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.
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
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."
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 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship
Act (H.R. 362) contains the following measures:
The Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Act (H.R. 363)
contains the following measures:
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
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
* 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
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.
Read the complete testimony at the Planetary Society Web Site.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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 :
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'
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.
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.
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.
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
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
DOC- The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)
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)
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.
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.
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
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.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted April 28, 2007.