Monthly Review: January 2008
This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.
1. Join Us for Congressional Visits in March
Join us for the 13th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) on March
4-5, 2008. This two-day annual event brings scientists, engineers,
researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to
raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology.
Participants will spend the first day learning about how Congress
works, the current state of the budget process and how to conduct
congressional visits. The second day will consist of visits with members
of Congress. In addition to the workshops and visits, participants
will get to meet other scientists and engineers, meet federal science
agency representatives and attend a reception and breakfast at which
members of Congress will speak and meet with the audience.
The second session of the 110th Congress began in mid-January amidst concerns about a troubled U.S. housing market and a potentially slumping economy. Such news brought out calls from the Republican Administration and the Democratic majority in Congress to work in a bipartisan manner on an emergency stimulus package for all Americans.
The second session also begins against a backdrop of a stimulating presidential primary race in which quite atypically for recent elections, three of the four front runners across the two parties are sitting senators. In addition to a presidential election in November that may yield high voter turnout, one third of the Senate and the House of Representatives will be elected. Congress is likely to try to complete legislation before the long summer recess, which is scheduled to run from August 11 to September 5, so that members can focus on elections.
In addition, the schedule for work on the federal budget is likely to be accelerated to try to complete the 12 appropriations bills in each chamber by August. It is very hard to predict whether the appropriations bills can be approved by Congress before the summer recess and it is possible that completion of the budget may be delayed until after the November elections. The President will announce his federal budget requests on February 4 and early media coverage suggest tight fiscal restraint on entitlements and domestic spending, which may mean a relatively flat budget for research and development (R&D).
The fiscal year 2008 budget for geosciences R&D signed into law in late December was relatively flat and is likely to cause delays and deferments of large-scale projects as well as fewer grants for researchers and students across multiple federal agencies. Department of Energy Under Secretary Raymond Orbach called the budget situation a "perilous moment in the history of funding for science" and noted that the 2008 budget would lead to the termination of support for 4,300 graduate students within the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science. The National Science Foundation (NSF) expects a decrease in support for more than 200 graduate fellowships and the Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, which was suppose to increase its total budget from $10 million to $40 million will probably remain at $10 million in fiscal year 2008. Delays or deferments of NASA's Earth observing satellite missions, DOE's FutureGen project and NSF's/NOAA's Ocean Observatories Initiative have also been suggested.
Several other non-appropriation measures related to the geosciences are on the table for discussion in the 110th Congress and could possibly secure passage by the end of the summer. A short list includes climate change, energy resources, water resources, hardrock mining law reform, geologic mapping and science education legislation.
President George W. Bush gave his seventh and final State of the Union address on January 28, 2008. During his speech to Congress he mentioned the American Competitiveness Initiative, the Administration's plan to double funding for the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department's Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). He said "To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on Earth."
Unfortunately the increases for NSF, DOE and NIST were not realized in the fiscal year 2008 budget and early reports about the fiscal year 2009 Administration request suggest the President would like to hold growth in discretionary spending to less than one percent, well below the rate of inflation. Such small growth would leave little room for increases in science and technology suggested in competitiveness initiatives put forward by the Administration and Congress.
The Chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, Bart Gordon (D-TN) responded to the State of the Union address with the following comments ""The first session of the 110th Congress was one of the most productive and bipartisan in our history. In that time, the Science and Technology Committee helped enact two major pieces of legislation - a bill to keep our country competitive and improve math and science education (HR 2272, the America COMPETES Act) and a bill to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy through expanded energy technology development (HR 6, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007)."
The House and Senate both requested healthy increases for NSF, Office of Science and NIST in their initial fiscal year 2008 appropriation bills. Unfortunately these increases were removed when Congress had to cut $22 billion from their appropriations for discretionary spending in late December in order to pass a budget that the President would sign.
Looking forward to plans for 2008, Gordon said "This year, the Committee will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Just as this Committee responded to the challenges presented by the space age back in 1958, this year we will continue working to address the emerging challenges facing our nation. We must embrace the American Spirit of innovation if we are to protect U.S. global competitiveness, invest in math and science education, advance the development of energy technologies, address the threats of climate change, embrace the opportunities presented by nanotechnology, better protect our homeland, and ensure the continued success of all of NASA's missions. Each of these areas will take center stage on our agenda."
Congress and the Administration are thus still talking about increasing
support for research and development to keep America competitive in
the global marketplace. Fiscal constraints may make this difficult
to accomplish in 2008.
Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee introduced a bill to reauthorize the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992. The text of the bill (H.R. 5171) is similar to a Senate measure (S.240) introduced early last year by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on February 15, 2007. Both bills extend the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) and retain the three components of NCGMP, FedMap, StateMap, and EDMap. Senator Craig describes the maps produced by NCCGMP as "vital to understanding groundwater regimes, mineral resources, geologic hazards such as landslides and earthquakes, and geology essential for all types of land use planning; as well as providing basic scientific data."
Congressman Costa in his introduction of the House bill stated "Geologic maps help us build highways, safeguard drinking water, prepare for disasters, protect wildlife, discover precious minerals, locate fuels that power our society and much more." He also noted the importance of the program in training the next generation of geologists. EDMap has helped to train more than 600 students at 131 universities. He concluded his remarks by calling for quick action on this critical program.
The House and Senate bills would increase the percentage of funds allocated to the state and education components, from 48 to 50 percent and from 2 to 4 percent respectively. It would also, add another member from the private sector to the advisory committee and remove the development of a geophysical and geochemical map database from the program objectives. The legislation would authorize the allocation of $64 million annually for ten years. This would represent an increase in annual appropriations and would also extend the authorization over a longer time period than previous measures.
Stakeholders are encouraged to submit letters of endorsement for
the program to the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the
House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural
Last year the House passed a hardrock mining law reform bill (H.R.
2262) that would impose 8 percent royalties on the gross returns on
minerals from new claims and a 4 percent royalty on existing claims
with part of these proceeds marked for cleanup of thousands of abandoned
mines across the country. The measure would also grant federal and
state authorities more control over where hardrock mining can be conducted.
Analyses released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predict a rise in energy costs and a loss of gross domestic product (GDP) associated with the implementation of climate legislation crafted by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) (S.1766). However, the predicted costs could be mitigated with the deployment of "clean" coal, new nuclear power plants and other strategies included in the bill, but not considered in the cost estimate at this time.
The Bingaman-Specter bill would establish a mandatory trading program
to reduce the emission of U.S. greenhouse gases across all sectors
of the economy. EPA predicts that the bill would help curb U.S. emissions
by 25 percent in 2030 and about 40 percent in 2050, but the bill alone
would not impact worldwide emissions. However, the EPA study did show
that if the Bingaman-Specter proposal is combined with strong international
policies that global carbon dioxide concentrations could decrease
to about 504 ppm by 2095. According to many scientists, this might
not be a large enough reduction to avert irreversible changes in Earth's
While this legislation is not the primary vehicle being pursued by the Senate to curb global warming, the results of the analyses will contribute greatly to the debate expected this spring on the more aggressive proposal by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA). EPA anticipates the release of its analysis of the Lieberman-Warner bill in February. Additionally, co-sponsors of the Bingaman-Specter plan represent essential votes in Chairwoman Barbara Boxer's attempt to pass climate legislation in the 110th Congress, so components of Bingaman-Specter may be considered in the other bill.
Bingaman said in a released statement "the EIA and EPA reports both show that a well-designed climate program can reduce emissions at a low-cost to our economy. Both studies conclude that our climate change legislation would dramatically transform technologies to spur carbon capture and sequestration, greatly lowering emissions from coal-fired power plants. I hope these analyses inform the debate on global warming in a positive manner and I look forward to working closely with Sens. Boxer, Lieberman, Warner and others to resolve differences between the major bills and pass climate legislation this year."
The full text of the two bills are available from Thomas: Lieberman-Warner
and Bingaman-Specter - http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:s.01766:
The National Academy of Public Administration released a report on
a management review of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Environmental
Management (EM), which oversees the cleanup of dangerous materials
resulting from more than half a century of nuclear weapons production
and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. EM has accepted
and begun to implement nearly all of the panel's proposals, which
deal with staffing levels, human resource improvements and related
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has initiated a new program to study the risks of earthquakes and tsunamis on the nuclear energy industry in the U.S. The program will partner with other federal agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey to consider the hazards and best practices for risk reduction. NRC has written a ten year research plan to address new reactors licensing, aging and relicensing of existing plants, and waste facilities such as Yucca Mountain. NRC has also recently published regulatory guidelines for seismic safety at nuclear plants.
On January 24, 2008, NASA officials laid out their plans for fiscal year 2008. Included in those plans was the announcement of the launch of two Earth-observation satellites this year. The launch of the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM) is anticipated for June. OSTM will allow the continuation of ocean surface measurements currently being gathered by the Topex-Poseidon and Jason-1 spacecrafts and critical for sea level rise evaluation as well as examination of ocean circulation.
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) will be launched in December;
the instruments on this satellite will allow for the identification
of carbon sources and sinks at a resolution of about 600 miles.
Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division, indicated that NASA intends to take advantage of the delay through "discussions with our interagency partners, NOAA in particular, about increasing or adding to capability, taking advantage of the somewhat later launch date for NPP to make more robust some of our programs, for instance, making Earth radiation budget measurements."
The intent of NASA to restore capability to NPP is in line with one of the recommendations from the National Academies of Science "decadal survey" by Earth scientists. The decadal survey laid out recommendations for the next 10 years of Earth-observation from space.
Alan Stern, Associate Administrator, Science Directorate said NASA
is committed to working cooperatively with their partners, USGS and
NOAA, to improve Earth application missions and to develop a new suite
of Venture class missions that implement the recommendations of the
decadal survey. The Venture missions will be relatively small and
inexpensive in comparison to current missions.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 included language making it mandatory for any author with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to submit their paper to the publicly accessible NIH database, PubMed Central upon acceptance of the manuscript in a peer-reviewed journal.
The policy was voluntary, however, language in the legislation makes the policy mandatory in 2008. Compliance with the policy will be a condition of award and NIH will have the authority to suspend projects, withhold funding or terminate grants for non-compliance. In January, NIH will publish a notice with the federal register explaining the new guidelines for grants and contracts and will update the web site with information and other details.
On April 7, 2008 the policy is suppose to be fully implemented and all authors must fulfill the mandatory manuscript submission. In addition, any proposals submitted to the NIH starting in May 2008 must include the PubMed Central reference numbers when citing any papers that fall under this public access requirement.
More information about the policy is available from the NIH public access web page at http://publicaccess.nih.gov/
The National Science Board, established by Congress in 1950 to provide oversight and policy guidance for the National Science Foundation, released it biennial report on the state of the United States science and engineering enterprise relative to the rest of the world. The "Science and Engineering Indicators 2008" compares macro-economics, the science and technology workforce and the performance of K-12 students on science tests.
The U.S. retains a robust growth rate in productivity and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) relative to the rest of the world. The U.S. leads the world by a growing margin in macro-economic indicators even though countries like China and India have impressive rates of growth. The widening gap is due in part to the fact that the U.S. economic metrics started at a much higher level and the nation maintains average rates of growth while developing nations started at a much lower level and need phenomenal growth rates over decades to catch up. Still the rapid growth of developing countries is significant and partly reflected in a slight decline in the U.S. share of the world GDP from 22 percent in 1985 to 20 percent in 2005.
Within the global marketplace there has been significant growth in knowledge-intensive services and high-technology manufacturing. Such trends account for a growing share of GDP and a growing recognition by national governments of the importance of a highly skilled workforce and a robust science and technology enterprise. Thus nations involved in these sectors are providing greater support and incentives for research and development (R&D) and focusing on education to provide the necessary workforce for the future.
The indicators suggest that a robust and growing science and technology enterprise is critical for growing and maintaining a competitive economy in the global marketplace, yet there are signs of weakness in U.S. support of research and development (R&D).
The U.S. ranked seventh of eleven developed countries in R&D/GDP and most of the federal R&D in the U.S. is for defense and homeland security. In addition, a growing fraction of this support is concentrated on development rather than research. After World War II, the federal government provided more than 50 percent of the nation's total R&D. In 1979, federal support dropped below 50 percent and declined to a low of 25 percent in 2000. The federal share of R&D is expected to rise to 28 percent in 2006 due mostly to increases in health-related research and defense/homeland security.
Basic research, which the report suggests is the foundation of a vibrant and flexible science and technology enterprise, is primarily conducted at universities and colleges (accounts for 58 percent of basic research in the U.S.). About 66 percent of this funding comes from the federal government, 17 percent comes from academic institutions, 6 percent from industry and 6 percent from states.
The decline in federal R&D for basic and applied research in
the geosciences though not spelled out in these indicators is evident
in the closure of geoscience and geo-engineering departments at academic
institutions and reductions in federal support for basic and applied
geoscience research over time. The geoscience community will need
to communicate the value of research, education and a skilled workforce
for dealing with critical issues such as climate change, energy resources,
mineral resources, water resources and natural hazards as well as
for maintaining a vibrant science and technology enterprise for continued
economic growth and security.
In January, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) released a revised position statement on climate change, entitled "Human Impacts on Climate." The statement, adopted last month, discusses the evidence supporting climate change, the potential consequences of failing to address increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and the need for mitigation and adaptation strategies to respond to climate change.
AGU's climate change position statement, as well as other member
society position statements can be accessed at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/resources/positionstatements
The Ecological Society of America (ESA) released a position statement this month on the use of ecological principles in the production of biofuels. ESA, the primary professional organization for ecologists, stresses the importance of a sustainable system. The position paper states, "Current grain-based ethanol production systems damage soil and water resources in the U.S. and are only profitable in the context of tax breaks and tariffs." "Future systems based on a combination of cellulosic materials and grain could be equally degrading to the environment, with potentially little carbon savings, unless steps are taken now that incorporate principles of ecological sustainability." The three principles emphasized include a systems approach to assess lifecycle carbon and energy yield, conservation of ecosystems services, such as limiting soil erosion, and the consideration of scale in management and policy decisions.
ESA's position statement on biofuels as well as other policy papers
by ESA can be accessed at http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/
Interested in knowing the 2008 presidential candidates' positions on science and technology issues? Visit the website, established by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in cooperation with the Association of American Universities and the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, which features news stories, commentaries, white papers and other information regarding the candidates' views on science and technology.
Concerned that science and technology policy is not being discussed
enough by the 2008 presidential candidates despite its pervasive use
in policymaking, then visit http://www.sciencedebate2008.com,
which calls for a public forum on the issues.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science is seeking nominees
for the 2008 Enrico Fermi Award, established in 1956 to honor the
legacy of Dr. Fermi and his contributions to physics and the development
of atomic energy. The Presidential award is given to an individual
or individuals in recognition of lifetime of achievements in energy
science and technology; it is an international award and is not limited
to U.S. citizens. For more information and to submit a nomination
please visit: http://www.sc.doe.gov/fermi/
On February 27, 2008 the National Academies will hold its second
annual Gilbert F. White Lecture in Washington DC. Professor Gerald
Galloway from the University of Maryland will discuss "Managing
American Water Resources: Recognizing the Realities of Geography".
More information about the lecture is available from Jared Eno (email@example.com).
AGI seeks outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest
in federal science policy for a semester-long internship in geoscience
and public policy. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of
the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies
in Washington DC. AGI will accept three interns for 12 weeks in the
summer and one intern for 14 weeks in the fall. The deadline for applications
is March 15 for the summer internships and April 15 for the fall internship.
More information is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/interns/index.html
Dr. Marcy Gallo joins the AGI Government Affairs team as the new
policy associate. Marcy is a microbial ecologist, who recently finished
a Congressional Science Fellowship in the office of Senator Joe Lieberman
(I-CT), sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science
Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America. During
her fellowship year, she covered various environment, energy, and
agricultural issues, including water resources, climate change, and
land conservation. Prior to working in Senator Lieberman's office,
Marcy completed her doctoral research at the University of New Mexico
examining the impact of photo-degradation on arid leaf litter decomposition.
DOI- Minerals Management Service (MMS) announces the record of decision
for the establishment of an alternative energy and alternate use (AEAU)
program on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The decision is to select
the Preferred Alternative described in the Final Programmatic Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS). This decision establishes an AEAU program
for the issuance of leases, easements and rights-of-way (ROW) for
alternative energy activities and the alternate use of structures
on the OCS and the promulgation of regulations to govern the program.
Selection of the Preferred Alternative also provides MMS the option
to authorize individual projects on a case-by-case basis before promulgation
of the final rule.
DOC- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Education,
announces the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Program for FY 2008.
The program will provide approximately 100 undergraduate applicants
with scholarships to participate in oceanic and atmospheric science,
research, technology, and education. Completed applications must be
received by February 8, 2008, at 5 p.m. eastern standard time.
DOC- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine
Fisheries Service (NMFS) have completed a review of the status of
black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) under the Endangered Species
Act (ESA). After reviewing the best scientific and commercial information
available, evaluating threats facing the species, and considering
efforts being made to protect black abalone, we have concluded that
the species is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range
and are proposing to list the species as endangered under the ESA.
DOC- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office
of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) announces the availability
of the of the preliminary report of the NOAA Science Advisory Board
(SAB)Extension, Outreach, and Education Working Group's external review
of NOAA's activities in extension, outreach and education activities
for public comment. The preliminary reviews of NOAA's extension, outreach
and education programs and provide advice to NOAA on ways to strengthen,
coordinate, organize and improve its extension, outreach and education
activities to fully engage its constituents. The report is available
on the NOAA Science Advisory Board Web site at http://www.sab.noaa.gov/Reports/EOEWG
Public comments are due by 5 p.m. EDT on February 15, 2008.
NASA-National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued
the Final PEIS for the proposed Constellation Program to assist in
the NASA decision making process. The Proposed Action (Preferred Alternative)
is to continue preparations for and to implement the Constellation
Program. The focus of the Constellation Program is the development
of the flight systems and Earth-based ground infrastructure required
to enable the United States to have continued access to space and
to enable future human missions to the International Space Station,
the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
NIST- National Institute of Standards and Technology announces that
the following programs are soliciting applications for financial assistance
for FY 2008: (1) The Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory
Grants Program; (2) the Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory Grants
Program; (3) the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory Grants
Program; (4) the Physics Laboratory Grants Program; (5) the Materials
Science and Engineering Laboratory Grants Program; (6) the Building
Research Grants and Cooperative Agreements Program; (7) the Fire Research
Grants Program; (8) the Information Technology Laboratory Grants Program;
(9) the NIST Center for Neutron Research Grants Program; (10) Center
for Nanoscale Science and Technology Grants Program; and (11) the
NCNR Sample Environment Equipment Financial Assistance Program. Potential
applicants shoule contact the Program Manager for the appropriate
field of research, as specified in the FFO announcement found at http://www.grants.gov,
for clarification of the program objectives and to determine whether
their proposal is responsive to this notice.
NSF- National Science Foundation announces a solicitation for large
and small public and private colleges and universities (including
predominantly undergraduate institutions and minority serving institutions),
non-profit research and education organizations (e.g., science museums
and research institutes), and hospitals to participate in Phase V
of the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP). FDP is a unique forum
of federal agencies and recipients committed to testing innovative
approaches and streamlining processes and systems for federally supported
research and education. The full solicitation can be found at http://www.research.gov.
Applications must be submitted by Tuesday, April 1, 2008. A notification
of intent to submit should be provided by Friday, March 14, 2008.
DOI- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Scientific Earthquake Studies
Advisory Committee (SESAC) will hold its 17th meeting on February
19, 2008. The Committee is comprised of members from academia, industry,
and State government. The Committee shall advise the Director of the
USGS on matters relating to the USGS's participation in the National
Earthquake hazards Reduction Program. The Committee will receive updates
and provide guidance on Earthquake Hazards Program activities and
the status of teams supported by the Program.
Sources: New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, and Aviation Week's Aerospace Daily & Defense Report .
This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves. Prior updates can be found on the AGI web site under "Public Policy" <http://www.agiweb.org>. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted February 1, 2008.