After Congress comes back into session this week, legislators must pass a number of controversial bills before they can adjourn. Many had hoped that the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations bill, H.R. 3010, would pass before the Thanksgiving recess; however the conference report's failure on the House floor has put funding for many departments and programs in limbo.
Under the report, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would have received a modest 0.9 percent funding boost to $28.8 billion. This number is far short of the Senate-approved $1.05 billion spending increase from FY 2005. The conference report also contained Senate-passed language that prevented the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) from asking candidates for scientific advisory committees about their political affiliation. In addition, the report barred HHS from "disseminat[ing] scientific information that is deliberately false or misleading." The conferees will begin renegotiating the report this week, but media reports suggest that NIH funding is not likely to change during this round of talks.
This month science advocates were pleased by a surprise increase in the National Science Foundation budget for FY 2006. A Senate-House conference committee appropriated $5.64 billion to NSF. This surpasses the House, Senate, and Administration marks for FY06 and is a 3 percent increase over the FY05 level.
Please take a few moments to thank your Representative and Senators. By showing our appreciation we are letting them know that their constituents care about science funding. Your message does not need to be long. Simply express your gratitude for their efforts to increase funding for the National Science Foundation.
To reach your Senator or Representative via phone you may call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. You must know the name of your Representative to be connected.
Alternatively, you may obtain your Senator and Representative's name, phone, fax or e-mail address by going to www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.
As part of its focus on engaging scientists in the public policy process, the American Institute of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce the AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leader Award, an opportunity for graduate students in the biological sciences to receive first-hand experience in the policy arena. AIBS will pay travel costs and expenses for 1-2 recipients of the award to participate in a Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day (CVD) in Washington, D.C. on March 22-23, 2006. This is event brings scientists and educators to Washington, D.C. to raise visibility and support for the biological sciences. During the event, participants will attend briefings by key officials from the White House and Congress and receptions honoring members of Congress for their work on behalf of biology; they will also participate in meetings with members of Congress and their staff.
AIBS is accepting applications for the 2006 Emerging Public Policy Leader Award from graduate students (master's or doctoral) in the biological sciences with a demonstrated interest in and commitment to biological science and/or science education policy. Submit applications electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org NO LATER than 5 p.m. EST on Friday, 3 February 2006.
Applications should include the following materials:
To learn about prior EPPLA recipients, please visit the Policy Training Initiatives section of the AIBS website at www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_fellows.html.
The American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) are pleased to announce the availability of an internship in the AIBS Public Policy Office. The internship is open to ASM student members who are currently enrolled in a graduate program and who are engaged in research that involves the study of mammals. The internship is for 3 months during fall 2006, and carries a monthly stipend of $2000. Selection criteria include demonstrated interest in public policy process, strong communications skills, and excellent academic record.
The AIBS Public Policy Office focuses on science and science education public policy (e.g., federal R&D funding policy). The office does not routinely address environmental policy matters. Additional information about ASM and AIBS can be found on their respective websites (www.mammalsociety.org, www.aibs.org).
The goal of the ASM-AIBS Public Policy Internship is to provide an opportunity for a student to gain hands-on experience in public policy at the national level that relates generally to biology and specifically to matters of interest to ASM. By working with the AIBS Public Policy Office, the intern will learn how scientific societies, non-governmental organizations (NGO's), executive branch agencies (e.g., NSF, NOAA), and the legislative branch interact in crafting public policy. While the intern will work primarily on U.S. policy matters, issues that affect international scientific collaboration (such as U.S. visa policies) as well as concerns particular to non-U.S. entities (primarily Canada and the European Union) will also be tracked and addressed as appropriate.
Duties may include, but are not limited to, the following:
All application materials must be received by 1 May 2006 and should be sent to Dr. Alicia V. Linzey, Evaluation Committee Chair, Department of Biology, Indiana University of PA, Indiana, PA 15705. Questions about the award can be addressed to Dr. Linzey ) or to ASM President Guy Cameron ().
High-ranking representatives of the Catholic Church have joined the debate over intelligent design just weeks after Pope Benedict XVI said the universe was made by an "intelligent project." On 18 November, Reverend George Coyne, the Vatican's chief astronomer and the director of the Vatican Observatory, said it was "wrong" to teach intelligent design and evolution side-by-side in science classrooms. "Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to beSumif you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science." Coyne's comments add another level of complexity to the Vatican's stance on intelligent design.
The debate within the Vatican became more convoluted when Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn clarified his earlier comments on intelligent design. In a July New York Times op-ed, Schoenborn suggested that the church did not accept the theory of evolution. On 20 November, however, Schoenborn told Reuters news service that he had not intended to persuade American schools to teach literal creationism or to condemn the work of Darwin. Instead, he explained he wanted to "stand up for common sense in a debate that had become ideological." During the interview, Schoenborn said, "the theory of evolution is a scientific theorySumwhat I call evolutionism is an ideological view that says evolution can explain everything in the whole development of the cosmos." Schoenborn said he still supports intelligent design's theory of irreducible complexity.
To read more about Pope Benedict's comments, please see the 21 November 2005, AIBS Public Policy Report at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/public-policy-reports-2005_11_21.html.
On November 5, the Biophysical Society became the latest scientific group to decry recent attempts to teach intelligent design in science classes.
"What distinguishes scientific theories from these theological beliefs is the scientific method, which is driven by observations and deductions, leads to testable predictions, and involves the formulation of hypotheses that can be refuted," according to the society's statement.
Later, it says: "Attempts to suppress or compromise the teaching of evolutionary science in the United States are misguided actions that will deprive our youth of a clear understanding of the scientific process, and of the scientific skills that they need to compete in a global economy: one that is increasingly driven by science and technology."More information is available at www.biophysics.org.
The December 2005 Washington Watch column in BioScience considers the status of stem cell research policy in the United States. Following is an excerpt from the article:
When will embryonic stem cell researchers be able to fully tap into federal funding, the financial backbone of the US science community? This is what scientists continue to ask, as well as citizens who remain enthused about cells that show promise in the push to treat and cure debilitating diseases.
It has been seven years since stem cells burst onto the scene, but government restrictions on funding embryonic stem cell research continue to plague scientists like John Gearhart of Johns Hopkins University, one of two researchers credited with discovering the cells.
"It's clear that the limitations in federal policy do not permit funding into the most progressive and promising areas at this point, so we turn to the private side," he says. "But there's a limit to how much you can draw from this.... The issue is 'How do we go forward?'"
The complete article may be viewed at: www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washington_watch_2005_12.html.