NEWS FROM THE AIBS PUBLIC POLICY OFFICE is now emailed to the following contacts for each AIBS member society and organization: President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Director, AIBS Council Representative, Journal Editor, Newsletter Editor, Public Policy Committee Chair, and Public Policy Representative. All material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded; please mention AIBS as the source. Office staff appreciate receiving copies of materials used.
Back issues of News from the AIBS Public Policy Office are now posted online on the AIBS website. The web display shows each report's Table of Contents, from which readers can select to view the full text. This new website format also allows any interested party to self-subscribe online to start receiving these reports by email. This is a free service. HOW: Go to www.aibs.org and click on PUBLIC POLICY NEWS AND REPORTS from the opening page, then follow the text links.
REPRIEVE FOR THE SMITHSONIAN'S CONSERVATION AND RESEARCH CENTER - Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small, after meeting with the Smithsonian Board of Regents, has decided to withdraw his plan to close the Smithsonian's Conservation and Research Center (CRC). Small explained that he made this decision because it was clear that the proposal was interpreted by many as indicating that the Smithsonian was backing away from its commitment to science in general, and to the biological sciences in particular. He denied this, saying, "Nothing could be further from the truth, but clearly this action is necessary to correct that false perception. While our intention had been to save the significant cost of managing such a large physical property and to reinvest those savings in scientific research, it is now obvious that the message did not come through. Rather than continue a controversy that was harmful to the Institution, we decided to withdraw the proposal." Nonetheless, there is continuing concern about the future of scientific research at the Smithsonian under Small's leadership. The Board of Regents voted to approve the other aspects of Small's reorganization plan, characterized as new strategic direction for science at the Smithsonian. This plan calls for the creation of Small's "centers of research excellence reflecting, among other things, enhanced focus, greater collaboration within and outside the Institution, and increased opportunities for gathering and marshalling greater resources to advance the Institution's scientific research activities."
The Board of Regents also approved the Secretary's recommendation to establish a Science Commission to advise the Secretary and the Board of Regents on the design of the full range of elements to be addressed. Small could provide no detail on the commission, which he said was still in the concept stage, other than to say that it will not be engaged in fact-finding. Perhaps the outcry over the plan to close CRC caused the Regents to recognize the need to involve the outside scientific community; Small stated that the commission will include outside scientists. It is not known if the commission will consider closing CRC; Small stated that the proposal was "well within reason" and was simply misinterpreted. He went on to say that with regard to CRC, "We are where we were before the proposal." A fair interpretation of this statement is that the Smithsonian will refrain from closing CRC at this time, but that the issue of CRC's future will be considered by the commission. [Thanks to AIBS Public Policy Review Committee member David Blockstein for his thorough notes from the press conference and thanks to all AIBS member societies and individual members who sent letters of protest to the Smithsonian].
CRC EXPRESSES THANKS TO AIBS - CRC Associate Director for Conservaton Chris Wemmer wrote to AIBS Executive Director Richard O'Grady, for forwarding to the AIBS Board, a thank you to all of AIBS for its efforts to save CRC. Wemmer wrote:
"On behalf of the CRC staff I want to convey to you our heart-felt thanks for your unstinting support, untiring efforts and far-reaching vision on behalf of saving CRC and its future in conservation science during the recent controversy.
"Your support has been critical in many ways. Your involvement promoted CRC staff morale during a difficult period. You not only stood for us, but you stood with us and we appreciate the distinction. Your voice was heard as well by those in Congress who worked so diligently to reverse the decision to close the CRC. Also, as one Smithsonian Regent noted, the prominence of individuals and organizations voicing public support for CRC was real reason to give pause to the proposal to shut down CRC.
"I join my friends and colleagues at CRC, and from scientific and conservation groups from the U.S. and from around the world, in thanking you. There is also a special group of people who also owe you a debt of gratitude - - the children representing the next generation who wrote to us in their own words to express support for our work with saving endangered species. Their sincerity at our plight was touching. Thanks to you, these and other children will continue to find inspiration and meaning in the work performed at CRC.
"But even with this battle won we must remain vigilant. It would be prudent of us to heed the words of Winston Churchill who, shortly after the successful D-Day landings, expressed caution with his optimism:
'This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.'"
Our sincere thanks,
Associate Director for Conservation
VISIT YOUR CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION IN AUGUST - Why August? Congress is in recess in August. The best time and place to meet with your Congressman or Senator is in the member's home office. They have more time in fact, if you come to Washington, you are far more likely to meet with a busy staffer than with the member and you can not only discuss pressing issues of concern, but you can also establish a long-term relationship with the member. Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society, has been demonstrating since 1996 that home-district visits are extremely effective. Known as the Michigan Model, the program is described on the Sigma Xi website at http://www.sigmaxi.org/regions/NCRegion/michcongress.htm. In 1996, Michigan State University Chapter Sigma Xi members organized a series of visits with members of their Congressional delegation, during which they stressed the importance of research and science and math education to the nation's economic well-being. Their efforts were worthwhile: Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI), a physicist and chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards, said, "If we had had groups like yours in every Congressional District, it would have taken me a week to save the National Science Foundation instead of three months." Congressman Dale E. Kildee (D-MI) said, "In my 22 years in Congress, the only visits from scientists I've ever had are these two visits from Sigma Xi. You should do this all over the country."
AIBS stands ready, willing, and eager to help you with these visits which could be critical to reversing the proposed cuts in research funding for the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, and to boost funding for the National Science Foundation and the Sea Grant program, which are slated for anemic, below-inflation increases. We will give you detailed briefing materials on these issues and others of interest to you. In addition, we will provide you with background on the interests and positions of the member you are planning to visit, including his or her committee memberships. We will help you find other scientists to team up with you if you would prefer a group visit. Finally, we will brief you on the "dos and don'ts" of Congressional visits to help ensure that your visit is a successful one.
While we encourage you to visit your representatives when you come to Washington and would be glad to set up appointments, provide briefing material, and even accompany you when possible we cannot overemphasize the value of a home district visit.
It isn't too early to make your appointments for August.
Please contact AIBS Public Policy Representative Ellen Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 628-1500, x 250 if you are interested in arranging a home district visit or a visit to your representatives when you visit Washington.
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET RESOLUTION SHORTCHANGES SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH - On May 10, the House voted 221 - 207 to approve the FY 2002 Budget Resolution Conference Report. Three Democratic members of the House Science Committee Members criticized the Budget for inadequately funding science.
Budget Function 250, which includes the National Science Foundation, all National Aeronautics and Space Administration programs except air transportation programs, and the Department of Energy's fundamental science programs, is the principal category in the Federal budget funding civilian research and development (R&D). The Conference Report includes $21.58 billion for Function 250 in FY 2002 - $620 million below the House-passed level of $22.2 billion and a staggering $1.22 billion below the Senate-passed level of $22.80 billion. Normally, a final conference agreement is a compromise between the House and Senate positions. However, in this instance, the conferees agreed to cut funding for these critical R&D activities significantly below the levels previously approved in both the House and Senate. [Note that the U.S. Geological Survey, Forest, Agricultural Department and the Environmental Protection Agency research programs all facing stagnant budgets, or, in the cases of the U.S. Geological Survey, sharp cuts are not included in Function 250].
"I am deeply troubled that the Republican budget significantly lowers funding for scientific research at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and NASA," said Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). "As the newest member of the Science Committee, I was proud to honor the contributions of the NSF on the House Floor yesterday. It is unfortunate that our Republican colleagues have chosen not to honor the NSF in a much more meaningful way - by funding their scientific research adequately."
"I continue to be concerned about the decreases in the budget for the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy," said Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT). "I was pleased to join my colleagues yesterday in recognizing the contributions of the NSF over the last 50 years. The NSF has been the backbone of basic research in the country and the impetus for much of the innovation and discovery driving our national economy. We should continue to support the NSF at a level providing for on-going success."
"If we do not invest in science education now, there will be fewer scientists trained in the future to produce the innovations necessary to drive our economy" said Rep Joseph Hoeffel (D-PA). "By cutting funding for the NSF, NASA, and DOE the Republican budget stifles future technology advancements necessary to keep the United States as the world leader in science and technology."
The budget represents spending limits that appropriations committees have ignored in recent years. After passage of the budget, appropriations committees determine how to distribute the budget allocations among the agencies whose budgets they determine.
AIBS WRAPS UP ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL CONGRESSIONAL VISITS DAY - On May 1-2, 2001, the 6th annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD) was held in Washington, DC. The AIBS Public Policy Office helped organize the event which is coordinated by the Coalition for Technology Partnerships (CTP) and the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group (SETWG). The 2-day affair brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Capitol Hill to explain to congressional policymakers
the long-term importance of science, engineering, and technology.
The AIBS delegation, consisting of AIBS President Judith Weis, Lindsay Boring, President of the Association of Ecosystem Research, and Kevin Reinert, board member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, visited nine congressional offices to deliver CVD's core message: that federally funded research is the nation's foundation for future innovation. They also discussed the substantial funding cuts proposed for the U.S. Geological
Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency's research programs, and the inadequacy of the proposed increases for the National Science Foundation.