SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE FOR INTERIOR AND RELATED AGENCIES REJECTS BUDGET CUTS FOR USGS - Like their counterparts in the House, Senate appropriators have rejected the very large budgets cuts proposed for the U.S. Geological Survey by the Bush administration. The subcommittee's numbers - which were approved by the full appropriations committee that same day - may go to conference as early as this week. The Senate not only restored the cuts but also increased the USGS budget by 2.4%. The Senate added actually more than the House to the appropriation for the Biological Resources Division - the House added $14.2 million while the Senate added $15.2 million. The Committee has continued funding for the current management and operation of the National Office of the Gap Analysis Program (initiated and run by AIBS Council member and Public Policy Review Committee member Mike Scott) saying that, "the Committee supports this ongoing effort and directs the National Office to administer all funds provided for GAP, with the mission of completing a nation-wide GAP dataset of both land and aquatic resources." The proposed termination of the National Biological Information Infrastructure was rejected, and a small increase was appropriated for an additional NBII "node." Only the Water Resources Division faces a reduction - of approximately $2.7 million below the fiscal year 2001 level, but $41 million above the 2002 budget request. The largest single cut - 3.6 million was to the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. The administration's proposal to terminate the National Water Resources Research Institute - a federal and state competitive grant program - was rejected by the Senate.
OMB PROPOSES GUIDELINES FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF DATA QUALITY LAW - The Office of Management and Budget Thursday published in the June 27 Federal Register proposed guidelines for implementing the "data quality" law that found its way into the Fiscal Year 2001 Omnibus Appropriations Act. That law - directs OMB to issue government-wide guidelines that "provide policy and procedural guidance to federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by federal agencies." Once the final guidelines are issued, all federal agencies will have to issue their own implementing guidelines within one year. The law also permits the public to challenge any data made public by federal agencies. While the law does not prohibit agencies from disseminating information that does not meet agency or OMB standards, it is likely that the data quality reviews will delay dissemination of information and could lead to the suppression of information. In essence, this law, and the implementing guidelines, could lead to the institution of a second level of review of scientific data generated by federal employees, beyond the scientific peer review process. It is also likely that this law could hinder agency development of regulations - particularly in the realms of environmental protection, wildlife and habitat conservation, and food safety, as the determination that the information does not meet the agency or OMB standards could be a basis for legal challenges to the regulations. AIBS intends to file comments to OMB on these proposed guidelines, and encourages AIBS members to do the same. A copy of the proposed guidelines can be obtained from Ellen Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
REP. RUSH HOLT PROPOSES TO RE-ESTABLISH OFFICE OF TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT - Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) has introduced H.R. 2148, a bill to reestablish the congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was abolished by Congress in 1995. Holt's bill would authorize an OTA appropriation of $20 million annually for fiscal years 2002 through 2007. It currently has 34 cosponsors, including House Science Committee chairman Boehlert. Holt, a physicist, is one of two scientists in Congress. In introducing the legislation, Holt said, "In the 23 years that the OTA was in existence, it provided Congress with respected, impartial analyses of scientific and technological questions in fields as diverse as space travel, agriculture, medicine, defense, telecommunications, transportation and the environment. That kind of ability is essential to help Congress be effective in dealing with the many technically sophisticated matters before us today." The OTA, an agency in the legislative branch of the government, used both its own staff and outside experts to perform multi-disciplinary studies and provide recommendations for Congress on scientific and technological matters. "Nearly every policy question before Congress has significant technological components," said Rep. Holt. "Impartial, credible analysis and advice from OTA will help Congress make better decisions for decades to come. This will be a wise investment in our future."
BUSH ADMINISTRATION SELECTS SCIENCE ADVISOR - On Monday, July 1, President Bush formally announced his intention to nominate John Marburger to the post of science advisor to the President. Marburger is the director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Marburger was president of Stony Brook University, State University of New York from 1980 to 1994, and dean of the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at the University of Southern California from 1976 to 1980. He received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University, and his Ph.D. from Stanford University. The science advisor heads the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Meanwhile, names are being bandied about by various scientific organizations for the role of OSTP Deputy Director for the Environment.
AIBS PARTICIPATES IN EVOLUTION 2001 MEETING, MARINE CONSERVATION BIOLOGY INSTITUTE MEETING - On June 24, AIBS Public Policy Representative Ellen Paul traveled to San Francisco to give a talk at the Second Symposium on Marine Conservation Biology, sponsored by the Marine Conservation Biology Institute. Her talk, which was one of several comprising the Marine Conservation Policy Forum, focused on the role of scientists in influencing policy. She explained how scientific societies can develop policy positions and effectively advocate those positions. Subsequently, she led a break-out session on techniques for promoting increased federal funding for marine conservation biology research. Paul then joined AIBS Executive Director Richard O'Grady in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she was one of several invited speakers in a symposium on evolution education at the Evolution 2001 meeting - the joint annual meeting of three AIBS member societies - the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society of Systematic Biologists, and the American Society of Naturalists. She joined Martin Feder, past president of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Wayne Carley, Executive Director of the National Association of Biology Teachers, and other speakers in the symposium, which examined the whys and hows of fending off challenges to the teaching of evolution. Additionally, during the meeting, Paul tested the AIBS training program called, "Going Public: Learn Effective Ways to Address the Media, Policy Makers, and the Public about Evolution." Eight scientists volunteered to test the program, which is still in development and will eventually be available in an electronic format, and possibly taught in live sessions. The volunteers were very helpful in identifying where the training program was effective and where additional work is needed.