The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has published a request for comment on a January 2005 memorandum to federal research agencies requiring that they allow more than one principal investigator (PI) on each federal grant. Agencies are seeking input about how best to implement the policy. The public may submit comments until 16 September 2005. For more information about the nature of comments sought, procedures for submission, or for other information, please consult the Federal Register notice.
Politics and science have collided once again on Capitol Hill as Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has begun an inquiry into the objectivity and reliability of climate change science. On 23 June, Chairman Barton and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, sent official letters requesting personal and financial records from several scientists involved in global warming research. These letters have set off a fire storm of criticism from fellow Members of Congress, scientists, and international observers.
At the center of this debate is the graph that shows average global temperatures dating back 1000 years. The graph, often referred to as the "hockey stick model," depicts an increase in temperature throughout the 21st century and has been cited as evidence of global warming. This graph has been controversial since it was published in the journal Nature and a 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
Reps. Barton and Whitfield sent letters to three climate scientists who published papers supporting the hockey stick model: Michael Mann of the University of Virginia, Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts, and Malcolm Hughes of the University of Arizona. In each letter, the scientists were asked to supply the Committee with records of "all financial grants." Additional letters were sent to National Science Foundation Director Arden Bement and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri.
Critics of Chairman Barton's approach responded quickly to the developments. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) called the investigation "misguided and illegitimate" and an attempt to "intimidate scientists rather than learn from them." Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee also expressed concern with Barton's letters.
In response to the mounting criticism, on 31 July an Op-Ed by Rep. Barton appeared in the Dallas Morning News defending his investigation. Barton explained that his letters were timely considering the controversy surrounding the hockey stick model and he stressed that "federally funded scientists with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from" the investigation. The controversy to which Barton refers was a report appearing in the Wall Street Journal newspaper.
On 25 August, AIBS joined with 30 other scientific and educational organizations to send a letter to Chairman Barton asking him to allow "the nation's scientists and engineers [to] continue to use their knowledge and results openly to inform public policy debates; they should not need to fear that they will be investigated if a Member of Congress disagrees with their conclusions."
The full letter from the science community may be read at www.aibs.org/position-statements/050825_intersociety_let.html.
AIBS is convening an all-day evolution symposium at the 2005 annual meeting of the National Association of Biology Teachers, 7 October 2005 in Milwaukee, WI. Cosponsors are the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. The theme of the symposium is "Evolution and the Environment." Speakers will provide updates in evolution research and education, with a focus on the causal connections between evolution and environmental health and change. The speakers are Anthony Barnosky, University of California-Berkeley; Andrew Blaustein, Oregon State University; Jonathan Losos, Washington University; Stephen Palumbi, Stanford University; Barbara Schaal, Washington University; Pamela Soltis, University of Florida. The presentations will be followed by an afternoon workshop. After the symposium, AIBS/BSCS are holding a special discussion session titled, "Defending the teaching of evolution: national and local resources for educators." Visit www.aibs.org/special-symposia for program updates; register for the NABT meeting at www.nabt.org (general registration includes admission to the AIBS/BSCS/NESCent symposium and the AIBS/BSCS special session).
On 15 August 2005, the executive committee of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America (Tri-Societies) issued a statement expressing concern with President Bush's 1 August remarks about intelligent design/creationism. The Tri-Societies statement reads in part, "Intelligent design is not a scientific discipline and should not be taught as part of the K-12 science curriculum. Intelligent design has neither the substantial research base, nor the testable hypotheses as a scientific discipline. There are at least 70 resolutions from a broad array of scientific societies and institutions that are united on this matter."
A copy of the complete statement may be viewed at: http://www.asa-cssa-sssa.org/pdf/intdesign_050815.pdf
Following recent statements supporting the teaching of intelligent design/creationism by President Bush, Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), nearly 120 Iowa State University faculty members have signed a letter rejecting "all attempts to represent ID as a scientific endeavor." The statement is currently available at online at www.iowastatedaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/08/23/430a8680abec8.
The September 2005 Washington Watch column in BioScience considers recent federal actions that have mingled politics with the scientific peer review process. An excerpt from the article follows. The article will soon be available at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/.
"Scientists, nongovernmental organizations, and even politicians have warned for years that federal policymakers are politicizing science to achieve political goals. Surveys show that many scientists in some federal agencies feel that scientific findings have been discounted in management decisions in response to political pressure. Until recently, these allegations were leveled primarily against the political leadership of environmental, natural resource management, and public health agencies. Recent events, however, suggest that the politicization of science in the United States has spread beyond regulatory agencies.
In June 2005, as the Senate deliberated climate change legislation, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) prepared to send letters to the National Science Foundation, the International Panel on Climate Change, and three prominent climatologists..."
The August 2005 Washington Watch column is now available online.
"President Bush is in a tight spot. He faces a burgeoning national deficit and a crop of aging baby boomers who will soon require trillions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Disinclined to curtail his tax cuts, the president has turned to snipping nondefense discretionary spending to demonstrate fiscal restraint, which does not bode well for scientists who rely on federal funding."
Continue reading for free at www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2005_08.html.
Mr. Judsen Bruzgul has become the newest member of the AIBS Public Policy Office. He will spend approximately three months working at AIBS headquarters in Washington, DC as an AIBS-ASM (American Society of Mammalogists) science public policy intern. Judsen is a graduate student in biology at Stanford University. His dissertation research is investigating patterns of vertebrate species distribution across landscapes and the impacts of human disturbance on these distributions. Judsen earned his bachelor's degree from Middlebury College in Vermont where he studied biochemistry with an emphasis on environmental chemistry.
The 2006 AIBS annual meeting has been scheduled for 23 to 24 May 2006 in Washington DC. The working title is "Biodiversity: The Interplay of Science, Valuation and Policy." Plenary speakers, breakout sessions, and a poster session are planned. Please follow this webpage, http://www.aibs.org/annual-meeting/, for updates and registration, when open. The annual meeting will be preceded, 22 to 23 May, by an AIBS business meeting for the general membership, combined with a meeting of the AIBS Council of member societies and organizations.