PREVIEW OF BUSH BUDGET, EFFECTS ON SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT - On 28 February 2001, the Bush Administration released its "blueprint" budget that identifies the spending levels for each department and agency. Little detail was provided in this document; the full, detailed budget is expected to be released on 4 April 2001. Administration officials state that the "top-line" figures (totals shown in the blueprint budget) are firm. Science does not fare well in this budget:
The National Science Foundation is slated to receive $4.5 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a $56 million increase from 2001. This level is more than $1 billion greater than 1998.
- Approximately $1.5 billion would go to new research and education awards in 2002
- $200 million would kick off the President's Math and Science Partnership initiative to provide funds for States to join with institutions of higher education in strengthening math and science education in grades K12.
- The requested sum is also intended to allow NSF to increase graduate stipends for the Graduate Research Fellowships, the Graduate Teaching Fellowships in K12 Education, and the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships programs.
For the Department of the Interior, the 2002 Budget provides DOI with $9.8 billion. This represents a fourpercent reduction below 2001 but a 15percent increase (almost $1.3 billion) over the 2000 level.
- With regard to the U.S. Geological Survey, no figure is given but the document states The budget also proposes to better target many U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) activities. The self-stated performance goal of USGS is "to provide science for a changing world." DOI is examining ways to focus USGS on providing sound science to support the Department's land management agencies in their decisionmaking processes.
- Nothing is said about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- The National Park Service would get a "downpayment" to eliminate the NPS deferred maintenance backlog over five years in the amount of $440 million for nonroad projects, a 30 percent increase over 2001. In addition to addressing deferred maintenance needs, the Administration will enhance natural resource protection in parks by strengthening science-based management through the Natural Resource Challenge. To fund this initiative, the budget increases NPS operations by $20 million to accelerate biological resource inventories, control nonnative species, and preserve endangered and threatened species habitat on park lands.
- The budget proposes full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million starting in 2002 ($356 million over 2001), including $450 million for State and local conservation grants. The text in the budget document claims that, "over the next four years, the Administration will request more LWCF funds than provided during any other Administration."
The Department of Agriculture would be funded at or near current levels. No figures were provided for Agriculture scientific research agencies; the language suggests that some programs are going to see major changes. For instance, the budget plan redirects USDA research to provide new emphasis in key areas such as biotechnology, the development of new agricultural products, and improved protection against emerging exotic plant and animal diseases as well as crop and animal pests. There is also a broadside against earmarks: In 2001, USDA funded approximately 300 congressionally earmarked projects for research, education, and extension grants to land grant universities. Earmarked research is not subject to merit-based selection processes, therefore these projects do not represent the most effective use of limited Federal funding and often fail to address national priorities. The budget proposes to eliminate funding for these earmarks, saving taxpayers about $150 million. For the USDA Forest Service, the budget will seek to Streamline the Forest Service's Field Structure: Consistent with recommendations of the National Academy of Public Administrators and the General Accounting Office, the Administration will review and start to implement streamlining and efficiency-enhancing measures for the Forest Service's field structure, work force, and administrative operation to get more resources for "on-the-ground" activities. Centralized servicing and enterprise teams will be evaluated as possible ways to provide additional efficiency savings. Streamlined decision-making and an emphasis on the forest-level activities would establish increased accountability and improved decision making for the Agency. No mention is made of Forest Service research programs.
The Environmental Protection Agency could drop by $499 million, but the Blueprint budget claims that this is almost entirely due to the elimination of unrequested earmarks. The $3.7 billion request for EPA's Operating Program, the core of its regulatory, research, and enforcement activities is the second highest level in EPA history. Included within the Operating Program totals, EPA's program grants to State and Tribal governments are funded at the highest level ever, at more than $1 billion. A promise is made that this Administration's EPA will place an emphasis on making better and more appropriate use of information and analysis. Saying that the Inspector General, the General Accounting Office, the National Academy of Public Administration, and the Environmental Council of the States have all identified the lack of performance information to hold programs accountable and inform decisions as a top management challenge, the text states that EPA will aggressively address this issue. In addition, EPA intends to improve the role of science in decision-making by having scientific information and analysis help in directing policy and establishing priorities.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is looking at a possible increase of 2% or $15.4 billion. This figure includes a five-percent increase in 2002 for a science-driven Earth Observing System Satellites Follow-On program while discontinuing low-priority remote sensing satellite and environmental application projects to ensure that EOS priorities can go forward. Generally, NASA science functions should brace for a hit; the budget text says, U.S. academia and industry provide a rich R&D resource that NASA can tap to strengthen its mission capabilities. NASA will develop an integrated, long-term agency plan that ensures a national capability to support NASA's mission by: identifying NASA's critical capabilities and, through the use of external reviews, determining which capabilities must be retained by NASA and which can be discontinued or led outside the agency; expanding collaboration with industry, universities, and other agencies, and outsourcing appropriate activities to fully leverage outside expertise; and pursuing civil service reforms for capabilities that NASA must retain, to ensure recruitment and retention of top science, engineering, and management talent at NASA.
CONSERVATION AND REINVESTMENT ACT REINTRODUCED - On 14 February 2001, Rep.DonYoung (RAK) and Rep.John Dingell (DMI) reintroduced the Conservation and Reinvestment Act as HR 701 (the reintroduction was timed so the bill would have the same number as that introduced in the 106th Congress) in the 107th Congress. The bill is essentially the same as the bill that passed the House last year, but that stalled in the Senate. The most important of the bill's nine titles is Title III, which, through increased PittmanRobertson funding, reinvests the development of nonrenewable resources--specifically, offshore gas and oil exploration--into a renewable resource of wildlife conservation and education. This new source of funding will nearly double the Federal funds available for wildlife conservation. Title VII of the bill would provide permanent funding for an incentives program to promote the recovery of endangered species and threatened species and the habitat upon which they depend. This Title would provide funds implement actions identified under approved recovery plans that have the greatest potential for contributing to the recovery of an endangered or threatened species and, to the extent practicable, require use of the assistance on land owned by a small landowner. For further information, visit http://www.teaming.com/.
NEW NATIONAL PARK SERVICE WEBSITE ENHANCES OPPORTUNITIES FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN THE NATIONAL PARKS - The National Park Service has created an Internetbased site for its Research and Collecting Permits. The site covers all National Park Units in the United States. The web site is: http://science.nature.nps.gov/research. The web site has been designed to be a comprehensive location for researchers to: have the opportunity to review procedures, previous research efforts, policies, and conditional requirements before submitting a new proposal; search NPSidentified research preferences (the system is new and park staff may not provide this information for several months); complete and submit an application for a permit via the Internet; file required Investigator's Annual Reports via the Internet. The National Park Service looks forward to encouraging scientists, agencies, nonprofits, and all researchers and research institutions to consider the U.S. National Parks as a good place for science that provides public benefits to all citizens. Note that the database of research needs is very new, so it doesn't have much information yet, but we encourage scientists to check it frequently. Matching your research interests to the research needs of a park could help you get funding, and it could also help you get support resources from the park, along with easing the way to getting a permit. The National Park Service encourages feedback on this website.
CANON FELLOWSHIPS FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN THE NATIONAL PARKS - The NPS Social Science Program coordinates the Canon National Parks Science Scholars Program. The objective is to encourage the best and brightest graduate students in all relevant scientific disciplines to conduct important research in the parks. Each year, the program awards scholarships to doctoral students to support student research in the national parks. Canon U.S.A., Inc. has signed a 5year, $2.5 million dollar agreement to support 32 Ph.D. students studying in the biological, physical, social and cultural sciences. Applications for the 2001 awards are due by 1 June 2001. The announcement and application can be found at http://www.nps.gov/socialscience/waso/01canon.pdf.
RACE TO CLAIM TITLE OF EDUCATION CHAMPION IS ON - Because President Bush made education a centerpiece of his campaign, and his administration is moving quickly on the campaign pledges, we are seeing a great deal of activity on the education front. There has been a flurry of activity with regarding to reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which the 106th Congress failed to act. A rash of bills to extend the ESEA and/or improve teacher quality are already pending. In the Senate, a discussion draft of a bill to extend the ESEA, drafted by Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-VT), is going by the moniker "Better Education for Students and Teachers Act." Section II Part B proposes mathematics and science partnerships to strengthen the quality of math and science instruction in elementary and secondary schools. Under this section, states would compete for grants for partnerships for programs to develop more rigorous math and science curricula, create professional development opportunities to enhance content knowledge, recruit math and science majors to teachers, and promote strong teaching skills for math and science teachers, and establish summer workshops and training programs for teachers that are "object-centered, experiment-oriented, content-based, and grounded in current research." This proposal closely tracks the proposals made by the Bush Administration for improving K12 education. This draft is scheduled to go to mark up next week; AIBS is part of a coalition working on this and other science and math education efforts, including Rep.Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) triplet of science education bills. Note that this proposed legislation will not necessarily supplant the Eisenhower Clearinghouse professional development program, although that program was not included in the ESEA reauthorization bills that were considered by the 106th Congress.
AIBS EXPRESSES SUPPORT TO KANSAS BOARD OF EDUCATION - Upon learning from Steve Case of the Kansas Center for Science Education that the staff and members of the Kansas Board of Education were being overwhelmed by "by hate mail, phone calls, and email" as a result of their February 14 vote to restore evolution to the state's science standards, AIBS President Judy Weis and Executive Director Richard O'Grady wrote to each of the board members including the three who voted against the standards--to express the support of AIBS for the members of the Kansas School Board for its decision to return the subject of evolution to the state science standards. They wrote, "We know this was a difficult process for the School Board and we congratulate you on recognizing the need to teach Kansas students good science. Evolution is good science. It is fundamental to an understanding of biology. The students of Kansas will benefit from your decision." Steve Case pointed out that it was particularly important to write to Mr. Abrams, the chief opponent of the evolution standard, because Mr. Abrams claimed that he never heard from anyone who supported the teaching of evolution.
A message was also sent to the 50 state evolution list server networks co-sponsored by AIBS and the National Council for Science Education; that message resulted in hundreds of e-mails to the Kansas Board of Education. Board member Sue Gamble replied, saying, "Please tell Drs. Weis and O'Grady how much we appreciate their support. We are literally hearing from scientists from around the world. It is heartening." Board members Carol Rupe, Val de Fever, and Janet Waugh also wrote to express thanks. To subscribe to the evolution list server in your state, go to http://www.aibs.org and click on the Evolution list server link. Some state list servers already have subscribers in the hundreds.