Monthly Review: April 2007


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. Senate Passes Science Act Dubbed "America COMPETES"
2. President Opposes Aspects of Senate Science Act
3. House Passes Several Science Bills Like the Massive Senate Measure
4. House Considers National Science Foundation Re-authorization
5. Wild Sky Wilderness Designation Finally Approved
6. Paleontological Resources Preservation Act Considered
7. Student Loan Industry Challenged
8. Supreme Court Rulings Favor Environment
9. Ecological Society of America Promotes "No Child Left Indoors"
10. Planetary Society Urges Congress to "Restore NASA's Vision"
11. Americans and Brits Plan Lunar Exploration Together
12. United Nations Security Council Debates Threats of Global Warming
13. Council on Foreign Relations Report Reveals Dim Future for Nuclear Power
14. Open Access Concerns Not Reflected in 2006 Commercial Publisher Profits
15. Earth Portal Launched by National Council for Science and the Environment
16. Scitopia.org Scheduled to Launch in June
17. Nature Geoscience Coming Soon
18. K-12 Education Grants from Toyota
19. Federal Register Notices
20. Updates to Webpage

1. Senate Passes Science Act Dubbed "America COMPETES"

On April 25, the Senate passed the America COMPETES Act (S.761) by a vote of 88 to 8. The catchy acronym stands for Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science and in a Senate press release, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called the bill "The biggest piece of legislation in Congress this year, because it goes right to the heart of how we keep our high standard of living,"

Introduced by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the legislation would double the budgets of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology over 5 years, direct NASA to increase funding for research and participate in interagency activities to foster competitiveness and innovation and coordinate ocean and atmospheric research and education at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with other agencies. The legislation also contains a host of science and math educational opportunities.

Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and George Voinovich (R-OH) sponsored an amendment that was passed and explicitly includes the Great Lakes in NOAA's research and education programs that are described in the bill.

An amendment from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) also passed and would require the Commerce Department's inspector general to conduct "routine, independent" reviews of NOAA's grant making process.

In addition the bill would create the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) within DOE that would try to overcome "long-term and high-risk technological barriers in the development of energy technologies." Technologies would include renewables, fossil energy, nuclear, efficiency and carbon sequestration. The concept of the advanced research agency is modeled after the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Finally there is short section of the bill which requires the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop policies to ensure the open communication of federal scientific data and results to the government and the public within 90 days of when the bill becomes a public law. OSTP would have to come up with "an overarching set of principles to ensure the communication and open exchange of data and results ... and to prevent the intentional or unintentional suppression or distortion" of federal research. This section was drafted by policymakers in response to news reports and comments about suppression of scientists at NASA, NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Geological Survey.

The majority of the measure implements many of the policy recommendations of the 2006 National Academies report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" and is similar to legislation introduced in the previous Congress.

The House is also moving on a package of separate bills that would implement similar measures. Once the House has voted on their separate bills, the two chambers will need to select a conference committee and work out any differences.

The full text and summaries of all bills are available from Thomas

2. President Opposes Aspects of Senate Science Act

On April 23, the Administration released a three-page statement responding to the Senate America COMPETES Act, or S. 761. Introduced by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and backed by 55 cosponsors, the "America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act," the bill calls for greater investments in education and innovation.

The statement noted that the Administration has "serious concerns with S. 761 in its current form." In particular, the bill "does not prioritize basic research, authorizes excessive and inappropriate spending, and creates unnecessary bureaucracy and education programs." Although the Administration supports the goals of the act, the statement questioned the need for "at least 20 new programs that…would divert resources from and undermine and delay the priority basic research."

Among the Administration's key concerns are the use of DOE funds to create Specialty Schools for Mathematics and Science and National Laboratory Centers of Excellence at K-12 schools. "The establishment of school-based centers is not a proper role for DOE and would divert national laboratory resources that currently benefit their surrounding communities," the Administration said firmly.

The Administration also objected to creating new experiential-based learning opportunities at K-12 schools "unless the need is clear and compelling, which is not the case for this program."

S. 761 would require each federal science agency to set aside 8 percent of its research and development budget for projects that are "too novel or span too diverse a range of disciplines to fare well in the traditional peer review process." The Administration strongly objected to this provision, noting that such a large earmark "would certainly have negative, unintended consequences."

3. House Passes Several Science Bills Like Massive Senate Measure

In a late-April press release, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the House is taking the "first steps in an Innovation Agenda that will help spur the next generation of discovery and invention."

The House passed three bills (H.R. 362, H.R. 363 and H.R. 1332) that are central to the innovation agenda and contain many measures that are similar to the Senate bill, "America COMPETES" which is described above. H.R. 364, which would create the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) within the Department of Energy (DOE), received a hearing in the House Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy and Technology in late April, but is not currently part of the innovation agenda package passed by the House and now being considered by the Senate.

The 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act (H.R. 362) contains the following measures:
"Establishes a teacher education program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage math, science and engineering faculty to work with education faculty to improve the education of science and math teachers and to provide scholarships to science, math and engineering students who commit to become science or math teachers at elementary and secondary schools; authorizes summer teacher training institutes at NSF and DOE to improve the content knowledge and pedagogical skills of in-service science and math teachers, including preparing them to teach Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses in science and math; requires that NSF include support for master's degree programs for in-service science and mathematics teachers within the NSF Math and Science Partnerships; and authorizes funding for the NSF STEM Talent Expansion program and expands the program to include centers for improving undergraduate STEM education."

The Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Act (H.R. 363) contains the following measures:
"Supports outstanding researchers in the early stages of their careers through grants at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) of $80,000 per year for 5 years; establishes a floor of 1.5% of research funding appropriated for NSF for an existing program supporting graduate students in multidisciplinary fields of national importance; establishes a presidential innovation award to stimulate scientific and engineering advances in the national interest; establishes a national coordination office to identify and prioritize research infrastructure needs at universities and national laboratories and to help guide the investments of new infrastructure funds authorized for NSF and DOE; authorizes NSF to support research on innovation; directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to report on efforts to recruit and retain early-career scientists and engineers; and expresses the sense of Congress that a balanced science program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contributes significantly to innovation and competitiveness."

H.R. 1332, the Small Business Lending Improvements Act of 2007, will improve access to capital programs for small businesses, offering them tools to be successful.

"Democrats will continue throughout the 110th Congress to move forward on legislation that asserts our global economic leadership, creates new business ventures and jobs, and gives future generations increased opportunity to achieve the American Dream," Speaker Pelosi promised.

The Innovation Agenda can be viewed online.

The full text of the House bills are available from Thomas

4. House Considers National Science Foundation Re-authorization

The House Science and Technology Committee completed their work on the National Science Foundation Re-authorization bill (H.R. 1867) which would establish funding for fiscal years 2008, 2009 and 2010 and for other purposes. The measure will be considered by the full chamber on May 2 and if it passes, it will be sent to the Senate for their consideration. So far the Senate has not introduced any legislation for NSF.

The House measure would authorize budget increases of $6.5 billion for 2008, $6.98 billion for 2009 and $7.493 billion for 2010 and keep the NSF on a path toward doubling its budget within 10 years. The legislation also sets aside specific allocations for research, education and major facilities for the next 3 years and ensures that educational initiatives will be kept on a 7 percent per year growth rate just like the research initiatives. The funding authority is consistent with the science legislation passed as an omnibus by the Senate and as several bills by the House in late April (described in summaries above).

The House measure includes additional funding for early career researchers to help address the National Science Board's concern that high risk research is not receiving funding at NSF because the review process is too conservative.

The Major Research Instrumentation program would receive a stepwise increase to its maximum award amount from $2 million to $4 million over the three years. Institutions would have to provide 30 percent of the cost from private or non-federal sources. Exemption from the cost-share stipulation would be granted to institutions that are not PhD granting institutions, consortia with at least one non-PhD institution, do not rank in the top 100 institutions receiving federal research and development funds or for projects that make a substantial improvement in undergraduate training and participation.

Language in the bill directs the NSF to consider industrial partnerships as an important aspect of the broader impacts of the research during the peer-review process. In section 10, entitled "Reporting of Research Results" the director of NSF would be requested to ensure that final project reports and citations of published research documents are made available to the public by posting on the NSF web site. In section 11, entitled "Sharing Research Results" any investigator who fails to apply by section 734 of the Foundation Grant Policy Manual shall be ineligible for a future award until they comply with the section. Section 734 is copied below:

734 Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results
a. Investigators are expected to promptly prepare and submit for publication, with authorship that accurately reflects the contributions of those involved, all significant findings from work conducted under NSF grants. Grantees are expected to permit and encourage such publication by those actually performing that work, unless a grantee intends to publish or disseminate such findings itself.
b. Investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants. Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing. Privileged or confidential information should be released only in a form that protects the privacy of individuals and subjects involved. General adjustments and, where essential, exceptions to this sharing expectation may be specified by the funding NSF Program or Division for a particular field or discipline to safeguard the rights of individuals and subjects, the validity of results, or the integrity of collections or to accommodate the legitimate interest of investigators. A grantee or investigator also may request a particular adjustment or exception from the cognizant NSF Program Officer.
c. Investigators and grantees are encouraged to share software and inventions created under the grant or otherwise make them or their products widely available and usable.
d. NSF normally allows grantees to retain principal legal rights to intellectual property developed under NSF grants to provide incentives for development and dissemination of inventions, software and publications that can enhance their usefulness, accessibility and upkeep. Such incentives do not, however, reduce the responsibility that investigators and organizations have as members of the scientific and engineering community, to make results, data and collections available to other researchers.

5. Wild Sky Wilderness Designation Finally Approved

After six years of opposition from former House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA), the House has finally approved the Wild Sky Wilderness bill, H.R. 886. The bill, introduced by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), sets aside 106,000 acres of low-elevation old-growth forest in Washington's Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as wilderness and protects about 25 miles of salmon streams in western Washington.

The measure was approved by the Senate in the 107th, 108th and 109th sessions of Congress, but was repeatedly opposed by Pombo, who argued that about 13,000 acres of land included in the bill did not meet the requirements of the 1964 Wilderness Act.

6. Paleontological Resources Preservation Act Considered

In a hearing held April 17, 2007, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing to consider the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act and three other measures. Introduced by Representative James McGovern (D-MA), the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (H.R. 554) provides for the protection of paleontological resources on federal lands by providing stiff penalties for crimes involving the theft and vandalism of Fossils of National Significance (FONS). In his opening statement, Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) noted his concern about the "unintended consequences" of H.R. 554. However, Congressman McGovern assured the committee that the bill "does not place any new restrictions on amateur collectors" and only pertains to public lands.

Recalling the "Last Chance" Dinosaur Quarry in Colorado, discovered by a volunteer enthusiast in 2004 and regarded as one of the most important dinosaur quarries in Colorado, the US Forest Service embraced the bill, albeit with minor revisions. Commenting that fossils provide "remarkable evidence of the Earth's history," Mr. Norbury, Assistant Deputy Chief of the US Forest Service, noted that "the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework that encourages the integration of public and private resources, skills, and enthusiasm" would play an enormous role in "the excavation and preservation of these amazing remains."

Two other, non-governmental witnesses, Peter Larson and Ted Vlamis, disagreed on the value of H.R. 554. Peter Larson, President of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, describes himself as a "degreed geologist, experienced vertebrate paleontologist and current member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, the Paleontological Society, and the Mid-American Paleontological Society." Larson provided an explanation of why he opposes the bill in his written testimony. Ted Vlamis, who described himself as an amateur paleontologist and an active member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology provided testimony right after Larson. Vlamis explained why he supported the bill and also stated in his written testimony that "The PRPA [H.R. 554] has been endorsed by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, an organization of more than 2000 professional and amateur paleontologists, and by the American Association of Museums, which counts among its membership 11,500 individual museum professionals and volunteers, 3100 institutions, and 1700 corporate members."

To see the full testimony, go to the House Natural Resources Committee web site.

7. Student Loan Industry Challenged

The U.S. Department of Education has been "asleep at the switch" when it comes to conducting oversight of the nation's federal student loan programs, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee on April 25. Prompted by controversy over the industry's ethics, the hearing explored charges that the $85 billion-a-year industry has been given too much rein under the Bush Administration, to the detriment of student borrowers.

Cuomo, who led a nationwide investigation of ties between student loan companies and universities, called for federal action to overhaul the student loan system. The system, a patchwork of regulations that differ between states, is riddled with kickbacks and conflicts of interest.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings called Cuomo's testimony "ill-informed" and said the department "takes its role as steward of federal financial aid very seriously," according to a Washington Post article. However, the issue has prompted action in Congress. In February, the House and Senate education panel chairmen, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced bills H.R. 890 and S. 486 that would require lenders to disclose the terms of their arrangements with schools, ban gifts from lenders to college employees, and require schools to list lenders on the basis of the benefits they provide borrowers.

8. Supreme Court Rulings Favor Environment

In a surprisingly unanimous pro-environment decision, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that industrial smokestacks and power plants must meet today's cost-effective pollution control standards when facilities are updated. The case, Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy, centered on renovations by Duke Energy, the nation's third-largest power company, made to 30 coal-fired electric generating units at eight power plants in North Carolina and South Carolina. According to Environmental Defense, many of these facilities had been operating sporadically or not at all and were due to be retired and replaced. Instead, Duke Energy chose to rebuild them, "resulting in significant increases in particulate- and smog-forming pollution." However, they failed to obtain permits or install pollution control equipment as required by law under the New Source Performance Standards and Prevention of Significant Deterioration amendments of the Clean Air Act.

The opinions are available from the Supreme Court web site. The case is docket 05-848.

In a case that will force the Forest Service to reconsider its logging practices, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Earth Island Institute v. U.S. Forest Service in late March. The Earth Island Institute appealed the denial of a preliminary injunction of a post-fire restoration project in the El Dorado National Forest by the United States Forest Service. The group claimed that the timber sales involved in the project violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act.

Despite an appeal by the Forest Service, the US Supreme Court denied cert to the Forest Service, finding that the Forest Service had failed to take the requisite "hard look" at the effects of the projects on the California spotted owl. The Court also found that the Forest Service had abused its discretion in the estimates of the likely tree mortality from the fires and had failed to conduct population surveys for the hairy woodpecker and Williamson's sapsucker. Both birds are "Management Indicator Species" that aid the Forest Service in establishing objectives for improving habitat and for evaluating the quantity and quality of habitat and species population trends, in accordance with the National Forest Management Act.

9. Ecological Society of America Promotes "No Child Left Indoors"

The following text is a press release issued by the Ecological Society of America during Earth Week, which encourages adults to take children outdoors, especially to the nation's many parks and recreation areas, and to help foster better stewardship and natural science literacy.

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), the nation's premier organization of 10,000 ecological scientists, is promoting "No Child Left Indoors" week as part of Earth Week, 2007, to encourage adults to connect a child with nature. The locally begun "No Child Left Indoors" concept has grown into a national movement that encourages students, families, and adults to experience nature. Teaching children about their "home," Planet Earth, fosters better stewardship and science literacy.

More and more, people around the globe are migrating from rural to urban areas, and the number of people living in cities is growing twice as fast as total population growth. In fact, by this year, a majority of the world's people will be living in cities.** Children growing up over the last 20 years have increasingly limited experience of the outdoors, which is contributing to decreased understanding and appreciation of the environment on which humanity depends:
* National statistics show that visits to national and state parks have fallen off by as much as 25 percent in the last decade, and kids remain indoors watching TV and playing computer games.

* A recent scientific study found that more children knew the characters of Pokemon (an electronic game) than could recognize an oak tree or an otter.

* Science education-especially ecology and earth-based sciences-in America is falling behind that of other countries.

* Biological, health, and economic data indicate that children who connect with nature perform better in school, have higher SAT scores, exhibit fewer behavioral challenges, and experience fewer attention-deficit disorders.

ESA endorses activities locally and nationally for youth to learn about ecology and experience ecosystems. SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Development and Sustainability) is an ESA program established to reduce the serious underrepresentation of individuals from certain minority groups within the field of ecology. The program's mission is to diversify and advance the profession of ecology by promoting opportunities that stimulate and nurture the interest of underrepresented students.

The United States offers a wide array of parks and recreation areas where children can connect with a tremendously diverse natural environment, from the gulf shore waters, to coastal dunes, to wetlands, to oak hammocks, to dry prairies, to treetop canopies.

The Ecological Society of America takes great pride in recognizing the week of April 15-22, 2007, also known as Earth Week, to celebrate "No Child Left Indoors" and to challenge all citizens-young and old-to take a child into the natural world for a shared educational experience.

**UNFPA State of World Population 2004. The Cairo Consensus at Ten: Population, Reproductive Health and the Global Effort to End Poverty (Press Summary Report)
Adopted by the Governing Board of the Ecological Society of America, April 2007

The Ecological Society of America is the country's primary professional organization of ecologists, representing 10,000 scientists in the United States and around the world. Since its founding in 1915, ESA has diligently pursued the promotion of the responsible application of ecological principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress. For more information about the Society and its activities, visit the ESA website.

10. Planetary Society Urges Congress to "Restore NASA's Vision"

In a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on April 24, the Planetary Society decried NASA's flagging budget. "NASA's budget should be increased as was originally envisioned in order to restore its scientific underpinnings and to prepare for human exploration of the solar system," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of the Planetary Society in the Society's press release.

Although the Society supports the Administration's Vision for Space Exploration, it strongly opposes the current implementation, or rather the lack of implementation, of the plan. Among other notable cuts, NASA has largely abandoned its search for extraterrestrial life. According to the Planetary Society's press release, "Mars exploration has been cut, the mission to Jupiter's moon Europa and the Terrestrial Planet Finder mission have been eliminated, and the search for extraterrestrial life has been cut in half."

The human exploration program is looking especially dim, and the robotic program has suffered a series of severe budget cuts. The current budget nearly eliminates Mars robotic exploration in the next decade.

NASA's emaciated budget not only imperils the nation's science and exploration programs, it also "undermines the agency's ability to develop future missions by driving away young scientists and engineers from the field, thus, mortgaging the future of NASA science and exploration," the release notes.

The concluding paragraph of the Planetary Society's testimony exhorts Congress to take action: "This past year, NASA dropped 'understanding the Earth' from its mission statement. The Planetary Society picked it up, and added it to our own mission statement. But we cannot pick up the budget for the planetary and Earth science that has been cut from the NASA budget. Congress must do that. We urge Congress to help NASA achieve the goals articulated in the Vision for Space Exploration, for the benefit of our future, and our children's future. Save our Science."

Read the complete testimony at the Planetary Society Web Site.

11. Americans and Brits Plan Lunar Exploration Together

NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin and British Space and Innovation Minister Malcolm Wicks signed a historic agreement on April 19, 2007 to consider approaches to future collaborations on space missions, particularly lunar exploration.

British expertise in small satellite and robotic technologies could play a significant role in achieving NASA's goal to establish a scientific research outpost on the Moon. Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the Science and Technology Facilities Council and Chairman of the UK Space Board commented to the British National Space Centre, "This latest agreement with NASA…means the UK is fully exploiting and strategically maximizing its technological and scientific strengths in space exploration."

12. United Nations Security Council Debates Threats of Global Warming

Concern that warming global temperatures will gradually shrink land and water resources and irreversibly alter the face of the planet prompted the first-ever debate on the topic by the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, April 17 2007. Representatives from over fifty countries convened in New York to discuss the security implications of global climate change, including food and water shortages, the displacement or migration of large populations, and new wars.

The meeting received mixed responses. China's deputy ambassador Liu Zhengmin rejected the meeting, arguing that the UN Security Council is the wrong forum to debate global warming. "The developing countries believe that the Security Council has neither the professional competence in handling climate change, nor is the right decision-making place for extensive participation leading up to widely acceptable proposals," he was quoted as saying in the New York Times.

The British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, disagreed. "An unstable climate will exacerbate some of the core drivers of conflict, such as migratory pressure and competition for resources," she said. As the UN body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, the Security Council must consider the potential for conflicts arising from global warming. Qatar's UN ambassador, Nassir Al-Nasser, agreed. "Since we all run the risk of being submerged, we must work collectively to save ourselves from drowning."

13. Council on Foreign Relations Report Reveals Dim Future for Nuclear Power

Earlier this month the Council on Foreign Relations published "Nuclear Energy: Balancing Benefits and Risks" in partnership with Washington and Lee University. Written by the Council's Fellow for Science and Technology, Dr. Charles D. Ferguson, the report is a sobering analysis of the "nuclear renaissance" currently touted by policy makers on Capitol Hill.

Although currently in favor among politicians as a clean source of energy, nuclear power is unlikely to play a major role in augmenting America's energy security and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. In the report, Dr. Ferguson argues that the rapid nuclear expansion needed to even moderately reduce emissions would "pose serious concerns for how the industry would ensure an adequate supply of reasonably inexpensive reactor-grade construction materials, well-trained technicians, and rigorous safety and security measures."

Also sobering is the fact that, of the 103 operating nuclear reactors in the U.S., almost all face retirement by mid-century, even with 20-year life extensions to their original 30 year lifetimes. According to the report, replacement of existing facilities would require building a new reactor every four or five months over the next 40 years.

The biggest challenge America faces in regard to nuclear power is overcoming a decades-long fear of nuclear energy. Primarily due to the dual horrors of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and the Chernobyl accident seven years later, America's nuclear program has been mothballed for the past thirty years. Finding the expertise and infrastructure necessary to replace aging reactors and construct new ones presents a daunting challenge: "For this reason alone," Dr. Ferguson argues, "nuclear energy is not a major part of the solution to U.S. energy insecurity for at least the next fifty years."

Click here for a copy of the report.

14. Open Access Concerns Not Reflected in 2006 Commercial Publisher Profits

"If some publishers think the Open Access movement will rob them of their livelihoods, you can't tell it from their balance sheets," authors Lee C. Van Orsdel and Kathleen Borncast note dryly in Library Journal's Periodical Pricing Survey 2007. In 2006, the profits of commercial publishers climbed an average of 25 percent, with the top ten science/technical/medical (STM) publishers reaping almost 43 percent of the revenue in a market that totaled just over $19 billion, according to Outsell Inc.

Support for open access is growing primarily because of the rising cost of commercial publication. Previous surveys have already shown that commercial publishers charge more and increase costs more per year for subscriptions to their journals than non-profit societies charge for their journal subscriptions. Even authors choosing the open access option for their papers, will likely pay a higher fee to commercial publishers. An example in this survey shows that an author could pay a minimum of about $975 for an open access article in one of the American Physical Society journals while an author could have to pay a maximum of about $3100 for an open access article in a journal from the commercial publisher, T&F. Such a huge price differential does not bode well for those who favor open access articles and may force more authors to bear the burden of shopping around for the cheapest journals to publish their papers in.

Of course, with limited and typically shrinking budgets, libraries are seeking price relief from mushrooming journal costs. In 2007, academic libraries saw overall journal price increases just under eight percent for the second year in a row. According to the survey, U.S. titles rose nine percent on average while non-U.S. titles rose 7.3 percent. A similar price increase is expected for 2008.

The survey also provided the average cost per article in 2007 by scientific discipline (disciplines are defined by the Library of Congress) and Geology articles come out about in the middle of the spread at $1424 per article, with Chemistry articles at the high end at $3249 per article followed closely by Physics articles at $2865. At the low end, Geography articles averaged about $1050 and Agriculture articles averaged about $898. The average cost of a Geology article in 2003 was $1079, so there has been a 32% rise in the cost of the average Geology article in the past 4 years.

15. Earth Portal Launched by National Council for Science and the Environment

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) has launched a new web-based resource. The NCSE press release describes the portal as follows :

"Earth Portal is a comprehensive, free and dynamic resource for timely, objective, science-based information about the environment built by a global community of environmental experts: educators, physical, life, and social scientists, scholars, and professionals who have joined together to communicate to the world.

In contrast to information from anonymous sources with no quality control, the Earth Portal is created and governed by individuals and organizations who put their names behind their words and where attribution and expert-review for accuracy are fundamental."

Check out the portal at: www.EarthPortal.org

16. Scitopia.org Scheduled to Launch in June

Thirteen science and technology society publishers have united to create a major new search portal called Scitopia.org. Scitopia.org is a free federated, vertical search portal capable of accessing some 3 million articles spanning as far back as 150 years, as well as some patents, according to Information Today. A single search on Scitopia.org will allow users to simultaneously search all participating publishers' Web sites.

Scitopia.org currently accesses the electronic libraries of the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Physical Society, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Electrochemical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., the Institute of Physics Publishing, the Optical Society of America, the International Society for Optical Engineering, the Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE International and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

The portal is scheduled to be launched at the Special Libraries Association meeting in early June.

For more information, go to www.scitopia.org

17. Nature Geoscience Coming Soon

Also soon to be launched is Nature Geoscience, a monthly multi-disciplinary journal edited by Heike Langenberg, PhD who indicates the goal is "bringing together the most significant research across the entire spectrum of the Earth Sciences." The journal will include primary research, review articles, and news and commentary from areas as diverse as atmospheric science, geochemistry, space physics and tectonics. The first issue is due out in January 2008.

To find out more about Nature Geoscience or to subscribe at pre-publication rates, click here.

18. K-12 Education Grants from Toyota

Each year in late January, K-12 teachers across the nation and its territories are invited to apply for Toyota's TAPESTRY grants. The grants are awarded for creative, innovative classroom projects in the fields of environmental education, physical science, and literacy and science education. This year, Toyota recognized 82 science teachers with $550,000 in grants with fifty teachers receiving up to $10,000 each and 32 receiving grants of up to $2,500 each. According the National Science Teachers Association's press release, this year's projects explore topics ranging from a two-person hovercraft to diesel fuel created from excess cafeteria fry oil. Teachers can apply individually or in teams and applications are submitted online and are due in late January each year. For more information, visit www.nsta.org/programs/tapestry.

Key Federal Register Notices

DOC- NOAA announces the availability of Federal assistance under the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for fiscal year 2007. The purpose of this notice is to request proposals for special projects and programs associated with the Agency's strategic plan and mission goals and to provide the general public with information and guidelines on how NOAA will select proposals and administer discretionary Federal assistance under this BAA. This BAA is a mechanism to encourage research, technical projects, or sponsorships (e.g., conferences, newsletters, etc.) that are not normally funded through our competitive discretionary programs. Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis up to 5 p.m. ET September 28, 2007. Applications shall be evaluated for funding generally within 3 to 6 months of receipt. All proposals should be submitted at http://www.grants.gov.
[Federal Register: April 20, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 33)]

DOI- The Minerals Management Service (MMS) is proposing new regulations that would establish a process for a shipper transporting oil or gas production from Federal leases on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to follow if it believes it has been denied open and nondiscriminatory access to pipelines on the OCS. The rule would provide MMS with tools to ensure that pipeline companies provide open and nondiscriminatory access to their pipelines. MMS will consider all comments received by June 5, 2007. For further information, contact Scott Ellis, Policy and Appeals Division, at (303) 231-3652, Fax: (303) 233-2225, or e-mail at
Scott.Ellis@mms.gov. The regulatory identification number is 1010-AD17.
[Federal Register: April 6, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 66)]

NRC- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is publishing for public comment a notice of receipt of a petition for rulemaking, dated February 21, 2007, which was filed with the Commission by David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The petition was docketed by the NRC on February 23, 2007, and has been assigned Docket No. PRM-73-13. The petitioner
requests that the NRC amend its regulations to close a loophole in current regulations that would enable persons who do not meet trustworthiness and reliability standards for unescorted access to protected areas of nuclear power plants the permission to enter
protected areas with an unarmed escort. The petitioner believes that current regulations create a security vulnerability that could potentially compromise public health and safety. Submit comments by June 25, 2007. For further information, contact Michael T. Lesar, Chief, Rulemaking, Directives and Editing Branch, Division of Administrative Services, Office of Administration, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, Telephone: 301-415-7163 or Toll Free: 800-368-5642.
[Federal Register: April 9, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 67)]

DOC- The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)
Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR), will meet at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on Thursday, May 10, 2007 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and Friday, May 11, 2007, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. The primary purpose of this meeting is to discuss NEHRP program activities. The NEHRP Advisory Committee will also discuss its annual report to the NIST Director. The agenda may change to accommodate Committee business. The final agenda will be posted on the NEHRP Web site at http://nehrp.gov/. For more information, contact Dr. Jack Hayes, National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 8600, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899-8600. Dr. Hayes' e-mail address is jack.hayes@nist.gov and his phone number is (301) 975-5640.
[Federal Register: April 10, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 68)]

DOI- The Minerals Management Service announces a final rule requiring lessees of Federal oil and gas leases in the OCS to provide information on how they will conduct their proposed activities in a manner consistent with provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). It identifies environmental, monitoring, and mitigation information that lessees must submit with plans for exploration and development and production. This regulation is effective as of May 14, 2007. For further information, contact Judy Wilson, Chief, Environmental Compliance Unit, Environmental Division, (703) 787-1075.
[Federal Register: April 13, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 71)]

NSF- The National Science Foundation announces a meeting of the Advisory Committee for International Science and Engineering on May 4, 2007 from 3-5 pm. The meeting will be held at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 950, Arlington, Virginia. For more information, contact Eduardo Feller at 703) 292-8710.
[Federal Register: April 13, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 71)]

NASA- The National Aeronaturics and Space Administration announces its Centennial Challenges Lunar Lander Challenge. The Lunar Lander hallenge is now scheduled and teams that wish to compete may now register. The NASA Centennial Challenges Program is a program of prize contests to stimulate innovation and competition in space exploration and ongoing NASA mission areas. The Lunar Lander Challenge is a prize contest designed to accelerate technology developments supporting the commercial creation of a vehicle capable of ferrying cargo or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the lunar surface.
The Lunar Lander Challenge is being administered for NASA by the X
PRIZE Foundation. Their Web site is: http://www.xprize.org The Centennial Challenges Web site is http://www.centennialchallenges.nasa.gov. For further information, contact Kenneth Davidian, Program Manager, Suite 2S24, Centennial Challenges Program, Innovative Partnerships Program Office, NASA, 20546-0001, (202) 358-1160, kdavidian@nasa.gov.
[Federal Register: April 17, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 73)]

NOAA- NOAA publishes this notice to change the funding amounts, year of funds, the approximate range of awards that will be made, and the earliest start dates of awards for the solicitation "FR 2007 Regional Integrated Ocean Observing System Development," which was originally announced in the Federal Register on December 27, 2006. This notice applies to only those applicants who have already submitted letters of intent and who have been invited to submit full proposals. Proposals must be submitted through Grants.gov no later than 5 p.m., Eastern Time, April 17, 2007. Full proposal application packages should be submitted through Grants.gov APPLY. The standard NOAA funding application package is available at http://www.grants.gov. For administrative issues, contact James Lewis Free at 843-740-1185 (phone) or e-mail him at
James.L.Free@noaa.gov. Technical questions on the IOOS announcement should be directed to the following people according to the focus area in question: RCOOS Development, Geno Olmi by telephone at 843-740-1230 (phone) or e-mail him at Geno.Olmi@noaa.gov; IOOS Applications and Product Development, Dave Eslinger by telephone (843) 740-1270, or by e-mail Dave.Eslinger@noaa.gov; and Data Management and Communications, Jim Boyd by telephone (843) 740-1278, or by e-mail James.Boyd@noaa.gov.
[Federal Register: April 23, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 77)]

MMS- This notice announces the May 10 meeting of the Royalty Policy Committee (RPC). Agenda items for the meeting of the RPC will include remarks from the Director, MMS, and the Associate Director, Minerals Revenue Management (MRM), as well as presentations on the MRM Financial Management, Audit and Compliance, and Enforcement Programs. Updates will be provided by the Federal Oil and Gas Valuation, Oil and Gas Royalty Reporting, Coal, Indian Oil Valuation, and Royalty Management
subcommittees. The RPC membership includes representation from states, Indian Tribes, various mineral interests, the public-at-large (with knowledge and interest in royalty issues), and other Federal departments. The meeting will take place Thursday, May 10, 2007, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mountain Daylight Time. The meeting will be held at the Sheraton Denver West, 360 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, Colorado, telephone number 303-987-2000 or 1-800-325-3535. For more information, contact Gina Dan, Minerals Revenue Management, Minerals Management Service; P.O. Box 25165, MS 300B2, Denver, Colorado 80225-0165; telephone number (303) 231-3392, fax number (303) 231-3780; e-mail gina.dan@mms.gov.
[Federal Register: April 24, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 78)]

DOE- This notice announces an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee to provide advice and guidance that promotes research and development leading to the production of biobased fuels and biobased products. This notice announces the meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The meeting will be held May 15, 2007 from 1 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. and May 16, 2007 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m in the Quorum Room, L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, 480 L'Enfant Plaza SW., Washington, DC 20024, http://www.lenfantplazahotel.com. For further information, contact Valri Lightner, Designated Federal Officer for the Committee, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20585; (202) 586-0937 or Michael Manella at (410) 997-7778 x217; E-mail: mmanella@bcs-hq.com.
[Federal Register: April 25, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 79)]

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:

Storm Hazards Policy (04-23-07)
Climate Change Hearings (04-23-07)
Innovation and U.S. Competitiveness (04-11-07)
Climate Change Policy (04-10-07)
Energy Policy (04-10-07)
National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Act (04-09-07)
Federal Science Education Policy (4-9-07)

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Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs and Erin Gleeson 2007 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.

Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, Congressional Quarterly, House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, White House Office of Public Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations, National Science Teachers Association, Environmental Defense, Ecological Society of America, Library Journal, Information Today, British National Space Centre, President's Panel on Tax Reform, The Planetary Society and the National Council for Science and the Environment.

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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 April 28, 2007.