House Science Committee approves Green Chemistry Bill
On 13 April 2005, the House Science Committee approved H.R. 1215, "Green Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2005." Green chemistry is the design of products and processes that reduce or eliminate environmental harm. During the panel's consideration of the legislation, Science Committee Chairman and H.R. 1215 cosponsor, Representative Boehlert (R-NY), said "This bill just makes common sense. We need to put our scientific expertise to work to solve societal problems."
The Green Chemistry Bill would authorize the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to spend funds on green chemistry research and development. These funds would come from revenue appropriated to these agencies by Congress. The final version of the legislation approved by the Science Committee also included an amendment offered by Rep. David Wu (D-OR). The Wu amendment added a provision to the bill that would create academic-industry partnerships to promote green chemistry research, training and education.
The lead sponsor, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), originally introduced the bill in the last Congress where it was overwhelmingly approved by the House by a vote of 402 to 14. The Senate did not consider the measure during the 108th Congress. This year, companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).
H.R. 1215 must now be passed by the full House.
Cornell graduate student named 2005 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader
AIBS has named Cornell University PhD candidate Karen Deen Laughlin as its 2005 Emerging Public Policy Leader.
Laughlin will receive a trip to Washington next month to participate in the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group's annual Congressional Visits Day, a two-day event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for scientific research funding. Laughlin will meet with Congressional leaders and attend briefings by key government officials as well as a reception honoring members of Congress for their work on behalf of science.
She will also participate in a briefing on federal programs that support biological research, sponsored by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) and the Coalition on Funding Agricultural Research Missions (CoFARM).
Laughlin expects to complete her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology this fall. She earned an undergraduate degree in environmental science and policy from Duke University in 1997. She has received a variety of awards and grants, including a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant. Laughlin's doctoral research is a study on the ecological risks of gene flow from genetically engineered virus-resistant crops to wild crops, an issue she says she enjoys in part because of its political and economic implications.
For more information on Laughlin and the annual AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award, please visit http://www.aibs.org/announcements/050412_cornell_graduate_student_named.html.
Representative Wolf proposes loan forgiveness for science majors
On 12 April 2005, Representatives Frank Wolf (R-VA), Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI), and Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) introduced their plan to forgive interest on undergraduate student loans for math, science, and technology majors who commit to teaching or working for five years in their fields post-graduation. Joining them was Senator John Warner (R-VA), who sponsored a companion bill in the Senate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, George Mason University President Alan Merten, University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science Interim Dean James Aylor, and representatives from a variety of science and academic organizations.
The bill, dubbed the Math and Science Incentive Act of 2005, would establish a new Education Department program through which the government would pay interest for the life of the loans up to $10,000.
"In an era in which students are graduating [from] college with record levels of debt, I am hopeful that this incentive will be a significant motivator in attracting or retaining math, science and engineering students," Wolf said. He then cited statistics indicating that other developed nations are catching up to the United States in terms of patents, published research, and Nobel Prizes involving the sciences.
Gingrich, whom Wolf credited with the idea for the bill, said, "If I see students who are dropping out of math and science so they can go to work at McDonald's and Burger King, we'd better roll up our sleeves, apply common sense and change the rules of the game."
Critics of the bill say that it does nothing to address K-12 math and science education or competition for science jobs upon college graduation.
Award-winning science teachers appear before House Science Committee
On 14 April 2005, the House Science Committee held a hearing to consider ways to improve math and science education. Appearing before the committee were five award-winning teachers. "Congress talks constantly about education, but it rarely listens, and it listens least of all to the most important experts - actual classroom teachers," said Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). The five teachers were Joyce Dodd of Simpsonville, SC; Cynthia Cliche of Murfreesboro, TN; Cassandra Barnes of Clackamas, OR; Lonna Sanderson of Austin, TX; and Pita Martinez-McDonald of Cuba, NM. They were among the 95 winners of the annual Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, which is administered by the National Science Foundation. This year's awards focused on elementary and middle school teachers. The educators at the hearing overwhelming identified professional development as the key to success in the classroom.
- 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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