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Monthly Review: February 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. Ask Your Representative to Support NSF
2. Impacts of FY08 Omnibus on Basic Research
3. House Passes Higher Education Bill
4. House Passes Oceans Research Bill
5. Congress May Try to Clean-up Definition of Water
6. House Science Committee Examines Funding for the America COMPETES Act
7. USGS Releases Minerals Commodities Report
8. Killeen Will Direct Geosciences at NSF
9. NASA Signs Space Agreement with India
10. Privatization of Space: Lunar Race Only a Robot Can Win
11. Militarization of Space: Spy Satellite Shot Down by U.S. Navy
12. Industry-University Coalition Asks for Science Funding
13. Report Card on Ocean Policy
14. Georgia Wants Piece of Tennessee River
15. AGU Policy Statements Released
16. Geoscience Societies Conduct Survey on Geoscience School Accreditation
17. Americans Get Outdoors Less
18. Harvard Opens Access to Faculty Publications
19. Teaching Evolution in Florida and Texas
20. Congressional Visits in September
21. Apply for AGI Government Affairs Internships
22. Key Federal Register Notices
23. Web Updates

1. Ask Your Representative to Support NSF

Congressmen Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Bob Inglis (R-SC) and Brian Baird (D-WA) are circulating a Dear Colleague Letter to other members of the House, which asks them to support NSF. Specifically the letter asks members to request a budget of $7.326 billion for NSF in the fiscal year 2009 appropriations. The total budget number would be a critical increase for the foundation and is the level authorized for fiscal year 2009 in the America COMPETES Act, which was signed into law in 2007.

Please contact your representative before March 12th and ask them to sign the Ehlers-Holt-Inglis-Baird Dear Colleague Letter for NSF. If you need help contacting your representative please send an email to AGI’s Government Affairs staff at govt@agiweb.org.

2. Impacts of FY08 Omnibus on Basic Research

On February 4, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a document outlining the President’s funding requests in fiscal year (FY) 2009 for the American Competitive Initiative (ACI).  Included in the document are the estimated impacts of the FY08 Omnibus on the President’s ACI requests for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Energy Department’s Office of Science and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). While the President’s FY08 budget request and the initial appropriations bills passed by Congress in 2007 fully supported significant increases for NSF, Office of Science and NIST based on the ACI and the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69), regrettably the increases were cut at the last minute from the massive omnibus. 

According to DOE, the level of funding in the FY08 omnibus bill was 91% or $548 million less than the increase requested in the President’s ACI, which will result in the lay off of 525 Ph.D.s, graduate students, engineering, technical and other staff across the national laboratories.  About 520 Ph.D.’s and 240 graduate students will not be hired at the national labs or supported at universities due to the lower funding levels.  The FY08 omnibus eliminates funding proposed for 700 peer-reviewed energy research grants related to a secure energy future, hydrogen storage, solar energy, superconductivity, and advanced nuclear energy systems. It zeroes out the U.S. contribution to ITER, the largest and highest visibility international collaboration in science. ITER is considered an essential step toward practical carbon-free power generation from nuclear fusion and a major long-term solution to climate change. Current FY08 funding will reduce operations to 80 percent of maximum available hours at all light and neutron facilities and nanoscale science research centers, a set of national user facilities critical to discoveries in energy, nanotechnology, biotechnology, health, materials science and the geosciences.

According to NSF, many programs across the agency, including much of its core research, will have to be scaled back.  NSF received $364 million less in the omnibus legislation than its request. The major reductions are from the Research & Related Activities account (down $327 million from the request) and Education and Human Resources (down $25 million).

About 1,000 fewer research grants will be awarded.  Specific examples include: Geosciences participation in the interagency Ocean Research Priorities Plan is reduced by $12 million (to a total of $5 million for this year), Computer & Information Science & Engineering must reduce research support across all computing fields by more than $21 million, resulting in about 50 fewer transformative research grants awarded, the Major Research Instrumentation program is reduced by more than $20 million, and the number of Graduate Research Fellowships will decline by about 230 awards.

According to NIST the FY08 omnibus provides 70% or $72 million less than the President’s ACI request, which will result in the loss of 300 new scientist and engineer positions at NIST.  The FY08 omnibus cuts proposed funding for quantum computing research, inhibits improvement of the accuracy of climate change measurements, which could lead to savings in satellite programs and assist in evaluation of policy options, and denies proposed increases for development of improved building standards, codes, and hazard and forecasting metrics for our national infrastructure to proactively reduce disaster-imposed losses.

Budget analysts believe the President’s FY09 budget request may result in a similar situation for basic research this year. The President’s requests for NSF, Office of Science and NIST includes significant increases and Congress may support such increases, however, these gains may be lost in the final hours of tough negotiations in tight budgetary times.

According to Kei Koizumi, the director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the President's FY09 budget request is "setting up the same situation that's happened in the past two years."

"It's going to be a big challenge, because overall the President once again is requesting a flat, if not declining, total domestic budget, and that is the bottom line under which all of these ACI-related R&D proposals have to fit," Koizumi said. "So once again ... these are enormous requested increases for the Office of Science and NSF and NIST at the same time as many domestic programs would be cut dramatically or eliminated.”

3. House Passes Higher Education Bill

On February 7, 2008 the House passed the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 (H.R. 4137) with little acrimony and only a few amendments. The measure is essentially a re-authorization of the Higher Education Act with some significant perks for science and engineering.  Many of the amendments dealt with the cost of tuition and operating expenses of institutions. Amendments to monitor the effect and cost of regulation on institutions, require institutions to set benchmarks on tuition, require reports on how endowments are used to reduce costs and require institutions to provide non-binding estimates of tuition costs were adopted.

The major enhancements in the bill would provide more support for students majoring in science or engineering disciplines, for students training to be K-12 teachers to receive more education in science and engineering and for additional science and engineering training for teachers who are already in the classrooms. This support would come from more scholarships, more fellowships and more partnerships between science and engineering schools at universities and K-12 teacher training programs. Additional support is specified for minorities and women who are majoring in fields where these groups are underrepresented.

These measures are important for the geoscience community because they provide more support for geoscience students, more opportunities for minorities in the geosciences, more geoscience training for education students and more opportunities to provide current K-12 teachers with a better background in the geosciences.

Another key component to note is that the committee defined the geosciences as a physical science in the House report for this bill (Report 110-500). Under the Byrd Scholarship section, the committee indicated that the scholarships should go to students majoring in the physical, life and computer sciences. It then defined the physical sciences as “the branch of knowledge or study of the material universe, including such fields of knowledge or study as astronomy, atmospheric sciences, chemistry, earth sciences, ocean sciences, physics, and planetary sciences.”

This is an important and useful distinction because the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative calls for a doubling of federal funding for research in the physical sciences, but does not include any of the geosciences or space sciences in their interpretation of physical sciences. The American Geological Institute and many geoscience societies as well as members of the geoscience community have been advocating for a doubling of federal funding for the geosciences as part of any competitiveness initiative. Geoscience research is essential for competitiveness, economic growth, energy resources, water resources, climate change, hazard mitigation, risk assessment, environmental and ecosystem health, effective land use, agriculture, mineral resources and many other critical issues of national importance.

4. House Passes Oceans Research Bill

On February 14, 2008, by a vote of 352-49, the House of Representatives passed the National Ocean Exploration Act (H.R. 1834), which would officially establish the ocean research and exploration programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The legislation authorizes a total of $486 million for the Ocean Exploration Program and $265 million for the Undersea Research Program over seven years. Congressman Jim Saxton (R-NJ), the legislation’s sponsor said, "These two programs are core to the mission of NOAA. The bill opens the door to discovering new marine organisms that might yield therapeutic benefits, as well as exploring shipwrecks and submerged sites. The oceans hold many secrets about the past, present, and future."

The Senate has a similar bill pending in a committee entitled "Ocean and Coastal Exploration and NOAA Act (OCEAN Act)" (S.39), which is a combination of H.R. 1834 and H.R. 2400, the Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act. H.R. 2400 passed the House in July, 2007 and is waiting for action in the Senate.

The full text of the bill is available from Thomas at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.01834:

5. Congress May Try to Clean-up Definition of Water

The House and the Senate have introduced similar bills that would replace the term "navigable waters," throughout the Clean Water Act, with the term "waters of the United States," defined to mean “all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds, and all impoundments of the foregoing, to the fullest extent that these waters, or activities affecting them, are subject to the legislative power of Congress under the Constitution”.

The House bill was introduced in May 2007 and a hearing was held on July 19, 2007, but since then no action has been taken. The Senate bill, which is the same as the House bill was introduced on July 25, 2007 and no additional action has been taken. On December 13, 2007, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to discuss the effect of recent Supreme Court decisions on wetland protections in the Clean Water Act and how the court chose to deal with the meaning of “navigable waters” versus “waters of the United States”. Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) described the hearing as the “opening round” of discussions on the court decisions and the legislation.

Proponents of the bills favor including all waters under the Clean Water Act, not just waters that you could float a boat in. Opponents counter that attempting to protect all waters would be impossible. Senator Boxer promised more discussions in 2008 and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) said he would insist on more hearings before the Senate bill could be brought to the floor for a vote. Stay tuned as the statutory definition of waters that are protected by the Clean Water Act is likely to be a hot topic this spring.

The full text of the bill is available from Thomas at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.1870:

6. House Science Committee Examines Funding for the America COMPETES Act

On February 14, 2008 the House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing to examine the level of funding in the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget request for the programs authorized in the America COMPETES Act (COMPETES, P.L 110-69). Dr. John H. Marburger, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and science advisor to the President was called upon to testify.

Congress and the Administration worked cooperatively to strengthen American competitiveness and innovation in the physical sciences and engineering last year, with the passage of the legislation, however, according to Dr. Marburger, "prioritizing within the constraints of budget realities necessarily means that some of the programs and activities authorized in America COMPETES could not be requested in this Budget."

The President's proposed FY09 budget calls for increases in basic research that are 3% above FY08 enacted levels. While committee members were pleased with the proposed funding levels for basic research, they were disappointed with the levels proposed for science and math education programs as well as specific programs targeted at innovation within the manufacturing and energy sciences industries.

The House also grilled Marburger about when the Administration would complete a document on government-wide rules to ensure that federal scientists are free to disseminate their research results without "suppression or distortion." Marburger said that a draft document would be circulated to the agencies soon and there would be no opportunity for public comment. The policy was supposed to be ready by February 9, so the Administration is late in completing the congressionally mandated document.

Go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis110/science_edu_hearings.html#feb14 for more

7. USGS Releases Minerals Commodities Report

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) which is the nation’s sole provider of objective and comprehensive mineral commodities information released its “Mineral Commodity Summaries 2008”. The domestic value of raw nonfuel minerals climbed to $68 billion in 2007, a 2.9 percent increase over the industry’s value in 2006. The domestic value of processed nonfuel mineral materials is estimated to be about $575 billion in 2007. This 1.4 percent increase over total mineral value in 2006 comes as production of many minerals has decreased even as their raw value and demand has sky-rocketed. More information about events, trends, and issues in the domestic and international mineral industries during 2007 is available in the report.

The "Mineral Commodity Summaries 2008" is available on the USGS Web at: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/mcs/

8. Killeen Will Direct Geosciences at NSF

On February 26, 2008, NSF announced the appointment of Timothy Killeen as Assistant Director for the Geosciences. Killeen is currently the director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and president of the American Geophysical Union. He will assume his new post on July 1, 2008.

Killeen has served as director of the NCAR since 2000. Before that, he was professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences. associate vice president for research, and director of the Space Physics Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan. He holds a doctorate in atomic and molecular physics and a Bachelor of Science with first-class honors from University College London. He has held leadership roles in the geosciences for many years, including chairing numerous national committees and advisory panels and he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. His research is in satellite measurements and modeling of the upper atmosphere.

In an NSF press release, Killeen remarked "This is a critically important time for the geosciences and I'm excited and pleased to become a part of the NSF leadership team as we move ahead in analyzing and solving problems of global importance."

9. NASA Signs Space Agreement with India

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organization outlining the terms of cooperation for future space exploration.  The agencies will develop programs in Earth science, exploration and human space flights when common interests and goals overlap; the agreement replaces and expands an agreement signed in 1997, which encouraged collaboration in Earth and atmospheric science.  NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said, “this agreement will allow us to cooperate effectively on a wide range of programs of mutual interest. India has extensive space-related experience, capabilities and infrastructure, and will continue to be a welcome partner in NASA's future space exploration activities."

10. Privatization of Space: Lunar Race Only a Robot Can Win

The X PRIZE Foundation and Google Inc. announced the first ten teams that will compete for a maximum $30 million prize for the first private venture to put a robot on the Moon. A grand prize of $20 million will be awarded for meeting mission objectives that include roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to Earth. Bonuses will be awarded for such achievements as landing in an historic spot or discovering lunar ice, while the grand prize of $20 million will start to decrease if the mission is not accomplished by 2012.

One of the ten contestants is Astrobotic Technology Inc. that includes the University of Arizona, Carnegie Mellon University and Raytheon Missiles Systems. The new company will raise private capital to fund the mission and use students, staff and faculty at the universities to design the instruments and robotics. Geoscientists, like those from the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory will be among the leaders of some of these daring teams.

"This a whole new way of doing business. This is really the start of private exploration of the solar system," said Dante Lauretta of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who heads the University of Arizona part of the effort.

Indeed the privatization of space may be beginning with public and private universities taking a leading role in a new era of exploration and discovery. Time will tell if such models for space exploration can be effective in meeting mission objectives, enhancing research and discovery, developing public-private partnerships for the peaceful and transparent exploration of space, maintaining a safe and open space environment and avoiding conflicts among nations and commercial entities.

The X PRIZE Foundation has received 525 expressions of interest from more than 52 countries regarding the lunar prize and will be announcing additional teams for the competition. There is clearly broad interest and many groups that believe they have the capabilities to launch robotic missions to the Moon. More information is available at the foundation web site: http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/

11. Militarization of Space: Spy Satellite Shot Down by U.S. Navy

The USS Lake Erie, an Aegis-class cruiser of the U.S. Navy, shot down an ailing and flailing spy satellite on February 20, 2007 off the coast of Hawaii. The heat-seeking interceptor missile hit its target at about 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. military decided to shoot down the satellite because of potential hazards associated with the hydrazine fuel on board.

Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, questioned the reasons for the intercept saying “The geopolitical fallout of this intercept could be far greater than any chemical fallout that would have resulted from the wayward satellite. … The Bush administration’s decision to use a missile to destroy the satellite based on a questionable ‘safety’ justification poses a great danger of signaling an ‘open season’ for other nations to test weapons for use against our satellites. Russia and China are sure to view this intercept as proof that the United States is already pursuing an arms race in space, and that they need to catch up.”

China did express concern about the mission the next day and requested data about the remaining pieces of the satellite. The U.S. military promised to provide as much information as possible as soon as it is available. Russia announced that the mission was really a test of anti-satellite technology and did not believe the hazard was the real reason for the shoot-down.

China and the U.S. have tested satellite intercepts with missile launches in the past and there is concern that Russia will now seek to perform such tests also. The shoot-down once again raises concerns about the militarization of space. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans stockpiling of weapons in space and on the Moon, but does not say anything about shooting down satellites. One week before the shoot-down, a Russian-Chinese draft treaty to ban space weapons, that is anything that could destroy a satellite in orbit, was presented at a United Nations Conference on Disarmament. The U.S. objects to this treaty because it does not think it is necessary, it would limit access to space and there would be no way to verify what is or is not a space weapon.

12. Industry-University Coalition Asks for Science Funding

A coalition of a dozen leaders of universities and private industry asked members of Congress and the Executive branch for $300 million in additional funds for the Energy Department’s Office of Science and $200 million in added funds for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the fiscal year 2008 supplemental appropriations. The supplement would have been part of the economic stimulus package, which included tax rebates for many Americans. Other coalitions, scientific societies, academic institutions and private sector groups also supported additional funds in the supplement, but monies for research were not included in the stimulus package.

Another emergency supplemental is being considered for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is likely that stakeholders as well as some legislators will push for additional funds for NSF, Office of Science and NIST in the supplemental to achieve the funding levels authorized by the America COMPETES Act in 2007.

13. Report Card on Ocean Policy

On February 27, 2008, the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative released its third annual U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card. The report card assesses the nation’s progress in 2007 toward implementing the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission, as well as the actions described in the Administration’s U.S. Ocean Action Plan. The objective of the U.S. Ocean Policy Report Card is to inform policy makers and the public of the critical challenges facing our oceans, while identifying the many opportunities that are ripe for action. The report concludes that while state and regional initiatives continue to move forward on ocean governance reform, the lack of significant progress at the federal level to commit adequate funding and affect meaningful ocean policy reform hinders national improvement.

Overall the report gave U.S. ocean policy a C grade, which is a slight improvement over the C- grade it received in 2006. In the subcategory of international leadership, the policy moved from a D- to a C+ primarily because President Bush has endorsed ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the convention and a coalition of military, public and private enterprises have also endorsed ratification of the convention. AGI, AGU and a coalition of other scientific organizations have also offered letters of support for the ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention to Senate leadership.
There is hope that the Senate may ratify the treaty in 2008, but the issue is currently not on the Senate calendar.
More information and the full text of the report is available from the Joint Initiative web site at http://www.jointoceancommission.org/

14. Georgia Wants Piece of Tennessee River

The Georgia State House of Representatives passed a resolution to restore the state boundary with Tennessee to the 35th parallel, so Georgia can access a piece of the Tennessee river to help Georgians deal with the current severe drought in the state. In 1796, Congress created the state of Tennessee with a southern boundary at the 35th parallel, however, due to mistakes, the boundary was actually set about one mile south of the 35th parallel and coincidentally just south of a large bend in the mighty Tennessee River. Tennessee ratified this boundary in 1818; however, Georgia never did and tried to correct the mistake in the 1880s, the 1940s and the 1970s. The Georgia state constitution defines their northern boundary as the 35th parallel.

If the resolution passes both houses of the state legislature, then the Governor of Georgia would attempt to establish a boundary line commission with Tennessee and North Carolina. If this does not work, then Georgia can appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is currently deciding a similar dispute between South Carolina and North Carolina, which is based on water access wars between those states. These cases show how the southeastern droughts have led to desperate measures. These cases also highlight the need for a national census of U.S. water supply and quality and a national policy on water resources for the future. The President’s fiscal year 2009 budget request would initiate a national water census to be conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

15. AGU Policy Statements Released

Last month we highlighted the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) climate change policy statement, which calls for collaboration across academia, industry and government in developing mitigation strategies and adaptation responses, and emphasizes the important role of geoscientists in climate research.  AGU also released position statements on meeting the challenges of natural hazards, the importance of including biological evolution and the history of the Earth in science education, and in conjunction with the Seismological Society of America, a statement on the capability to monitor the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Go to http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/policy/sci_pol.html for the full policy statements.

16. Geoscience Societies Conduct Survey on Geoscience School Accreditation

A consortium of geoscience societies is conducting a survey of geoscientists about the level of interest in establishing some form of academic accreditation for undergraduate geoscience programs in the U.S. and what form that accreditation should take. Five models of accreditation are presented and the participant is asked to vote on these models. The survey request is accompanied by the following preamble that explains the motivation for the survey and interest in accreditation.

Survey Preamble:  At a time when the societal needs for geoscientists are at all-time highs, we generally remain dissatisfied with the public and political recognition and support for our science and profession.  Student enrollments have not kept pace with the demands for educated geoscientists, and some departments are threatened with closure or merger. Lack of adequate instruction in K-12 and lack of an Advanced Placement Exam in geology are commonly cited as reasons why entering college students steer away from geology as a major. Conversely, lack of a consistent university program and lack of a consistent name for departments are cited as reasons that even advanced high-school geology courses are not counted as science courses for university admissions. These problems are mirrored around the world; for example, last September, a national summit in Australia addressed the “plight” of geoscience departments—decreasing in numbers, shrinking in majors, and declining in faculty positions, all despite a national shortfall in the geoscience workforce. Among the challenges are attracting and retaining students, preparing students to become effective professionals, and gaining public and political recognition and support for our science and profession. Obviously, many approaches must be taken in parallel, but is one approach to offer a national standard for accreditation of departments who choose to participate? Last year, in a GSA survey of department chairs, 49% favored the concept of some form of accreditation. Following on that survey, a consortium of societies is conducting this survey of geoscientists in academia, industry, and agencies. This survey addresses not simply the concept but the general design of a program of academic accreditation.

17. Americans Get Outdoors Less

A recently published article by Drs. Oliver R. W. Pergams and Patricia A. Zaradic in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, indicate that per capita nature based recreation increased for 50 years and then peaked between 1981 and 1991. Unfortunately since that time, communing with nature has declined steadily by 18% to 25% since 1991. 

Pergams and Zaradic analyzed trends in visits to U.S. National parks, U.S. National forests, U.S. state parks, and surveys on camping and the number of licenses for hunting and fishing activities.  U.S. trends were compared to trends in Japan and Spain with similar declines suggesting Americans aren’t the only ones to get outdoors less now than in the past.  The results of Pergams and Zaradic show a 1% decline annually and suggest the main cause of the decline is an increased interest in the electronic world of video games, movies and other electronic entertainment rather than income or vacation time limitations.

This alarming trend indicates that the value of nature might be lost on children and some adults and according to Zaradic, "If we aren't out in nature, we aren't aware of our human footprint in nature."

18. Harvard Opens Access to Faculty Publications

On February 12, 2008, the arts and sciences faculty of Harvard University unanimously voted to authorize Harvard to place faculty manuscripts in an online repository that will be freely accessible to the public. The author would retain the copyright, but the university would gain license to release the work as submitted.  The license provides non-exclusive, irrevocable and worldwide permission to distribute the manuscripts, provided it is for non commercial uses. Authors who participate in the program can request a delay in the posting of materials on the public site. Authors who do not wish to participate can opt out of the system by getting a waiver from the dean.

19. Teaching Evolution in Florida and Texas

The Florida Board of Education approved the overhaul of their science education standards this month after the program had previously received a failing grade by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in part because Florida's standards did not include the teaching of evolution.  While the new standards were approved and now include the term evolution, a last minute modification requires the use of “scientific theory" and "law of" before evolution, gravity, atoms, and other terms. 

The modification passed by a vote of 4-3 and drew criticism from many including Board member Roberto Martinez, who voted against the measure and stated that the move was "an effort by people who are opposed to evolution, to water down our standards." The originally revamped science standards were written by a statewide group of scientists and educators, and vetted at five public hearings prior to the Board’s vote.

For more information on Florida’s K-12 science standards visit http://www.fldoe.org/news/2008/2008_02_19.asp 

The Institute for Creation Research located in Dallas, TX submitted a proposal for accreditation of a Masters of Science Education degree that does not include the teaching of modern geology, biology, or the scientific method.  Recipients of the degree however would be eligible to teach science in private or public schools.  A state advisory panel recommended that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which makes the final decision, approve the proposal.  The Board has received a large volume of public comment regarding the proposal and has postponed a final decision on accreditation until April. You can send comments to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) at http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/Comments/

20. Congressional Visits in September

Join us for the 1st Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (Geo-CVD) on September 9-10, 2008. This two-day event brings geoscientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for the geosciences. 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 geoscientists, and federal science agency representatives. Help us make the first Geo-CVD a success and convey the value of the geosciences to policymakers.

Geo-CVD will be coordinated by Washington DC staff from the AGI, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the American Geophysical Union, the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the Geological Society of America, the Seismological Society of America and the Soils Science Society of America.

Please contact AGI’s Government Affairs staff for more information and to volunteer to participate by sending an email to govt@agiweb.org

21. Apply for AGI Government Affairs Internships

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

Key Federal Register Notices

DOI- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is amending its regulations at 43 CFR part 3130 pertaining to oil and gas resources in the National Petroleum Reserve--Alaska (NPR-A). The rule makes oil and gas administrative procedures in NPR-A consistent with Section 347 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The rule amends the administrative procedures for the efficient transfer, consolidation, segregation, suspension, and unitization of Federal leases in the NPR-A. The rule also changes the way the BLM processes lease renewals, lease extensions, lease expirations, lease agreements, exploration incentives, lease consolidations, and termination of administration for conveyed lands in the NPR-A. Finally, the rule makes the NPR-A regulation on additional bonding consistent with the regulations that apply outside of the NPR-A. This rule is effective March 5, 2008.
[Federal Register: February 4, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 23)]

DOI- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), announce the
12-month finding on a petition to list the Gunnison's prairie dog
(Cynomys gunnisoni) as an endangered or threatened species under the
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. After a thorough review of all available scientific and commercial information, FWS find that the species is not threatened or endangered throughout all of its range, but that the portion of the current range of the species located in central and south-central Colorado and north-central New Mexico represents a significant portion of the range where the Gunnison's prairie dog is warranted for listing under the Act.
[Federal Register: February 5, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 24)]

CEQ- The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has published “A
Citizen's Guide to the NEPA--Having Your Voice Heard.” The guide explains the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and how it is implemented, as well as how people outside the Federal government--individual citizens, private sector permit applicants, members of organized groups, and representatives of Tribal, State, or local governments--can better participate in the Federal environmental impact assessment process. Submit requests for the guide via electronic mail to hgreczmiel@ceq.eop.gov with the subject line “NEPA Citizen's Guide.”
[Federal Register: February 12, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 29)]

DOI- U. S. Geological Survey, Following consultation with the General Services
Administration, notice is hereby given that the Secretary of the Interior is renewing the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI). The purpose of this Presidential Committee is to represent the interests of water-information users and professionals in advising the Federal Government on Federal water-information programs and their effectiveness in meeting the Nation's water-information needs.
[Federal Register: February 13, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 30)]

DOI- U.S. Geological Survey, the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) Advisory Committee will meet March 6-7, 2008. The Advisory Committee, composed of scientists from Federal Agencies, State Agencies, academic institutions, and private companies, will advise the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey on planning and implementation of the geologic mapping program. Topics to be reviewed and discussed by the Advisory Committee include:  progress of the NCGMP towards fulfilling the purposes of the National Geological Mapping act of 1992, field oriented geoscience experience for college and university students, and the paucity of Black, Hispanic, and Native American college and university students with geoscience majors.
[Federal Register: February 20, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 34)]

DOC- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publishes this notice to announce a 45-day public comment period for the draft document titled, U.S. Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1: “Coastal elevation and sensitivity to sea level rise.” Comments must be received by April 10, 2008.
The document is posted on the CCSP Web site at: www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap4-1/default.php

[Federal Register: February 25, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 37)]

DOI- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requests public nominations for the BLM Resource Advisory Councils (RACs) that have member terms expiring this year. The RACs provide advice and recommendations to BLM on land use planning and management of the public lands within their geographic areas. The BLM will consider public nominations for 45 days after the publication date of this notice. Send all nominations to the appropriate BLM State Office by no later than April 14, 2008.
[Federal Register: February 28, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 40)]

New Updates to the Website

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

Hearings on Innovation and U.S. Competitiveness (2-21-08)
Special Update: President's Budget for NASA (2-13-08)
Special Update: President's Budget for DOC (2-13-08)
Special Update: President's Budget Request for DOE (2-11-08)
Special Update: President's Budget Request for DOI (2-6-08)
Special Update: President's Budget Request for NSF (2-6-08)

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Monthly Review prepared by Marcy Gallo and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs.

Sources: NSF, E&E Daily, Science Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, and Joint Ocean Commission Initiative.

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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 <govt@agiweb.org> or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.

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

Posted February 28, 2008.

 

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