President Obama Nominates Women to Three Key Science Posts

In late July, President Barack Obama nominated women to fill three key federal science posts. The nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

If confirmed, Dr. France Anne Cordova will become the next director of the National Science Foundation, a position that was vacated by Dr. Subra Suresh earlier this year. She would be the second woman and the first Latina to lead the agency. Cordova is an astrophysicist by training. She is a former president of Purdue University and previously served as chancellor of the University of California, Riverside. Cordova also served as NASA’s Chief Scientist and worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She is currently Chair of the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents and is a member of the National Science Board.

The President picked Dr. Kathryn Sullivan to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a position she has filled on an acting basis since February 2013. Sullivan is a former astronaut and was the first woman to walk in space. She previously served as Chief Scientist for NOAA, director of a science education policy center at Ohio State University, and as president and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry, a science museum in Ohio. She has a Ph.D. in geology from Dalhousie University.

Dr. Jo Handelsman was selected to serve as the associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The position coordinates research and science education for the White House. Handelsman is a microbiologist at Yale University and current president of the American Society for Microbiology. She is the recipient of several science education awards, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring and the American Institute of Biological Sciences 2010 Education Award.

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Scientists to Meet with State and Federal Lawmakers

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the Entomological Society of America (ESA) have announced the start of the 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event. This national initiative encourages scientists across the nation to showcase for federal and state lawmakers the people, facilities, and equipment required to conduct scientific research.

“Scientific innovation drives advances in agriculture, biotechnology, environmental management, and medicine, and plays a leading role in job creation and economic growth,” said Dr. Richard O’Grady, AIBS Executive Director. “These meetings provide the opportunity for biologists to demonstrate the benefits of research.”

The 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event occurs during the month of August. Participating scientists meet with elected officials and their staff at the local district office or a research facility.

“Biological science, and insect biology in particular, is important to federal and state decision-making,” said David Gammel, ESA Executive Director. “Entomological research helps us control invasive species, improve agriculture, preserve biodiversity, and prevent disease.”

This year a record number of scientists will participate. Individuals from 34 states plan to meet with their elected officials. Participants range from graduate students to senior researchers and educators.

The 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits are made possible by AIBS and ESA, with support from event sponsors: American Society of Naturalists, Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, and Society for the Study of Evolution.

“This is a great opportunity to share the importance of science with our elected leaders,” said Dr. Christopher Pickett, a participant in the 2011 event. “My experience meeting with Senator Claire McCaskill inspired me to remain engaged in science policy.” Pickett is now a Science Policy Fellow with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Individuals in the 2013 event participated in an interactive training webinar. The program provided information about how best to communicate science to non-technical audiences, tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official, and information about trends in funding for research.

More information about the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event is available at

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Senate, House at Odds Over Interior Funding

The Senate Appropriations Committee has unveiled its proposal for fiscal year 2014 funding for environmental programs. The draft bill would provide $31 billion for the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and related agencies. This is $6 billion more than the plan released by the House panel in July.

The House and Senate bills propose very different funding levels for federal science programs. For instance, the EPA would receive 50 percent more funding under the Senate spending plan than the House plan. The difference between the plans is about $128 million for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The Senate would increase funding for the agency by about two percent, whereas the House would cut USGS funding by nine percent.

Funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would have been slashed by 80 percent in the original House plan. A bipartisan duo of Representatives successfully offered an amendment to increase funding by $150 million to a total of $210 million. The increase would be offset by extending a program that sells helium. By comparison, the Senate proposes essentially level funding for the initiative.

The budget cuts recommended in the House bill caused significant strife at an Appropriations Committee mark-up on 31 July 2013. The panel debated numerous amendments before halting the mark-up. The Committee will not resume consideration of the bill until after the congressional recess ends in early September.

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States Moving to Adopt Next Generation Science Standards

Five states have adopted a common set of K-12 science education standards that were released in June. Vermont and Maryland are the most recent to adopt the voluntary standards. Rhode Island, Kansas, and Kentucky have also agreed to implement the standards.

Twenty-two other states were involved in the development of the standards. These so-called lead state partners pledged to give serious consideration to adopting the Next Generation Science Standards.

Many educators and scientists view the standards as a way to ensure that all students in the United States receive a quality education in science that adequately prepares them for college or the workforce. Some religious organizations, however, have criticized the standards for including evolution and anthropogenic climate change. Despite protests from creationists and climate deniers, the Kentucky Board of Education did not make any changes to the proposed regulation to enact the standards. The state legislature now has the opportunity to disapprove of the regulation.

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EPA to Change IRIS Chemical Assessment Process

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced changes to its process for evaluating the risks of chemicals to human health. The changes to the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program aim to improve the scientific foundation of assessments, increase transparency, and increase the program’s efficiency.

At the recommendation of the National Research Council, EPA will now hold a public meeting early in the assessment development process. The agency will also provide more detailed information regarding assessment schedules, stakeholder meetings, and updates on IRIS progress on the program’s website.

Cut-off points for accepting new data and raising scientific issues will be implemented. According to the EPA, the change will enable the agency to conduct more health assessments each year.

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Enter the Faces of Biology: Broader Impacts Photo Contest

Biological research is transforming our society and the world. Help the public and policymakers to better understand these broader impacts in biological research by entering the Faces of Biology: Broader Impacts Photo Contest. The contest is sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

The theme of the contest is broader impacts of biology. Photographs entered into the contest should demonstrate how biological research is transforming our society and the world. Examples of broader impacts include, but are not limited to, informing natural resources management, improving human health, addressing climate change, enhancing food or energy security, advancing foundational knowledge, and improving science education.

The First Place Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience. The Second and Third Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside BioScience, and will receive a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.

The contest ends on 30 September 2013 at 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time.

For more information and to enter the contest, visit

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Short Takes

  • The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) has launched an early version of its online data portal. The data on the site is open access and free to use, and includes information about the protocol of how the data was processed. Eventually, approximately 700 data products collected by NEON across the country will be available online. Access the portal at

  • Kansas Citizens for Science has received a 2013 Outstanding Contributions to Science Education Award for its support of teacher professional development and informal science education. The group hosts monthly science cafes in five cities in Kansas. The award is presented by the Kansas Association of Teachers of Science.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center today! (

The AIBS Legislative Action Center is an online resource that allows biologists and science educators to quickly and effectively influence policy and public opinion. Each day lawmakers must make tough decisions about science policy. For example, what investments to make in federal research programs, how to conserve biodiversity, how to mitigate climate change, or under what circumstances to permit stem cell research. Scientists now have the opportunity to help elected officials understand these issues. These exciting new advocacy tools allows individuals to quickly and easily communicate with members of Congress, executive branch officials, and selected media outlets.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Entomological Society of America, Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to to send a prepared letter or to sign up to receive periodic Action Alerts.

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