittee considers NSF budget and management challenges
On 9 March 2005 National Science Foundation Director, Dr. Arden Bement, appeared before the House research subcommittee to explain the NSF fiscal year (FY) 2006 budget request and address issues raised by recent reports recommending actions to address various agency management challenges. Also appearing before the panel were Dr. Mark Wrighton from the National Science Board and NSF Inspector General Dr. Christine Boesz.
During his opening statement, Chairman Inglis (R-SC) highlighted the growing concern that basic science research is not receiving the funding necessary for the United States to maintain its international leadership in research and development. The chairman stated, "Without NSF supporting basic research, our edge in science will slip away and an innovation gap will grow." Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR), the subcommittee's senior Democrat, echoed the chairman's concerns, describing the administration's budget request for NSF as shortsighted and inadequate for our country's basic research needs. Though the NSF FY 06 budget would provide a 2.4 percent increase over FY 05 appropriated levels, it is one percent below FY 04 enacted appropriation and far from the federal government's promise to double the NSF budget. Director Bement defended the administration's request stating, "At a time when many agencies are looking at budget cuts, an increase in our budget underscores the Administration's support of NSF's science and engineering programs, and reflects the agency's excellent management and program results." National Science Board member, Dr. Wrighton, echoed the chairman's concern about the budget stating, "For us [United States] to sustain our preeminence in important areas of science and technology, I believe that we are going to have to make an even greater investment in finding not only the best science and engineering to support, but also the highest impact science and engineering."
A core concern with the NSF budget request is a proposal that would decrease funding for NSF supported math and science education programs. Four of seven education programs would receive significant budget cuts if the FY 06 budget were enacted as proposed: Math and Science Partnerships (down 24 percent), Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education (down 23 percent), Undergraduate Education (down 12 percent), and Research, Evaluation and Communication (down 43 percent). Defending these cuts, NSF Director Bement indicated that the Department of Education will take on a broader role in math and science education in the future. The chairman expressed his concern with the proposal stating, "I wonder about the cuts in math and science Education, and indications that some NSF activities may be 'migrating' to the Department of Education. The NSF has a passion for excellence, while the Department of education is arguably focused on proficiency. Passion isn't easily transferred." Further expressing the subcommittee's support of NSF education programs, Rep. Hooley stated, "Reduced funding support for core science and education programs deprives states, school districts and students of the tools they need to achieve and compete in a global marketplace. We in Congress must take action that will provide for a vigorous academic research enterprise for the nation that will help fill the storehouse of basic knowledge that powers the future." (Note: To learn more about recent proposals to transfer the NSF MSP program to the Department of Education, you may wish to read the March 2005 Washington Watch article in BioScience. The article may be viewed for free at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2005_03.html.)
The subcommittee also received testimony from the NSF Inspector General, Dr. Boesz. Dr. Boesz described her office's annual assessment of the greatest management and performance challenges facing NSF. In her remarks, Dr. Boesz expressed her office's continuing concerns about NSF's post-award monitoring of research grants, oversight of large facilities construction, and workforce planning issues.
A look at the NOAA budget
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (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." NOAA is requesting a total of $527 million for research and development in fiscal year (FY) 2006. The National Ocean Service (NOS) and NOAA Research (OAR) support the bulk of biological and ecological science research at NOAA.
Within the National Ocean Service, two programs fund ecological assessment or research for America's coastlines. The Ocean Assessment Program, which funds monitoring projects such as coastal observing systems, is slated to receive $55.2 million in FY2006, a sharp drop from the $146.9 million approved by Congress for FY 2005. A large amount ($80.5 million) of the drop is due to the elimination of congressional earmarks; however the request is still 24% below what the administration requested last year.
The National Ocean Service also requests $48.0 million, including $16.6 million for extramural research, for the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). NCCOS joins NOAA's coastal research centers: the Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, the Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, the Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research and the Hollings Marine Laboratory. NCCOS activities focus on five areas of ecosystem research: climate change, extreme natural events, pollution, invasive species and land and resource use. The request is $11.6 million below the amount appropriated for FY 2005.
The FY 2006 budget request for ocean, coastal and Great Lakes research in OAR is $118.6 million, a 19.2% percent decrease from FY 2005 enacted levels. As with other NOAA line offices, this $51.4 million decrease is largely due to the elimination of several congressionally earmarked projects. The largest program within OAR is the National Sea Grant College Program, which is flat-funded at $61.2 million. NOAA Sea Grant supports research, education and extension projects to help the country better manage its coastal resources.
The National Undersea Research Program (NURP), which places scientists under the sea to conduct research in support of coastal and ocean resource management, would decrease nearly 40% to $10.4 million under the President's FY2006 request. The Ocean Exploration program is flat-funded at $22.7 million. NOAA is also requesting $4.1 million in other ecosystem programs: $2.5 million for its share of a multi-agency aquatic invasive species program and $1.6 million for a marine aquaculture research, education and technology transfer program.
Staffing changes in the AIBS Public Policy Office
For the past four years, Dr. Adrienne Sponberg has served as first a public policy representative, and then the director of public policy for both the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Society for Limnology and Oceanography. The joint appointment was the result of a strategic partnership established between AIBS and ALSO approximately five years ago. The partnership provided AIBS and ASLO with a means to develop and expand both of their public policy presences in Washington, DC. As a result of this successful alliance, ASLO recently elected to hire a full time director of public policy. Dr. Sponberg has accepted the position and will begin full time service with ASLO on 1 April 2005. AIBS thanks Dr. Sponberg for her services to AIBS and looks forward to continuing a successful working relationship with ASLO.
Replacing Dr. Sponberg on 2 April 2005 as director of public policy for AIBS is Dr. Robert Gropp. Dr. Gropp has served as the AIBS senior public policy representative since 2002 and was previously affiliated with AIBS as a Congressional Science Fellow. Dr. Gropp may be contacted at or at 202-628-1500 x 250.
The AIBS Public Policy Office will be back to its current staffing levels by April in order to continue to represent the public policy interests of the biological sciences community and AIBS member societies and organizations. AIBS has begun the search process to hire an experienced public affairs representative to join the staff. Applicant screening begins immediately and will continue until the position is filled. The job description can be found online in the AIBS Classifieds at http://www.aibs.org/classifieds/index2.jsp?cat=aibs_positions. Contact Robert Gropp for details. AIBS will also be filling an entry-level position for a public policy assistant.
Evolution issues: A brief update on Arkansas and Kansas
During the past couple of months, state legislatures have begun their work for the coming legislative session. Not surprisingly, proposals that would require teachers to include intelligent design or to "teach the controversy" have surfaced. One recent effort is being spearheaded by a first term member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Martin (R-District 87). Martin has introduced HB 2607 to allow the teaching of "intelligent design" as "a parallel to evolutionary theory" in the public schools of Arkansas. According to an analysis by the National Center for Science Education, if enacted the "bill would require the state Department of Education to include 'intelligent design' in its educational frameworks and encourage teachers in the state to include it in their lesson plans." Science, education, concerned parents, civil liberties advocates, and others throughout the state are taking the legislation seriously, but some are hopeful that the State Legislature learned its lesson when a 1981 Arkansas creationism measure was found unconstitutional. To learn more about developments in Arkansas, visit the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org. Scientists and science educators living in Arkansas interested in staying appraised of developments may also wish to subscribe to the AIBS/NCSE Arkansas State Evolution List Serve. For more information about this list serve or any of the other state lists, please visit http://www.aibs.org/mailing-lists/the_aibs-ncse_evolution_list_server.html.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Kansas where anti-evolutionists regained control of the state Board of Education in the last election, efforts are underway to add intelligent design into the state science curricula-again. In February, the Board of Education approved a plan to establish a subcommittee "to conduct hearings to investigate the merits of the two opposing views." The subcommittee's structure and method of operation are still somewhat uncertain, though the underlying purpose is clear.
Reminder: EPPLA application deadline is April 1
The application deadline for the 2005 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award is fast approaching. The EPPLA recognizes a graduate student in the biological sciences with a demonstrated interest in science policy. The individual selected will receive a paid trip to Washington, DC to participate in the 2005 Congressional Visits Day on 10-11 May. To learn more about the application procedure and previous EPPLA recipients, please visit http://www.aibs.org/announcements/050306_aibs_emerging_public_policy.html.
New in the March issue of BioScience: "Will NSF's Education Initiatives Be Left Behind?"
"International assessments of student achievement in science regularly detail how high school graduates in the United States lag behind their peers in other industrialized nations. Despite some progress over the past few decades, the recently published National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that nearly one-half of students graduate high school with a less than basic understanding of science concepts. Parents, educators, and politicians have for years argued that stronger standards and increased assessment could improve student achievement. Thus, much of the national debate over education focuses on new content standards and student assessments. However, innovative teaching tools and resources to assist educators, such as the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership program, have also made their way onto the education policy agenda."
Continue reading this article for free at: http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2005_03.html
- 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 http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/funding_contributors.html . Not an AIBS member yet? Go to http://www.aibs.org/organization-membership or http://www.aibs.org/individual-membership.
- AIBS Council of member societies and organizations annual meeting 7 and 8 May, Washington DC. See http://www.aibs.org/council-news/2005-council-meeting.html
- NEON updates, http://www.neoninc.org ; NESCent updates, http://www.nescent.org
- Check for opportunities to comment on federal agency actions affecting the biological sciences at the AIBS Federal Register Resource, http://www.aibs.org/federal-register-resource/index.html
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