Arizona Education Board Adopts Science Standards that Include Evolution

The Arizona State Board of Education has adopted revised science standards that affirm the teaching of evolution and climate change science in high schools state-wide. The decision came after public outcry from parents, teachers, and the scientific community over a last-minute proposal to remove references to evolution and climate change.

AIBS commented in a letter to the Board; expressing concern that the draft standards “fail to properly address important aspects of evolution science and remove climate change science from the high school curricula.” AIBS asked the Board to revisit the standards and rely on the input of scientists and science education experts.

On October 22, 2018, the Board voted to adopt the standards with revisions proposed by the Arizona Science Teachers Association. According to the Department of Education, the new standards emphasize “three-dimensional learning” and incorporate an “engineering design process” with the aim to encourage students to investigate problems and find solutions using science. Students will “build on the facts to look at the larger picture.”

These revisions will be implemented in K-12 public district and charter schools throughout Arizona starting 2019-2020.

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AIBS Past-President Appointed Editor-in-Chief of PNAS

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has announced the appointment of May R. Berenbaum as Editor-in-Chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the official journal of the Academy. Berenbaum will begin the editorship on January 1, 2019.

A Past-President of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), Berenbaum is Professor and Swanlund Chair of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1994 and has served on the PNAS Editorial Board since 1998. Berenbaum is also a Past-President of the Entomological Society of America, an AIBS member organization.

Berenbaum is a leader in the field of chemical ecology, and her decades-long work has illuminated ecological, evolutionary, biochemical, and molecular aspects of an evolutionary arms race between insects and plants. She has unraveled the coevolution of chemical offense and defense in insects and plants in ecological interactions ranging from herbivory to pollination. She has also investigated how mechanisms that detoxify naturally occurring plant chemicals influence pesticide metabolism. Her work has explored the effects of agricultural practices and pesticides on honey bees in the wake of colony collapse disorder.

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EPA Requests Public Input on Science Advisory Board Nominees

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requesting public comments on a list of 174 nominees to serve on its Science Advisory Board (SAB). According to an online notice, the list was prepared by the SAB Staff Office based on the candidates’ expertise and willingness to serve. The nominees include academic researchers as well as representatives of industry, state government, and advocacy groups.

The SAB is a scientific and technical advisory committee that provides independent advice and peer review on the scientific and technical aspects of environmental issues to the EPA Administrator. EPA had requested nominations for experts to serve on the SAB in July 2018. It currently has 44 members.

The notice states that the agency is interested in scientists with expertise in air quality; agricultural sciences; atmospheric sciences; benefit-cost analysis; complex systems; drinking water; energy and the environment; epidemiological risk analyses; water quality; water quantity and reuse; ecosystem services; community environmental health; sustainability; chemical safety; green chemistry; homeland security; uncertainty analysis; and waste management.

The list of candidates includes scientists whose work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.

Also in the list are several controversial nominees, including individuals known to be climate change doubters. Among these individuals are an economist from the Heritage Foundation whose work was cited by President Trump as a justification for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord; an emeritus physics professor at Princeton University, who argues that more carbon dioxide is good for the planet; and a few associates of the Heartland Institute, which advocates for the rejection of climate science.

Ultimately, the final selections will be made by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Last year, former Administrator Scott Pruitt had signed a directive prohibiting researchers receiving EPA grant funding from serving on the SAB.

EPA has set November 7, 2018, as the deadline for comments, which should be submitted to Mr. Thomas Carpenter at carpenter.thomas@epa.gov.

The complete list of candidates can be found here: https://www.eenews.net/assets/2018/10/17/documentpm02.pdf

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Public Comment: Interior Request to Destroy Records

The Department of the Interior (DOI) has sent a request to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asking permission to destroy records pertaining to marine conservation, fishing, endangered species, non-endangered species, critical habitats, land acquisition, oil and gas leases, among others.

The request applies to a large number of such records at all agencies within DOI, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. It covers documents that date back more than 50 years, and any future documents created related to the above-mentioned topics.

Agencies routinely send “Requests for Records Disposition Authority” to NARA, providing details of documents, a proposed timeline for when these can be destroyed, and whether certain documents need to be permanently preserved at the National Archives. Once the request is appraised by NARA, the request and appraisal are announced in the Federal Register. These documents can then be requested by email, after which there is a 30-day period to submit public comments to NARA.

This particular record destruction request is targeted at records that would normally be preserved at NARA. The request has received considerable attention because of its potential impact on research, including research related to endangered species, natural resources, and water quality. Upon requests from the public, the deadline to submit public comments has been extended from October 29, 2018 to November 23, 2018. Comments on this request can be submitted via email to request.schedule@nara.gov.

The DOI request, NARA appraisal, and a detailed guide to the documents covered by the request can be accessed here: https://altgov2.org/doi-records-destruction/

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NSB Issues Statement on Security and Science

The National Science Board (NSB) released a statement on October 24, 2018, emphasizing its support for President Reagan’s National Security Decision Directive-189 (NSDD-189) and recommending “that all institutions conducting fundamental research supported by NSF embrace transparency and rigorously adhere to conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies.”

The 1985 directive, NSDD-189, established the definition of fundamental research as “basic and applied research in science and engineering, the results of which ordinarily are published and shared broadly within the scientific community, as distinguished from proprietary research from industrial development, design, production, and product utilization, the results of which ordinarily are restricted for proprietary or national security reasons.”

The NSB statement reads in part, “While there are domains where openness can be detrimental to national competitiveness or security, the National Science Board (NSB) strongly reaffirms the principle behind NSDD-189: “our leadership position in science and technology is an essential element in our economic and physical security. The strength of American science requires a research environment conducive to creativity, an environment in which the free exchange of ideas is a vital component.”“

NSB also urges that “the development of any new policies that restrict fundamental research beyond NSDD-189 engage all relevant stakeholders and consider both risks and benefits.”

Read the statement: https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/news/newssumm.jsp?cntnid=297039&org=NSB&from=news

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Nominations Sought for Experts on Invasive Alien Species

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), is seeking experts to participate in an assessment addressing the threat that invasive alien species pose to biodiversity, ecosystem services, and livelihoods and the global status of impacts of invasive alien species by region.

IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body open to all member countries of the United Nations and is a leading group for assessing the state of the planet’s biodiversity. IPBES provides a mechanism for the scientific and policy communities to synthesize, review, assess, and critically evaluate relevant information generated worldwide by governments, academia, scientific organizations, and other stakeholders.

IPBES is inviting governments and relevant organizations to nominate experts on invasive alien species in one or more of the following disciplines: natural sciences; social sciences; or the humanities; be indigenous and local knowledge experts or have expertise in indigenous and local knowledge systems; or be policy experts practitioners. All nominees should have experience in working within interdisciplinary and/or international contexts. Governments or organizations should submit their nominations by February 1, 2019.

Experts interested in being nominated by a government should contact their IPBES National Focal Point (https://www.ipbes.net/national-focal-points) regarding their country-specific processes and deadlines and submit their application forms by January 11, 2019.

For information on how to submit nominations, go to: https://www.ipbes.net/sites/default/files/em201822callexpertsias20180921_tsu3.pdf

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Develop the Skills Required to Secure Employment

Registration is now open for the Employment Acquisition Skills Boot Camp for Scientists, a new professional development program by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate programs in the United States do an excellent job of preparing students for careers in academia. As students and a growing number of reports note, however, many STEM graduate students are interested in employment in a variety of sectors by the time they complete their degree. Students continue to report that they feel ill-prepared and ill-equipped to pursue employment in these settings.

In response to this frustration heard from many graduate students, AIBS has developed a program to help scientists hone and practice the skills needed to secure employment. AIBS’s Employment Acquisition Skills Boot Camp for Scientists is an intensive, two-day program that is a blend of lecture and hands-on exercises. Designed by scientists and a career coach, this program provides graduate students to senior scientists with the information, tools, and resources required to successfully identify and secure employment in a diversity of career pathways, including science policy, communications, program management, government, non-governmental organizations, international development, and others.

Course participants will:

  • Identify career interests and opportunities;
  • Learn to communicate their knowledge and skills to employers;
  • Develop strategies for finding employment;
  • Develop application materials;
  • Prepare for and practice different interview styles and scenarios;
  • Talk to scientists working in diverse employment settings and individuals responsible for making hiring decisions.

Current graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and scientists interested in transitioning to a new employment sector should consider signing up.

The program will be held in Washington, DC on December 17-18, 2018. For more information and to register, visit https://www.aibs.org/events/employmentbootcamp.html.

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Enhance your Interdisciplinary and Team Science Skills

Reports abound from professional societies, the Academies, government agencies, and researchers calling attention to the fact that science is increasingly an inter-disciplinary, transdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and international endeavor. In short, science has become a “team sport.”

There is a real and present need to better prepare scientists for success in this new collaborative environment. The American Institute of Biological Sciences is responding to this call with a new program for scientists, educators, and individuals who work with or participate in scientific teams.

Team science is increasingly common in 21st century biological, life, and environmental sciences. Collaboration is no longer limited to sharing ideas with the biologist in the lab next door. The questions confronting science often require teams that may include a mix of computer and information scientists, physical and social scientists, mathematicians, ethicists, policy and management experts, as well as community stakeholders and citizen scientists. Adding to this complexity, teams span programs within organizations, cross organization boundaries to form institutional consortia, and often include international partners.

This intensive, two-day, interactive, professional development course was designed by scientists and experts on collaboration and teamwork to provide participants with the knowledge and skills required to become productive and effective members of scientific teams. From its first offering the course has evolved to include a greater focus on team planning and teamwork, and less time allocated to university administration of interdisciplinary teams.

Nothing teaches collaboration like practicing collaboration. This is not a course that asks you to learn in isolation. It is a microcosm of scientific collaboration, with extensive hands-on learning as part of a scientific team, with scientific case studies and examples.

This course is designed for anyone involved in collaborative scientific endeavors. Team leaders will find the course especially helpful. Because participants will work on “real-world” team science concerns, we encourage multiple members of a team to attend together. We can also customize the course and bring it to your university, department, lab, or research team. This course provides the right foundation from which your team can successfully accomplish your goals.

The program will be held on January 14-15, 2019 in Washington DC. Learn more at https://www.aibs.org/events/teamscienceevent.html

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Short Takes

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler has disbanded a 24-member panel affiliated with the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) that had been working on an assessment of the current limits on airborne particulate matter (PM). Although CASAC is leading this review, the panel provided added expertise in determining whether the standards for PM and other air pollutants are sufficient to protect public health. The responsibility for the PM review will now solely fall on CASAC. Prior to this announcement, Wheeler had also replaced five out of the seven members on CASAC, with most of the new appointees coming from state and local regulatory agencies and only one from academia.
  • President Trump has nominated Ms. Aurelia Skipwith as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Ms. Skipwith currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the Department of the Interior. She worked for Monsanto Co. for about six years, after which she briefly worked as a research and legal intern at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She has also worked as Assistant Corporate Counsel at Alltech, Inc. and co-founded agricultural consulting firm AVC Global. Ms. Skipworth has a B.S. in biology from Howard University, M.A. in molecular genetics from Purdue University, and J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law. The USFWS Director position has been vacant since President Trump took office.
  • The National Science Board (NSB) has released a report on Mid-scale Research Infrastructure (MSRI), which "lays the groundwork for a sustained, transparent approach to funding mid-scale research infrastructure." The report recommends that the National Science Foundation (NSF) sustain its mid-scale Big Idea with a long-term agency-level commitment to MSRI and investigate the feasibility of using the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account as one possible funding mechanism. The report also suggests that NSF should work with NSB to review existing infrastructure oversight and management structures to ensure they are compatible with mid-scale range investments and determine the full scope of the demand for MSRI. NSB has indicated that an investment of $60 million that NSF proposed for its Mid-scale Big Idea in FY 2019 is a "good start."
  • A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) concludes that carbon dioxide capturing technologies will play a significant role in meeting global climate goals and will need sustained investments in R&D to reach scale. A recent United Nations Report called for an ambitious target of 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial levels for global temperature increase. According to the NASEM report, technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the air and sequester them, such as reforestation, changes in forest management and agricultural practices, and bioenergy combined with carbon capture and sequestration, will be crucial "negative emissions technologies" in mitigating climate change.

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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. The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers. The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Botanical Society of America. AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to policy.aibs.org to get started.

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