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Monthly Review: February 2005


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.

President's Proposed Budget Unveiled
Appropriations Shakedown in House and Senate
NIH's Public Access Policy and Related Copyright Issues
Deadlock on Clear Skies Bill
Mercury Emissions: The Tale of Two Government Reports
Energy Policy Takes Shape in Congress
Liquefied Natural Gas Spotlighted in Energy Debate
Congress Solicits Ideas for Solving Water and Natural Gas Shortages
Kyoto Protocol Takes Affect in Some Countries
Support for National Science Foundation Funding
Report Says Government Has Shortened Visa Processing Time
Scientific Integrity Legislation Introduced in House
Evolution Roundup
Congressional Visits Days are May 10-11
AGI/AIPG Summer Internship Applications Welcomed
Key Federal Register Notices
New Updates to Website

 

President's Proposed Budget Unveiled

On February 7th, the President's proposed $2.57 trillion budget was unveiled with increases in defense spending and decreases in domestic spending. The deep cuts to domestic spending would eliminate 150 programs and keep spending flat for 5 years in order to reduce the deficit in half by 2009. Agriculture's budget would shrink by 3.4% to $129.3 billion with key cuts to research and watershed protection. Commerce's budget would rise by nearly 50% to $9.4 billion because several large development projects would be shifted into this department. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's budget would be cut by 8% to $3.6 billion with increases for the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service for satellite development and observations and decreases for the National Ocean Service and the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, primarily in research, education and conservation programs. The Energy Department's budget would fall by 2% to $23.4 billion with cuts to oil and gas research and development and increases for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. The Environmental Protection Agency would be trimmed by 5.6%, for a proposed budget of $7.6 billion. Cuts would focus on water quality protection and land preservation programs. Interior's budget would sink by 1.1% to $10.6 billion with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) budget dropping by 0.2% to $933.5 million. Within USGS, Mineral Resources Program would be slashed by 53%, losing $28.7 million and the Water Resources Research Institutes, funded at $6.4 million last year, would be eliminated entirely. The National Science Foundation's budget would rise by 2.4% to $5.6 billion, however, most of this increase would go to infrastructure and research funding would slightly decrease while education programs would be significantly reduced. NASA's budget would also rise by 2.4% to $16.1 billion with spending focused on shuttle maintenance, completion of the space station and the development of the next generation shuttles to pursue human exploration of the Moon and Mars. A more detailed analysis of the President's proposed budget will be posted on AGI's Government Affairs website in the near future.

Appropriations Shakedown in House and Senate

Chairman Lewis (R-CA) announced, and the House Appropriations Committee ratified, a reorganization of the House Appropriations Committee in mid-February. In a statement released on February 9th Chairman Lewis said, "This structure will allow us to spend less time on the floor and in committee and more time doing oversight over the expenditure of taxpayer funds. These changes will make it a little easier to get our work done on time and under budget. The greatest impact of this proposal falls on the two subcommittees I formerly chaired, VA-HUD and Defense. My decade of experience with the programs funded by these two subcommittees provided the insight to make some common-sense changes that will improve our stewardship of discretionary spending. I want to commend Chairman Cochran on the respectful and thoughtful manner in which he has worked with me on this proposal."

Not everyone hailed this move as a positive one. The Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee David Obey (D-WI) said in a statement, "The reorganization plan for the Appropriations Committee that the House Majority has proposed is not aimed at improving efficiency. It is simply payback. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is retaliating for cuts that the Republican-controlled VA-HUD appropriations subcommittee made to the NASA budget request."

Nevertheless, there are now 10 appropriations subcommittees instead of 13, and several that are important to the geosciences have new responsibilities.

See a summary of the House Reorganization Proposal online.

View a list of chairmanships and majority committee members online.

View a list of democratic ranking members and minority committee assignments online.

Ending weeks of speculation, Senator Cochran (R-MS) announced on March 2, 2005 that the Senate Appropriations Committee would also reorganize its subcommittee structure. Once the proposal is ratified by the full Senate Appropriations Committee, there will be 12 subcommittees instead of 13. The programs and accounts funded previously through the VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Subcommittee (including NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency) are being divided among other subcommittees.

View a list of the new committees and jurisdictional changes online from the Senate Appropriations Committee website.

In a statement Senator Cochran said, "The Senate Appropriations Committee is moving forward with a consensus on the structure of the Committee. The changes made will allow for a more orderly approach to the appropriations process."

In order to make these changes easier to follow, AGI is reorganizing the appropriations section of the website. Information will be available on proposed funding as well as updated and specific information about appropriations subcommittee membership, complete with links to members websites. This reorganization will be completed very soon.

You can bookmark the page http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/appropsfy2006.html and check back for updates.

NIH's Public Access Policy and Related Copyright Issues

On February 3, 2005 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) unveiled their plan for public access of any NIH-funded research publications. Starting on May 2nd, NIH-funded authors will be requested to submit the accepted version of their peer-reviewed research paper to PubMed Central, the digital library maintained by the National Library of Medicine. PubMed Central will post the accepted paper within 12 months of the final publication date. Submitting an accepted version of the paper to PubMed Central is voluntary; however, NIH encourages authors to submit their papers and to allow their papers to be posted on PubMed Central as soon as possible. NIH has set-up a Public Access Working Group to answer questions and to study how the policy is working. An NIH website on Public Access, http://www.nih.gov/about/publicaccess contains a complete description of the policy, guidelines for NIH-funded researchers, responses to the extended period of review in 2004, updates and news releases about the policy and a new section of questions and answers about the policy since its unveiling. The questions and answers document is updated frequently and contains useful information about how the policy will work for NIH-funded authors, how the policy will affect publishers who deal with NIH-funded papers and how the policy will affect the public's access to NIH-funded papers. One primary issue of concern is whether the policy violates copyright law. Two key questions and answers related to the copyright law are copied below:

Question: Can authors and journals continue to assert copyright in scientific publications resulting from NIH funding?
Answer: The Public Access Policy does not affect the ability to assert copyright. Funding recipients may continue to assert copyright in works arising from NIH-funded research, and they may assign these copyrights to journals as is the current practice. Copyright holders may enforce these copyrights as before. A member of the public viewing or downloading a copyrighted document from PubMed Central (PMC) is subject to the same rights and restrictions as when copying an article from the library. For example, making a copy of an article for personal use is generally considered to be a "fair use" under copyright law. For uses that fall outside of the fair use principle, permission to reproduce copyrighted materials must be obtained directly from the copyright holders. PMC currently includes a copyright notice alerting the public to the rights of copyright holders and will continue to post this notice as it has done in the past.

Question: Can NIH provide language that could be used in a copyright agreement between an author or institution and a publisher?
Answer: The Policy encourages authors to exercise their right to give NIH a copy of their final manuscript. While individual copyright arrangements can take many forms, NIH encourages investigators to sign agreements that specifically allow the manuscript to be deposited with NIH for public posting on PubMed Central as soon as possible after journal publication. Institutions and investigators may wish to develop particular contract terms in consultation with their own legal counsel, as appropriate. But, as an example, the kind of language that an author or institution might add to a copyright agreement includes the following:
"Journal acknowledges that Author retains the right to provide a copy of the final manuscript to NIH upon acceptance for Journal publication or thereafter, for public archiving in PubMed Central as soon as possible after publication by Journal."

The Public Access Policy essentially places the responsibility of copyright agreements for papers posted on PubMed Central, on the authors and the publishers. The Public Access Policy is only for NIH-funded research, however, it may affect the publication and dissemination of research in the broader scientific community. Authors and publishers would generally prefer to treat all papers using a standard publication process and a standard set of copyright or licensing agreements, however, NIH's policy may require different processes and agreements for NIH-funded papers. For dissemination, data managers and data users would generally prefer to use digital libraries that contain all of the published research in their fields rather than have the data disseminated based on funding priorities, as the Public Access Policy now requests for NIH-funded work.

For a special update on the Public Access Policy, see AGI's website at:
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/update_voluntarynih.html

The implementation of copyright and license agreements in scientific publications has been evolving for more than a decade with the growth of online publications, searchable databases of journals, searchable databases of data and open access databases, such as the Public Library of Science in the life sciences and arXiv.org e-Print archive in the physical sciences. With the growth of venues for publication and dissemination of scientific data has come a growth in the types of copyright and licensing agreements. One relatively new non-profit organization, called Science Commons, is providing a range of copyright agreements for scientists to use and exploring the legal requirements imposed on different types of scientific data. Science Commons was launched in 2005 and is an offshoot of Creative Commons. The objective of Science Commons is "to encourage scientific innovation by making it easier for scientists, universities, and industries to use literature, data, and other scientific intellectual property and to share their knowledge with others. Science Commons works within current copyright and patent law to promote legal and technical mechanisms that remove barriers to sharing." Science Commons provides free tools for authors to develop their own copyright agreements and they are exploring ways to make it easier for scientists and universities, for example, to retain some legal rights to data while sharing the data with the broadest community. Their website, http://science.creativecommons.org, provides more background on the legal requirements of ownership, publication and dissemination of scientific data, where data encompasses everything from published papers to unpublished tables of measurements.

Deadlock on Clear Skies Bill

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings about the Clear Skies bill (S.131) on January 26th and February 2nd with the goal of trying to pass the bill out of committee by early March before the EPA has to complete their rulemaking on mercury emissions. Debate continued over the deadline for achieving emission caps on nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury, the disabling of tools used by states to control local and transported emissions, and the feasibility of adding carbon dioxide regulations. Environmentalists testified that alternative bills introduced by Senator Carper and Senator Jeffords, respectively, would reduce emission levels sooner and by greater amounts than S.131. White House senior environmental and natural resources advisor James Connaughton, a witness in the second hearing, insisted that Clear Skies would "create the future for clean coal technology," by positioning emissions caps so that utilities would be discouraged from switching from coal to natural gas.

A manager's amendment to S.131, proposed by Senators Inhofe, George Voinovich (R-OH) and Kit Bond (R-MO), is being considered in ongoing negotiations with committee members to try to get the bill approved by the committee. The amendment moves up the deadline for reaching Phase II emission caps from 2018 to 2016, establishes an EPA office to address mercury hotspots, proposes $650 billion in incentives for clean coal technology, and includes language addressing carbon dioxide and global warming. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-NM) postponed a mark-up of the Clear Skies Bill (S.131) twice, because he was unable to convince either Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) or Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) to vote for the bill with the manager's amendment, and break the 9-9 tie. Visit our Clear Skies Hearings webpage for an update on the status of the mark-up as the committee works to break the deadlock.

Summaries of the hearings can be found on AGI's website at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/cleanair_hearings.html

Mercury Emissions: A Tale of Two Government Reports

On February 3rd, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General issued a report calling into question the EPA rulemaking process concerning a mercury rule that would require a 34 ton annual limit based on a cap-and-trade program. The report concluded that the EPA failed to fairly consider the cost-effectiveness of alternative regulatory approaches and children's health concerns, suggesting that the rule was unduly influenced by Clear Skies politics and would violate the Clean Air Act. Rules for reducing mercury pollution must be finalized by the EPA by March 15th and abide by the Clean Air Act unless the Clear Skies Initiative is passed by Congress before that date.

Another report, released February 16th by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Jim Gibbons (R-NV), challenged the basis for concerns over mercury released from coal-fired power plants. The report builds a case for endorsing the phased cap-and-trade approach as proposed in the Clear Skies bill. Based on a summary of federally and privately sponsored research, the report concludes that total U.S. mercury emissions are decreasing, U.S. power plants account for less than 1% of global mercury emissions, and no direct connection has been proven between U.S. power plant emissions and mercury accumulation in fish.

EPA Inspector General's Report
Pombo-Gibbons Report
More information about Mercury Policy can be found on AGI's website at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/mercury.html

Energy Policy Takes Shape in Congress

Committee leaders in both houses of Congress are determined to advance comprehensive energy legislation early in the 109th Congress. On February 9th, the House Science Committee held a hearing to consider options for strengthening Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. On February 10th, the Science Committee approved the research and development section of the energy bill (H.R. 610). Compared to last year's H.R. 6 conference report, the bill would add "some innovative new programs, particularly programs to demonstrate energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies," said Committee Chairman Boehlert (R-NY). Meanwhile, in efforts to improve bipartisanship, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) held two hearings to consider some of the more contentious issues in the bill before a mark-up, including the authority of the Federal Energy Regulator Commission over local new infrastructure developments, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and liability protection for producers of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive and groundwater contaminant.

On February 3rd, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee discussed how global trends in energy production and consumption might affect U.S. energy needs. The hearing featured testimony from the Energy Information Administration on its recently released Annual Energy Outlook 2005. The committee held a hearing on liquefied natural gas concerns on February 15th and plans to hold another hearing on coal on March 10th.

Summaries of the hearings can be found on AGI's website at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy_hearings.html
An energy policy overview can be found on AGI's website at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy.html

Liquified Natural Gas Spotlighted in Energy Debate

On February 15th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss the siting and safety of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. The hearing was a follow-up to a half-day natural gas conference that the Committee held in January. Witnesses from FERC, the Coast Guard, state authorities, and industry stakeholders offered testimony on the regulatory process for LNG terminals and infrastructure, risk assessment, and the involvement of state and local governments.

Summaries of the hearings can be found on AGI's website at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/naturalgas_hearings.html
Energy Information Administration report on LNG: http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/feature_articles/2003/lng/lng2003.pdf

Congress Solicits Ideas for Solving Water and Natural Gas Shortages

On February 22nd Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) and Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) issued a broad call for proposals to address the challenge of meeting the nation's ever increasing demand for water. On April 5th a half-day conference on water will be held on Capitol Hill. Senators Domenici and Bingaman invited industry, government, public interest groups, academia and private citizens to submit written proposal to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. The proposals should address one or all of six questions that frame the nation's most pressing water challenges.

The questions and guidelines for submitting proposals, can be found on the committee website at: http://energy.senate.gov/conference/waterconference.cfm.

A similar format was used for a conference to discuss the predicted shortage of natural gas in the United States. Details from that conference are available on AGI's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy_conference.html

On March 10th, the Committee plans to hear ideas about the future of coal. Additional information about that conference can be found online at http://energy.senate.gov/conference/coalconference.cfm

Kyoto Protocol Takes Effect in Some Countries

The Kyoto Protocol went into affect on February 16th and 33 developed nations are now working to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Some doubt whether the treaty will be effective because the United States, which is responsible for nearly 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions has not ratified the treaty. Officials from the European Union have conceded that they need the cooperation from the U.S., China and India, and that they will make efforts to work toward the Kyoto targets with individual countries through voluntary measures, bilateral agreements and commercial partnerships.

At a press conference before his trip to Europe on February 17th, President Bush declared that promoting cleaner technologies is the best way to approach climate change and should be the centerpiece of trans-Atlantic agreements over emission reductions. The Washington Post reported on February 16th that James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, asserted that "Bush's proposals for voluntary emission controls and incentives to develop clean technologies would have as much impact on American emissions as Europe would achieve under Kyoto."

Although the United States has not ratified the treaty, some state and local governments and some U.S.-based companies are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Almost 100 U.S. cities have set emissions reduction targets that would satisfy the Kyoto agreement, while California and northeastern states have partnered with Canadian provinces to follow the treaty. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels plans to introduce a resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in June to establish a coalition of 140 cities, who would adopt the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, to support the 140 countries that have ratified the treaty, and to encourage the United States to ratify the treaty. According to Environment and Energy Daily, mayors of ten cities, including Los Angeles and Minneapolis, have joined the coalition. U.S.-based companies are also beginning to institute greenhouse gas reduction policies to comply with European standards. The global nature of the market place may influence how companies around the world are affected by the initiation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Support for National Science Foundation Funding

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation publicized their latest report entitled "The Knowledge Economy: Is the United States Losing Its Competitive Edge?" at a press conference on February 16th in Washington, DC. The task force highlighted the declining health of science and technology in the United States and encouraged more funding for basic research and science education. The next day the task force presented their report along with the Council on Competitiveness' December report entitled "Innovate America" to the House Research and Development Caucus and discussed ways to implement policy to react to the findings of the two reports.

At the press conference on February 16th the task force warned that the United States may lose its leadership role in science and innovation. They urged Congress to consider increased funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and strongly supported the doubling of the NSF budget over 5 years as authorized by Congress in 2002. Without significant and immediate increases in federally-funded and peer-reviewed research, the U.S. will not be able to competitively develop innovations that support our economic strength and help ensure our national security. In addition, without a robust publicly-supported system of science and math education we will have a shortage of qualified, technically trained scientists and engineers to work in high-tech companies, universities and research institutions.

The task force is a coalition of high-tech industries, scientific societies, and higher education associations. The task force identified 6 benchmarks to assess how well the U.S. is doing relative to the rest of the world in science and technology. The six benchmarks are education, science and engineering workforce, scientific knowledge, investment, high-tech economic output and specific high-tech sectors.

The education benchmark showed that fewer U.S. students are interested in science and engineering and they are not seeking advanced degrees in science or engineering fields. The United States awarded 5.7 degrees in science and engineering per 100 students while some European and Asian countries awarded between 8 to 13 degrees per 100 students in 2000. In the same year, about 89,000 of the 114,000 science and engineering doctoral degrees were earned outside of the United States. This decline, according to the task force, starts at the elementary and secondary school level, where U.S. students lose interest in science and engineering and they gradually do worse on international tests of scientific knowledge as they get older.

As the number of U.S. citizens earning degrees in science and engineering has declined, the number of science and engineering positions in the workforce has increased, according to the workforce benchmark compiled by the task force. In addition, more than 50% of scientists and engineers working in the U.S. are over 40 years old. These trends indicate that there will be a significant shortage of qualified workers in the future.

The task force estimated the strength of the scientific knowledge benchmark through published papers and U.S. patents. The U.S. published 38% of all scientific papers in 1988 and only 31% in 2001. Western Europe and Asia are publishing more papers at an increasing rate while the U.S. rate has remained nearly flat from 1988 to 2001. The U.S. share of citations has also declined from 52% in 1992 to 44% in 2001. The U.S. still leads in patent applications to the U.S. patent office, however, Asian countries such as China, India, South Korea and Taiwan, have significantly increased their rate of patent applications in the U.S..

The research and development investment benchmarks showed that federal funding for basic research in engineering and the physical sciences has experienced little to no growth since 1970 and as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP), funding for the physical sciences has declined. Beginning in the 1980s, private funding for R&D exceeded federal funding for R&D and private R&D today accounts for 68% of all domestic R&D, with 71% of that private R&D spent on development. Since 1995, many countries in Asia and Europe have increased their R&D spending relative to their GDPs.

Among some high-tech economy benchmarks the task force noted that the U.S. share of high-tech exports fell from 31% in 1980 to 18% in 2001, while the global share for China, South Korea and other Asian countries increased. The U.S. trade surplus for high-tech products has dropped and since 2001 the U.S. has been in a high-tech products trade deficit.

The high-tech sectors that the task force pointed out as areas of declining competitiveness and innovation for the U.S. included nanotechnology, information technology, energy, particularly fusion research and nuclear power plants, aerospace and biotechnology.

The Council on Competitiveness National Innovation Initiative (NII) issued a report in December 2004 entitled "Innovate America", which offered policy recommendations to strengthen education and training, national investment, and other infrastructure. They suggested revitalizing frontier and multidisciplinary research, energizing the entrepreneurial economy and reinforcing risk-taking and long-term investment. Specific recommendations included directing 20% of the Department of Defense R&D budget to basic research, significantly increasing the research budgets of all agencies that support basic research in the physical sciences and engineering, and to double the NSF budget over 5 years as authorized by Congress in 2002.

On February 17th, the House Research and Development Caucus chaired by Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Rush Holt (D-NJ) held a briefing to consider the President's FY 2006 budget request for R&D programs relative to the two reports. Chad Evans, Vice President of the NII, presented the council's report, while Marvin Cohen, President of the American Physical Society, and Diana Hicks, Professor and Chair of the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, presented the task force's report.

The proposed R&D portfolio in FY 2006 is $1.323 billion, which would represent a decline in real terms for the first time since 1996 according to an analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The National Science Foundation (NSF) would increase by 2.4% over FY 2005, but most of the funds would go for infrastructure and R&D facilities, and the average amount of an NSF grant would fall for the second year in a row. All non-defense, non-homeland security R&D funding would be trimmed. R&D funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) would see a 3.8% cut; the U.S. Geological Survey, would be trimmed by 4.6%; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be reduced by 11.2%; the Environmental Protection Agency would be slightly reduced by 0.5%; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be cut by 15.6%.

Doug Comer, Director of Legal Affairs and Technology Policy at Intel Corporation and a task force member who also attended the caucus briefing, declared that the budget request represented "short-changing for short-term benefits" referring to the neglect of basic research as more publicly funded research goes toward application and development. Marvin Cohen suggested that, at the core of the problem, basic research must be seen as investment not spending. Strategies that were suggested for attracting more congressional attention to basic research needs included encouraging action by industry and local constituents.

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation's report entitled "The Knowledge Economy: Is the United States Losing Its Competitive Edge?" is available at: http://www.futureofinnovation.org/

The Council on Competitiveness' report entitled "Innovate America" is available at: http://www.compete.org/

Report Says Government Has Shortened Visa Processing Time

At the third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels on February 16, 2005, 60 nations agreed to expand and integrate their own Earth observing capabilities into a single, global data-sharing network and all-hazards warning system. This Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) was also endorsed by 40 international organizations at the summit.

The United States Congress' General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in February showing that the federal government has reduced the time required to process Visa Mantis applications for students, scientists and other professionals. In a 2004 report, the GAO found that the average processing time was 67 days. According to the latest evaluation, the federal agencies charged with processing these visa documents have initiated actions that have reduced the average processing time to 15 days. These results should be good news for those in the scientific and higher education communities that have warned that the government's process was becoming so uncertain, so time-consuming and so delayed that it was becoming a disincentive for foreign scholars interested in traveling to the United States. The findings were applauded by House Science Committee Chairman, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who requested the report and has previously held Science Committee hearings to determine how the review process could be improved.

The report can be found online at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05198.pdf.

In other news, this month the State Department extended the time foreign students and scientists coming to the United States can remain before renewing security clearances. The security clearance program, known as Visas Mantis, was established in 1998 to prevent scientists from illegally transferring technology out of the country. After the September 11 attacks, the caseload increased and the process became more time-consuming. Several of those who carried out the September 11 hijackings had been issued student visas.

The clearance is required for foreigners working in areas that the government deems "sensitive." Fields like chemistry, engineering and pharmacology can be in that category. The change will lengthen the validity of the clearance to up to four years for students and two years for working scientists, making it easier to remain in the United States for the duration of work or study programs. Until now, they had to reapply for clearance each year.

"This change sends a clear message that the U.S. highly encourages those with great scientific minds to explore studying and working in our country," Asa Hutchinson, under secretary for border and transportation security in the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement.

More information is available on the State Department website at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2005/42212.htm.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) commented on the necessity for student visas to be processed in a timely manner in order to have the "vital tradition" of foreign scholars studying in the U.S. in his editorial for the February 18, 2005 edition of Science Magazine. If you are a member of AAAS, you can read the entire editorial by logging onto http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/307/5712/1013.

Scientific Integrity Legislation Introduced in House

In response to a chorus of concerns about the politicization of science in the executive branch, fueled recently by claims from Food and Drug Administration scientists, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee, has introduced the "Restore Scientific Integrity to Federal Research and Policymaking Act" (H.R. 839). The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), the ranking member of the House Science Committee.

In recent years a number of scientists have argued that a tacit promise from the federal government to support their research in return for working toward the public good has been compromised by the Bush administration. In a recent speech to the National Association of Science Writers, Rep. Waxman argued that "it is time for Congress to intercede to protect the scientific integrity of the federal agencies." According to supporters, H.R. 839 would ensure that federal scientists can carry out their responsibilities free from political interference. The bill would prohibit (1) tampering with the conduct of federal research, (2) censoring federal scientists, (3) disseminating false scientific information, and (4) a litmus test based on political affiliation for scientific advisory committees.

H.R. 839 has been referred to the House Committee on Science and the House Committee on Government Reform for their evaluations.

Evolution Roundup

Maryland

On February 14th, the school board in Cecil County, Maryland unanimously approved the 10th grade textbook "Biology: The Dynamics of Life," a McGraw-Hill Cos. standard text that treats evolution as the prevailing theory about life's origins. The decision was made despite the reservations of one board member, William W. Herold, who said that the text book did not adequately mention the controversy about evolution. According to a local news channel, certain members of the board agreed to approve the textbook if school administrators agreed to discuss with the state board of education a change to the science curriculum that would allow students to be exposed to alternatives to evolution. They also suggested materials be available for those students who want to learn about conflicts in Darwin's theories. School Superintendent Carl D. Roberts, who recommended the text, said that the science curriculum must remain guided by "state academic standards and consensus views of leading scientific organizations," according to a February 15, 2005 article in the Washington Post. "We are teachers. We are educators. We are not scientists. And we are not equipped to make those decisions," he said.

Kansas

On February 9th, the Kansas Board of Education voted 6-4 to establish a three-member subcommittee to reconsider the place of evolution in the state's education standards, which are undergoing revision by a 26-member panel of science educators chosen last year. The current draft, submitted at the end of February, outlines what students should know at what level, and promotes the teaching of evolution as an important concept students should learn. It does not incorporate changes advocating the inclusion of intelligent design, which were proposed in a "minority report" by a group of eight committee members. Conservative members of the Board voted to form the new subcommittee "to investigate the merits of the two opposing views," in an attempt to correct for the exclusion of the minority viewpoint. In response to this move and recent challenges by the eight dissidents, the board held a public comment period through February 28, 2005 on both the Science Curriculum Standards Draft and the minority report. Information about the draft and minority report is available at http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/sciencestd.html

Moderate members of the Board contend that the new panel intends to undermine the original revision process, but Chairman of the Committee Steve Abrams insists the panel is needed, "not to circumvent the panel of educators, but to augment their review of science." But according to Steve Case, who leads the 26-member review committee, the creation of another hearing process could delay final approval of the standards. Case also denied accusations that pro-creationist minority views were stifled. "We want to hear all voices, but it's just the overwhelming numbers on this particular issue," Case said.

Also on February 9th, State Attorney General Phill Kline announced during private meetings with the six conservative majority members of the Board of Education that he would defend the use of textbook stickers that say evolution is a theory, not a fact. Kline held two meetings, each attended by three members. Sue Gamble, a moderate member, said the meetings violated, in spirit, the state's open-meetings law, which requires meetings of six or more board members be open to the public. Kline denied any violation, saying that discussions that took place are not being kept secret. But the topic has already grabbed the attention of the press, particularly following last month's ruling in Georgia that such stickers are unconstitutional. One op-ed contributed to the Kansas City Star cautioned that "sticky notes that challenge evolution as not factually based will invite a lawsuit, as they did in Georgia. That would cost the cash-strapped state money to mount a defense."

On February 15th, Representative Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) of the Kansas House of Representatives introduced Resolution 6018, a non-binding resolution including similar language to seven other bills modeled after the Santorum language added to the report which accompanied the No Child Left Behind Act by Intelligent Design proponent Phillip Johnson. This language is and was nonbinding. It suggests that schools "(a) prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science and (b), where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), provide curriculum that will help students understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society."

For additional information, log onto the Kansas Concerned Citizens for Science website at http://www.kcfs.org/.

Arkansas

In a press release issued on February 10, 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that the Beebe School District in Beebe, Arkansas, agreed to remove warning labels from its science textbooks which describe evolution as "a controversial theory" and refer to an "intelligent designer" as a possible explanation of the origin of life. An attorney for the school district told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on February 11, 2005 that "it was his understanding that the stickers had been placed in the textbooks as long ago as the early to mid-1990s." The school district's decision was prompted by a letter from the ACLU of Arkansas citing the recent decision in Selman v. Cobb County School District, which held that similar stickers used in Cobb County, Georgia, violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. "We commend the Beebe School District for avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation in this matter," said Rita Sklar, the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, adding, "However, we are concerned that these stickers may be present in textbooks around the state," and offering her organization's legal guidance to the Arkansas Department of Education. The stickers will be removed at the end of the school year.

Alabama

The Academic Freedom Act was reintroduced in the Alabama state legislature as House Bill 352 and Senate Bill 240. The two identical bills retain the language of its predecessors, to protect the right of teachers "to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories" and the right of students to "hold positions regarding scientific views," in the context of subjects concerning "biological and chemical origins." SB 240 was referred to the Senate Committee on Constitution, Campaign Financial, Ethics, and Elections, while HB 352 was referred to the House Committee on Education.

South Carolina

In early February, a subcommittee of the South Carolina Senate Education Committee rejected the clause in S114 that would have established a "South Carolina Standards Committee" to assess the place of evolution alternatives in public schools. A biology teacher who stood before the subcommittee testified that "there is no alternative to evolution that is science."

In other news, Dr. John Marburger, President Bush's chief science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has once again clearly and publicly denounced the concept of intelligent design. As reported in a recent issue of The American Prospect, Dr. Marburger made the statement in response to audience questions following an address at the National Association of Science Writers meeting. Dr. Marburger has previously defended the scientific merits of evolution. In 2004 during an online discussion with readers of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Marburger noted that evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology.

Congressional Visits Days are May 10-11

The 10th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) is scheduled for May 10-11, 2005. The CVD is a two-day annual event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. CVD is an important opportunity to make science issues and science funding a priority for the 109th Congress. More information about CVD is available at www.setcvd.org. The site contains a downloadable packet of briefing materials updated to demonstrate the need for sustained federal investment in scientific research.

AGI/AAPG Summer Internship Applications Welcomed

AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students and recent graduates with a strong interest in federal science policy for a twelve-week geoscience and public policy internship in summer 2005. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone their writing and web-publishing skills. Stipends for the summer interns are made possible through the generous support of the AIPG Foundation. Applications must be postmarked by March 15, 2005. For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/interns/internsu.html.

Key Federal Register Notices

Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont05.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

NSF-NASA: The National Science Foundation is hosting a NSF-NASA Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting, open to the public. The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice and recommendations to NSF and NASA on issues within the field of astronomy and astrophysics that are of mutual interest to both agencies. Representatives from NSF, NASA and other agencies will give presentations of current programming and discuss current and potential areas of cooperation between the agencies. The meeting will take place on February 15-16, 2005, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the National Science Foundation, Room 1235, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA, 22230. Contact Dr. G. Wayne Van Citters at 703-292-4908. [Federal Register: January 7, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 5)]

NWTRB: U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board will meet on February 9, 2005 from 8:30 to 5:30 in Las Vegas, Nevada to discuss technical and scientific issues related to the U.S. Department of Energy's efforts to develop a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Another meeting the following day from 10 to 4:30 in Caliente, NV, will be held discuss DOE plans for transporting spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to the proposed repository. Final meeting agendas will be available approximately one week before the meeting dates. They can be obtained from the Board's Web site at http://www.nwtrb.gov or by telephone request. The meetings will be open to the public, and opportunities for public comment will be provided at each session's end. Wednesday's meeting will be held at the Alexis Park Hotel; 375 Harmon Avenue; Thursday's meeting will be held at the Caliente Youth Center; Highway 93, North 4. For more information, contact Karyn Severson, NWTRB External Affairs: 703-235-4473 [Federal Register: January 12, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 8)]

MMS: The Minerals Management Service intends to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) for proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas Lease Sale in the Western Gulf of Mexico (GOM), scheduled for August 2005. Interested parties are requested to send comments regarding any new information or issues that should be addressed in the EA 1. Comments may be submitted within 30 days of this Notice's publication using MMS's new Public Connect on-line commenting system at http://ocsconnect.mms.gov. or sent to the MMS e-mail address: environment@mms.gov. Contact Mr. Dennis Chew, Minerals Management at (504) 736-2793 for more information. [Federal Register: January 19, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 12)]

BLM: In a letter published in the Federal Register, The Bureau of Land Management rejected the Governor of New Mexico's appeal regarding plans to authorize new oil and natural gas leasing and development in Sierra and Otero Counties, New Mexico. [Federal Register: January 25, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 15)]

New Material on Web Site

The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org/gap since the last monthly update:

Action Alert: Congressional Visits Days are May 10-11, 2005 (2-25-05)
Hearings on Natural Gas Issues (2-24-05)
Natural Gas Policy (2-24-05)
Mercury Policy (2-24-05)
Political Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution (2-23-05)
Fiscal Year 2006 Appropriations Hearings (2-23-05)
Hearings on Clean Air Issues (2-23-05)
Energy Policy Hearings (2-17-05)
Mining Policy (2-14-05)
Outer Continental Shelf Policy (2-14-05)
Climate Change Policy Overview (2-10-05)
Energy Policy Overview (2-11-05)
Hearings on Asbestos Litigation (2-7-05)
Hearings on Tsunami Response and Warning Systems (2-7-05)
Special Update: Voluntary Public Access at NIH
Confirmation of Samuel Bodman, Sec. of Energy Nominee (2-2-05)
Law of the Sea (2-2-05)
National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska (2-2-05)

Monthly review prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program, Linda Rowan, AGI Director of Government Affairs and Katie Ackerly, AGI/AAPG 2005 Spring Semester Intern.

Sources: National Institutes of Health website on Public Access, Science Commons website, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Washington Post, Department of Homeland Security website, State Department website, General Accountability Office, U.S. House of Representatives, Union of Concerned Scientists, AAAS, THOMAS legislative database, The American Prospect, American Civil Liberties Union, Alabama State legislature, South Carolina legislature, the Kansas State Department of Education, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the House Appropriations Committee website, Senate Appropriations Committee website, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, EPA Inspector General's Report, Pombo-Gibbons Report, the Energy Information Administration, House Research and Development Caucus briefing, The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, The Council on Competitiveness and the Federal Register.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted March 8, 2005.

 

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