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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: May 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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Research & Education

  • Bipartisan Bill to Create Science Laureate Position Introduced by Smith and Lofgren

On May 8, 2013, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Science Laureates of the United States Act of 2013 (H.R. 1891). This bill would authorize the President to appoint up to three Science Laureates of the United States who would serve 1- or 2-year terms. The Science Laureate would honor scientists who have excelled in their research careers and in enhancing public interest in science. The position would be an unpaid honorary position, and the nominee would be able to continue research during this time.

  • House Science Majority Staff Hold Session to Discuss the Draft High Quality Research Act

On May 21, 2013, the majority staff of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held an open discussion with members of the scientific community to provide information on the draft High Quality Research Act. The committee hoped to address concerns, resolve misconceptions, and take suggestions for improvement.

The majority staff member stated that the act was leaked to the public while still in draft form and that, at that time, he had not been prepared to discuss the draft. According the staff member, the draft had been sent to the Democratic members for consultation and input, contrary to some claims. The bill is aimed, he stated, at the funding level and is “not touching” the merit review process for approving grants. He argued that the bill’s intent was to add a layer of accountability by requiring that the National Science Foundation (NSF) director, or someone they designate, to approve the final funding of a grant. He indicated that this approval would be based on a short summary of why the peer review panel believed the grant should be funded and would not be “overly burdensome.”  He also clarified that duplicative research referred only to preventing funding of the exact same grant proposal by multiple agencies.

The discussion focused mainly on explaining intent, but there were few suggestions on improving the draft. Additionally, the staff member did not indicate that any changes had been made to the original draft. The discussion appeared to do little to assuage the concerns and objections of the members of the scientific community present.

Currently, the draft legislation from Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) would require that the NSF director certify that each funded study benefits the nation’s “health, prosperity, or welfare, and…national defense;” be of the highest quality; be “ground breaking;” resolve issues of the “utmost importance to society at large;” and not duplicate other federally funded research. The draft has received significant backlash from the Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), former NSF directors and assistant directors, 110 scientific organizations, and members of the broader scientific community.






Monthly Review prepared by: Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate, Kimberley Corwin, 2013 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, and Brittany Huhmann, Clinton Koch, and John Kemper 2013 AGI/AIPG Summer Interns.

Sources: AccuWeather, The American Institute of Physics, BuildStrong Coalition, Bureau of Land Management, Coalition for National Science Funding, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior,  Environment and Energy Daily, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Register, GeoOptics, Government Accountability Office, Greenwire, The Hill Blog, House of Representatives, Keck Institute for Space Studies Asteroid Retrieval Mission Study, Lunar and Planetary Institute, MIT Energy Initiative, National Academies Press, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, Science Magazine, Thomas, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Government Printing Office, U.S. Senate, the White House


This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Geoscience Policy Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and others as part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. More information on these topics can be found on the Geoscience Policy Current Issues pages. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.


Compiled May 31, 2013