Monthly Review: December 2004
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.
109th Congress Convenes
More Cabinet Changes for Bush Administration Second Term
Department of Energy
Department of Interior
OMB Issues New Peer Review Guidelines
President Elevates Oceans to Cabinet-level Priority
OMB-OSTP Issue FY06 Budget Guidance on Science
Treasury Dept. Loosens Restrictions On Research Publication
UNESCO Division of Earth Sciences Terminated
DOI Estimates More Natural Gas Reserves
Stronger Role for Federal Science Advisors, Report Recommends
New U.S. Math and Science Scores Available
May 10-11 are Congressional Visit Days
How To Find Key Federal Register Notices
New Updates to Website
The 109th Congress officially convened on Tuesday, January 4th as
newly elected and reelected senators as well as the members of the
House of Representatives were sworn into office. After finally wrapping
up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 budget process in December and resting
through the holidays, members of Congress are ready to get to work.
Many issues have already been declared priorities for President Bush,
who will be sworn in for his second term at noon on Thursday, January
20th, including revamping Social Security, rewriting the tax code,
limiting class-action lawsuits, and having the Senate confirm his
judicial nominees. Congress, though, has some details to work out
before they can actually begin working.
At the start of each new Congress, the majority must set the rules
for the next two years. This means that each committee's jurisdiction
must be clearly defined, chairmen approved and committee assignments
doled out. While the minority party does not decide committee jurisdiction
or chairmanships, the Democratic Caucus will decide committee assignments
for their members. Senate Democrats began this process last month.
The defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Dashle (D-SD) in the November
elections left a void in the Senate democratic leadership's top slot.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has been chosen for the job and has given
up his seat on the Environment and Public Works Committee but will
retain the important Appropriations Committee perch from which he
is able to fight the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
Other changes include the departure of Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR)
and Bob Graham (D-FL) from the Environment and Public Works Committee,
making way for new Democrats joining the panel - Senator Frank Lautenberg
(D-NJ) and freshman Senator Barak Obama (D-IL). The Senate Energy
and Natural Resources Committee will see two new Democrats on the
panel, including Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and freshman Senator Ken
Salazar (D-CO). They replace Graham, Schumer and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN).
There are no new Democrats joining the Budget or the Appropriations
committees, as the party's loss of one seat on each due to Hollings'
retirement gives the Democrats 10 Budget Committee members and 13
Appropriations Committee members. Senate Republicans will begin doling
out Committee assignments as early as the first week in January.
As is the nature of the House, when each new Congress convenes there
are lots of decisions to be made about chairmanships, committee assignments
and jurisdiction. This year, the House chose Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)
as the new Appropriations Committee Chairman because Rep. Bill Young
(R-FL) is stepping down from that post. The Appropriations Subcommittees
may also have some new Chairmen in the ranks. There's a rumor that
former Appropriations Chairman Young may want to head up one of the
subcommittees, which would set off a furious round of musical chairs
among the current chairmen. Also in limbo is the role of Rep. Jim
Walsh (R-NY), who is term limited in his current post as chairman
of the VA-HUD Subcommittee, with jurisdiction over the NASA, National
Science Foundation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency annual
Further complicating this process is a rumor that surfaced following
the Republican Leadership Retreat that the Republican Leadership is
thinking about restructuring the appropriations bills. There's little
rhyme or reason to the current way certain agencies are paired together
in appropriations bills and the thinking would be to structure bills
in a way that would better reflect Republican priorities. One of the
bills being batted around within this idea is a Science bill that
would encompass all federal science investment from NASA to the National
Institutes of Health to Department of Energy and more. There are good
arguments for and against this idea. An editorial appeared on the
December 16th issue of Nature that concisely points out many of the
concerns people have voiced about this idea. We'll know soon enough
if this is a real change the Congress will make or another idea left
for another time.
More Cabinet Changes
for Bush Administration Second Term
Department of Energy
Following the announcement by Spencer Abraham that he would retire
as Secretary of Energy, President George Bush nominated Deputy Treasury
Secretary Samuel Bodman to be the new Energy Secretary. In remarks
at the White House on December 10th, Bush said: "Sam Bodman is
an experienced executive who has served in my administration as Deputy
Secretary of Commerce and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. During
his varied and distinguished career in the private sector, Sam has
been a professor at MIT, president of an investment firm, the chairman
and CEO of an industrial company with operations worldwide. In academics,
in business, and in government, Sam Bodman has shown himself to be
a problem solver who knows how to set goals and he knows how to reach
them. He will bring to the Department of Energy a great talent for
management and the precise thinking of an engineer. I thank him for
agreeing to serve once again." Bodman has a B.S. in chemical
engineering from Cornell University and a ScD from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, where he was an Associate Professor of Chemical
Engineering. His previous experience included service as the Deputy
Secretary of the Department of Commerce, where he had oversight over
NOAA, NIST, and the Patent and Trademark Office. House Science Committee
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) both issued statements supporting
the Bodman nomination. Bodman will appear before Domenici's committee
for a confirmation hearing that will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
A brief biography for Bodman can be read at http://www.treas.gov/organization/bios/bodman-e.html
The full text of Bush's statement and Bodman's response is available
In a five-page hand- written letter to President Bush, NASA Administrator
Sean O'Keefe announced his resignation in December. In this letter,
Administrator O'Keefe explained his decision to leave to be able to
spend more time with his family. O'Keefe has served as NASA Administrator
for almost three years, during which the Administration developed,
in response to critics, a vision for the space agency. Additional
information on O'Keefe's decision to resign, including a copy of his
letter, can be viewed at http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/aok_resigns.html.
The White House has not yet named a replacement.
Department of the Interior
Interior Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, the former oil and coal
industry lobbyist who spearheaded a push for increased energy development
on public lands, resigned from the number two position at the DOI
effective Jan. 31, 2005, unless a replacement is confirmed sooner.
In other DOI news, on December 1st, Secretary of the Interior Gale
Norton announced that she had accepted the resignation of Assistant
Secretary for Water and Science Bennett Raley who has held the post
since 2001. The Assistant Secretary for Water and Science discharges
the duties of the Secretary with the authority and direct responsibility
to carry out the statutory mandate to manage and direct programs that
support the development and implementation of water, mineral, and
science policies and assist the development of economically and environmentally
sound resource activities. The Assistant Secretary oversees the programs
of the Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Geological Survey.
In accepting Raley's resignation, Secretary Norton commended Raley
for his work on western water issues.
Following Bennett Raley's resignation, Secretary Norton named Tom
Weimer Acting Assistant Secretary for Water and Science. Weimer has
served as the principal deputy assistant secretary for the past three
and a half years. Weimer has eighteen years of federal service and
previously served as Chief of Staff to former Interior Secretary Manuel
Lujan, Jr. Weimer has served as professional staff for the House Committees
on Interior and Science, as well as legislative director for National
Laboratory Affairs at the University of California. Weimer received
bachelors and masters degrees in systems engineering from Harvey Mudd
College and the master of electrical engineering degree from the University
OMB Issues New Peer
On December 17th the White House Office of Management and Budget
issued "peer review" guidelines aimed at formalizing the
process of science performed by government agencies undergoing outside
review. Science used by the U.S. EPA, the Department of the Interior,
the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to support
major rules and regulations will be subject to review by non-governmental
experts for the first time under these new standards.
According to Greenwire, supporters of the guidelines -- in the Bush
Administration and industry -- say that the guidelines will help ensure
that federal policy is shaped by sound scientific practices. But critics
claim the guidelines are an effort by the executive branch to seize
control of the release of scientific information and slow the creation
of new federal rules.
The guidelines separate scientific information meriting peer review
into two types. The first requires federal agencies to appoint an
independent peer review panel for science supporting rules or policies
costing industry, states or local governments more than $500 million
in any year. While this is a higher cost threshold than industry officials
wanted, Sean Moulton, a information policy analyst at OMB Watch, said
OMB can effectively order an agency review by designating this type
of science "highly influential." The second type of science
affected by the guidelines is "influential scientific information,"
such as risk assessments, environmental and natural resources computer
modeling, data and other technical analyses. Agencies can subject
these types of scientific information to the same rigorous peer review
as highly influential science or they can get them peer reviewed by
a small group of experts in one environmental or natural resources
Agencies can subject influential scientific information to the lower
level of peer review, but the guidelines direct agencies to "choose
a peer review mechanism that is adequate" based on a variety
of factors including whether science is new, the extent of prior peer
reviews, and the expected costs and benefits that will result from
its use. "More rigorous peer review is necessary for information
that is based on novel methods or presents complex challenges for
interpretation," the rule states.
Greenwire reported that the White House substantially revised the
guidelines since they were first proposed in September 2003 (see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/dataquality.html).
Among the changes is a proposal that would grant federal agencies
the right to release scientific documents about an "emerging
public health or medical risk" without first getting OMB approval.
Another change OMB made was to make clear that science already reviewed
by the National Academy of Sciences is not subject to the peer review
The new guidelines can be found online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/peer2004/peer_bulletin.pdf.
Oceans to Cabinet-level Priority
As part of the formal response to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy
report, President Bush signed an executive order creating a new Cabinet-level
"Committee on Ocean Policy" to coordinate federal ocean
policy on December 17th. The executive order would direct Cabinet
secretaries and officials ranging from the Commerce secretary to the
national intelligence director to coordinate ocean-related matters
and provide advice on ocean policies. The advisory body would be tasked
with facilitating coordination on ocean matters among federal, state,
tribal and local government entities. The group, to be led by the
chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is similar
in concept to the commission's proposal for an executive-branch national
oceans council. The commission had also recommended the president
appoint an assistant to the president for oceans policy.
The Ocean Commission found federal oversight is too fractured to
protect ocean ecosystems that are being decimated by pollution, overfishing
and other factors. Among 200 recommendations, the commission called
for consolidating management responsibilities within the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and boosting federal
ocean research funding. The White House "U.S. Ocean Action Plan"
did not include recommendations to consolidate authority within NOAA
or move that agency toward independence, as the commission had called
for. The House and Senate are expected to sift through a myriad of
proposals toward that goal during the 109th Congress.
OMB-OSTP Issue FY06
Budget Guidance on Science
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) set the FY06 science budget
by issuing a joint memorandum outlining the Administration's research
priorities. Homeland Security R&D remains the Administration's
top research focus. Also included in the list was Networking and Information
Technology R&D and the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
A new emphasis area titled "Priorities of the Physical Sciences"
suggests: "Priority will be given to research that aims to close
significant gaps in the fundamental physical understanding of phenomena
that promise significant new technologies with broad societal impact.
. . . Priority will be given to those instrument- or facility- related
investments with the greatest promise for the broadest scientific
impact. Of particular interest are investments leading to the development
of next-generation light sources." "Biology of Complex Systems"
and, "Climate, Water and Hydrogen Research" round out the
The guiding memo is available at: http://www.ostp.gov/html/m04-23.pdf.
Treasury Dept. Loosens
Restrictions On Research Publication
In September 2003, the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign
Assets Control (OFAC) issued a ruling that scientific publishers would
need a special license to edit papers submitted by researchers from
embargoed countries (Cuba, Iran, and Sudan). While the ruling is relatively
recent, the prohibition is not. It is illegal for U.S. entities to
provide services to persons living in countries embargoed by the U.S.
The issue surfaced in the summer of 2001 when a bank identified an
attempted transaction between the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers (IEEE) and an institution in Iran. IEEE and other scientific
organizations began working with OFAC to clarify the definition of
"services," and learned that OFAC considered peer review
and editing of scholarly manuscripts to fall under the category of
prohibited activities. Until this time, scholarly publishers largely
thought these "services" were not prohibited by Treasury
Department regulations. The Treasury Department, however, affirmed
that its definition of services did include editing scholarly papers.
"U.S. persons may not provide the Iranian author substantive
or artistic alterations or enhancements of the manuscript, and IEEE
may not facilitate the provision of such alterations or enhancements,"
wrote R. Richard Newcomb, director of OFAC. Trade policy prohibits
"the reordering of paragraphs or sentences, correction of syntax,
grammar, and replacement of inappropriate words by U.S. persons,"
according to an OFAC guidance letter. U.S. entities, including scholarly
publishers, would require a special license to provide these "services."
The ruling was OFAC's interpretation of an amendment to the 1988 Omnibus
Trade and Competitiveness Act, known as the Berman amendment, after
its sponsor Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA). The amendment exempted from
economic embargo "any information or informational materials
including but not limited to, publications." Reagan Administration
officials, however, interpreted that statement as banning publication
of all but "fully created" materials that received no "substantive
or artistic alteration or enhancement." The recent ruling recaptured
the attention of Rep. Berman, who called the restrictions on editing
"patently absurd." Rep. Berman requested that OFAC reconsider
its decision to require a specific license for peer review and editing.
Throughout 2004, various representatives of the scientific publishing
community have worked with OFAC to clarify Treasury Department requirements.
On Friday, December 17, 2004, the Department of Treasury officially
issued a new rule in the Federal Register (Vol. 69, No. 242), "revising
the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations,
and the Iranian Transactions Regulations to add general the date of
publication. Interested individuals wishing to provide OFAC with comments
on the new rule or requesting further changes may submit comments
at any time.
Briefly, the new rule still requires that U.S. entities obtain a general
license from OFAC to provide certain services to Cuba, Iran and Sudan.
However, the rule ensures that "certain activities relating to
publishing" are permitted. "Each of the general licenses
is similar in structure and scope, authorizing a variety of activities
relating to publishing with appropriate exceptions, such as those
for the governments of each of the sanctioned countries." The
new rule specifically notes that the governments of Cuba, Sudan, or
Iran "does not include any academic and research institutions
and their personnel."
Questions, requests for guidance, or information concerning the application
for a license should be directed to the Department of Treasury's Office
of Foreign Assets Control.
UNESCO Division of
Earth Sciences Terminated
UNESCO has decided to dissolve the Division of Earth Sciences as
part of a restructuring plan within the organization. Following the
retirement of Dr. Wolfgang Eder (Division Director) at the end of
November 2004, a decision not to replace the Director was made by
UNESCO. Further, UNESCO intends to dissolve the existing Division,
reduce funding to the geosciences and to reallocate existing activities
amongst other divisions.
Although an "official press release" will not occur until
this spring, it is thought that the following activities: International
Geoscience Programme (IGCP), Geoparks, International Cooperation,
Earth Observation and Capacity Building could be subsumed within the
Division of Ecological Sciences. The Disaster Reduction program may
be transferred to the Division of Basic and Engineering Sciences.
After decades of high profile success in science research within
IGCP, this program will undergo a 50% reduction in funding from UNESCO
for 2006. There are no assurances regarding the viability of the program
beyond 2006. Many geoscientists around the world have participated
in and benefited directly from IGCP projects and this funding cut
will have serious long-term repercussions to the geosciences.
DOI Estimates More
Natural Gas Reserves
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced an interim update
of offshore energy resources that estimates undiscovered technically
recoverable offshore gas resources at 406.1 trillion cubic feet. This
mean estimate for 2003 is 12 percent higher than MMS's 2000 national
assessment of 362.2 tcf.
MMS releases the broad national assessments every five years, while
offering the interim updates "in response to significant information
obtained from new exploration and development activity, and on occasion
to incorporate major improvements in methodology and modeling."
Gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico account for much of the increase,
with the new interim update showing total Gulf reserves at 232.5 tcf,
compared to roughly 192 tcf in the 2000 national assessment. Increased
estimates of so-called deep shelf recoverable resources, which are
gas reserves more than 15,000 feet below the sea floor, contributed
to the new estimates, according to MMS.
In other news, the interim update and information provided by MMS
shows a 1 percent increase in offshore oil resources, to 76 billion
barrels. That includes a jump of 1.2 billion barrels of estimated
resources in the Atlantic Ocean based on the information gained from
recent Canadian drilling, bringing the Atlantic total to 3.5 Bbbl.
Other areas were nearly unchanged, with the gulf and Pacific Ocean
mean oil estimate slightly lower, while the Alaska estimate was a
tad higher. The assessment cautions that some resources were not included
in the new estimate because the figures take into account 2 billion
barrels of oil and 8 tcf of gas that "were discovered and moved
to the reserves category during this time period." The interim
update does not address what portion of the reserves are currently
commercially viable to extract.
The update is available online at http://www.mms.gov/revaldiv/PDFs/2003NationalAssessmentUpdate.pdf.
Stronger Role for
Federal Science Advisors, Report Recommends
Scientists have long sought to ensure that public policy decision
makers have access to the best available scientific and technical
information, and that this information is used to inform public policy
decisions. According to many scientists, however, the process by which
the White House and Congress receive scientific advice is in need
of reform. On the heels of the release of the latest National Academies
report for improving executive branch science and technology advisory
panels and the process for recruiting and retaining senior executive
branch appointees responsible for scientific programs, the Federation
of American Scientists (FAS) has issued "Flying Blind: The Rise,
Fall, and Possible Resurrection of Science Policy Advice in the United
Henry Kelley, an author of the report and president of FAS, has said
that the report is not meant as a political commentary. Kelley told
the Chronicle of Higher Education that "We [FAS] throw rocks
at a lot of different people. There is a lot of blame to go around.
Our interest here is not to attack the current administration."
The report contends that while the need for effective science and
technology advice continues to increase, "the infrastructure
for providing such help is in a state of crisis." Acknowledging
that technical analysis is almost never sufficient to make wise choices,
"absent competent, timely, targeted scientific and technical
analysis, these decisions will depend on unchallenged assertions by
special interests and ideologues." A real and negative consequence
will be poorly designed programs and costly mistakes.
Examples of how the scientific advisory process has been weakened
at the highest levels of government include Congress' decision to
disband the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1996, and in
the current administration the position of science advisor seemingly
lacks the same status and proximity to the President as previous advisors
have enjoyed (i.e., title and an office in the West Wing of the White
The report proposes actions for Congress and the White House. Congress
is called upon to recognize that while the National Academies provide
a valuable and necessary function, their role is not sufficient. Congress
should "start a significant effort with OTA's ability to assemble
external expertise and conduct detailed analysis of complex technical
subjects as a distinct organization within GAO [Government Accountability
Office] reporting directly to the GAO director."
As for the President, the report calls for a strengthened role for
existing White House-level science organizations and the presidential
science advisor. More specifically, the President should seek passage
of legislation to "(a) establish a strong National Science and
Technology Council (NSTC) managed by a civilian executive secretary
appointed by the President, formalizing the role of the Presidential
science and Technology advisory; and (b) reauthorize the Office of
Science and Technology Policy as an office that would secure independent
advice through independent advisory boards, conduct timely assessments
of science and technology policy issues using both internal staff
and sponsoring studies in the National Academies and possibly other
organizations." Other recommendations are also presented. The
report is currently available online at http://www.fas.org/main/home.jsp.
New U.S. Math and
Science Scores Available
The National Center for Education Statistics has released results
on the performance of U.S. students from the Trends in International
Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). TIMSS, conducted every four
years, is an assessment of fourth- and eighth-graders in mathematics
and science. TIMSS first collected data in 1995, and then again from
eighth-graders in 1999. With the 2003 data collection, TIMSS offers
the first international trend comparisons in mathematics and science
at grades four and eight. TIMSS measures how well students acquired
the mathematics and science knowledge that they have encountered in
school. That is, the content of the TIMSS assessment is based on the
curricula of participating countries. Because countries vary in the
ways in which mathematics and science are taught as well as the content
covered in their school-based courses, this means that the TIMSS assessment
should be considered a general indicator of the knowledge of a nation's
students. For example, in some countries, large proportions of eighth-graders
have been exposed to early and advanced topics in algebra and geometry,
whereas in the United States, a significant proportion of eighth-graders
have not yet been exposed to these topics, or have only encountered
the earliest notions. The following is a sample of the TIMSS results:
- In 2003, U.S. fourth-grade students scored 518 in mathematics, on
average, exceeding the international average of 495 for the 25 participating
- In 1995, U.S. fourth-graders also scored 518 in mathematics, on
average, indicating that there has been no change in the average mathematics
performance of U.S. fourth-graders over these 8 years.
- In 2003, U.S. eighth-grade students scored 504 in mathematics, on
average, exceeding the international average of 466 for the 45 participating
- In contrast to their fourth-grade counterparts, U.S. eighth-graders
improved in mathematics between 1995 and 2003, from an average score
of 492 in 1995 to an average of 504 in 2003.
- In 2003, U.S. fourth-grade students scored 536 in science, on average,
exceeding the international average of 489 for the 25 participating
- In comparison to the fourth-grade science results in 1995, U.S.
fourth-graders score in 2003 appeared to be lower than the 1995 score,
but the difference was not statistically significant.
- In 2003, U.S. eighth-grade students scored 527 in science, on average,
exceeding the international average of 473 for the 45 participating
- In comparison to the earlier TIMSS data collections, U.S. eighth-graders
improved in science, from an average score of 513 in 1995 to an average
of 527 in 2003. U.S. eighth-graders showed improvement in science
between 1999 and 2003 as well.
For more details and to download the full TIMSS report, visit http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/timss03.
On December 14, eleven parents from Dover, Pennsylvania -- represented
by the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union,
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and attorneys
from Pepper Hamilton LLP --filed suit in federal court to overturn
the "intelligent design" policy of the Dover Area School
Board. The plaintiffs in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District
argue that teaching intelligent design -- which consists of discredited
creationist criticisms of evolution, which are supposed to lead to
the conclusion that supernatural intervention by an "intelligent
designer" must have been responsible for the history of life
-- is government establishment of religion when taught as science
in a public school science class. Vic Walczak, attorney for the Pennsylvania
chapter of the ACLU, said that "Teaching students about religion's
role in world history and culture is proper, but disguising a particular
religious belief as science is not," at the press conference
announcing the suit. He added, "Intelligent design is a Trojan
Horse for bringing religious creationism back into public school science
Reaction to the complaint was swift. A trenchant editorial in the
York Dispatch began by observing, "The intelligent design/creationist
clique on the Dover Area School Board now have the national media
attention they've been angling for -- and so much for their mandated
responsibilities to the students and district residents," and
went on pointedly to describe the procedure for running for school
board. Angie Yingling, a member of the Dover Area School Board who
initially voted for the policy but later reversed her position and
threatened to resign over the policy, told the Associated Press, "Anyone
with half a brain should have known we were going to be sued."
The Discovery Institute issued a press release calling on the board
to withdraw and rewrite its policy. But Richard Thompson, an attorney
for the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself as a "not-for-profit
public interest law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of
the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and
the sanctity of human life," indicated that his firm would represent
the Dover Area School District to defend the "intelligent design"
policy. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Thompson acknowledged
that "religious implications" of "intelligent design,"
but expressed confidence in the prospects for a legal victory. NCSE's
Nicholas Matzke took a different view, saying, "Evolution is
great science and this intelligent design stuff is religiously motivated
pseudo-science," adding, "it seems like a pretty clear-cut
case to us."
On December 7th, Oklahoman's for Excellence in Science Education (OESE)
launched an organizational website providing information about evolution
education in the state of Oklahoma. The site is located at http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/oese
and contains a lot of information about teaching evolution, Oklahoma's
evolution debate and instructions on how to sign up for the Oklahoma
On December 1st, House Bill 35 was introduced in the Missouri House
of Representatives. (Although the legislature is not in session until
January 5, 2005, in Missouri it is possible to "prefile"
bills and resolutions in order to expedite legislation.) HB 35 would
"All biology textbooks sold to the public schools of the state
of Missouri shall have one or more chapters containing a critical
analysis of origins. The chapters shall convey the distinction between
data and testable theories of science and philosophical claims that
are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may
generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum
should help students to understand the full range of scientific views
that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific
discoveries can profoundly affect society."
The second and third sentences, of course, are modeled after the
so-called Santorum-language, present only in the Joint Explanatory
Statement of the Conference Committee for the No Child Left Behind
Act and not in the act itself. The sponsor of the bill, Cynthia Davis,
was a cosponsor of both of last year's "intelligent design"
bills in the Missouri House of Representatives, HB 911 and HB 1722.
HB 911 would have required "the equal treatment of science instruction
regarding evolution and intelligent design" in Missouri's public
schools, and moreover would have provided that "Willful neglect
of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or
teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section
shall be cause for termination of his or her contract" and "Each
public school classroom in this state from grades eight through twelve
in which science is taught exclusively shall post a copy of this section
in a conspicuous manner." These draconian provisions were absent
from its successor, HB 1722, but no action was taken on either bill
before the end of the legislative session on May 14, 2004.
For the text of HB 35 as introduced, visit: http://www.house.state.mo.us/bills051/biltxt/intro/HB0035I.htm.
As predicted, the balance of power on the Kansas Board of Education
tilted in favor of anti-evolutionists after the November 2, 2004,
election. When Kathy Martin replaces Bruce Wyatt on the District 6
seat on the board in January 2005, the anti-evolution faction will
have a 6-4 majority. Kansans are thus braced for a reprise of 1999's
battle over the place of evolution in the state's science standards,
and they got a taste of it on December 14, 2004, when the first draft
of a revised set of science standards was received by the board. Board
member John Bacon complained that the opinions of supporters of teaching
creationism and "intelligent design" alongside evolution
were ignored, and eight members of the twenty-six member committee
submitted a "minority report," authored with the assistance
of the Intelligent Design Network, which criticized the draft for
promoting a "naturalistic" definition of science and for
not sufficiently encouraging students "to critically analyze
the theory of biological evolution."
Nevertheless, the first draft of the standards, as submitted, was
accepted by the board and is now scheduled to be discussed in public
meetings around the state in January 2005; it will undergo further
rounds of revisions and evaluation, with a final draft to be voted
on by the board in June. A recent editorial in the Wichita Eagle advised
the board not to monkey with the standards: "Evolution, like
it or not, is a bedrock of modern science, in fields as diverse as
paleontology and human genome research. It has revolutionized science
and our understanding of the world. Every student should know and
understand it -- regardless of whether they personally believe it.
... But the most 'scientific' of the creationist theories, intelligent
design, has little support in the mainstream scientific community.
So why would we teach it in our science classrooms?" As in 1999,
the National Center for Science Education is working with concerned
Kansans -- especially those at Kansas Citizens for Science -- to help
to ensure that evolution education in the Sunflower State remains
On December 6, 2004, the Grantsburg, Wisconsin, school board passed
a third version of a resolution on its science curriculum by a vote
of 6 to 1. Two previous versions of the policy were widely criticized
as obvious attempts to require or allow the teaching of various forms
of creationism, including "intelligent design," in the district's
science classes. The policy states:
"Students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific
explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths
and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Students
shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of
evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of
creationism or intelligent design."
Despite the welcome clarification in the last sentence, the singling
out of evolution for special attention is still problematic. NCSE's
Susan Spath told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "We'll have
to wait and see what materials are produced" to implement the
new policy. Signs are not good, though: at a meeting in late November,
the school board allowed a proponent of "intelligent design"
creationism to make a lengthy presentation and to screen a videotape,
while denying requests to allow a biologist to speak at a later meeting.
In other news, on December 16, the Grantsburg school board received
a letter signed by almost 200 members of the Wisconsin clergy urging
the board "to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum
by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component
of human knowledge." In all, about 3000 science professors, religion
professors, science educators, and members of the clergy from across
the state have signed letters of protest to the board about its antievolution
policies, thanks in large part to the efforts of NCSE member Michael
Zimmerman, the dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University
of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Grantsburg Superintendent Joni Burgin is reportedly
unimpressed, however, writing in an e-mail to the St. Paul Pioneer
Press that "The amount of letters and the number of signatures
does not matter. The school board feels that they must do what is
right for Grantsburg students and the Grantsburg community."
Concerned residents of Grantsburg are planning to hold a public forum
on January 8, 2005, on evolution, creationism, and public education
-- and on what is really right for science education in Grantsburg.
On December 15, 2004, S 114 was introduced (by prefiling) in the South
Carolina Senate and referred to the Committee on Education. In addition
to revising two aspects of the system whereby the state selects textbooks,
S 114 would, if enacted, establish a nineteen-member South Carolina
Standards Committee, charged to "study standards regarding the
teaching of the origin of species; determine whether there is a consensus
on the definition of science; [and] determine whether alternatives
to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools."
The idea of such a committee was broached in the last legislative
session, in a context that amply revealed its antievolutionist motivations.
May 10-11 are Congressional
The 10th annual Congressional Visit Day is scheduled for May 10-11,
2005. The CVD is a two-day annual event that brings scientists, engineers,
researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to
raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology.
CVD is an important opportunity to make science issues and science
funding a priority for the 109th congress. More information about
CVD is available at www.aas.org/cvd/.
The site contains a downloadable packet of briefing materials updated
to demonstrate the need for sustained federal investment in scientific
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in partnership
with Coastal America and the National Environmental Education and
Training Foundation, invites students nationwide in grades 6-12 to
participate in a contest to choose a name for a new NOAA ship. Ship
names and supporting projects that capture the spirit of ocean exploration
are encouraged. Generally, NOAA ships are named for mission-type,
environmental phenomena, myths or traditions, geographical features,
or former decommissioned ships crewed by NOAA personnel or predecessors.
NOAA's new ocean exploration ship will be unique because it will be
the only NOAA ship dedicated exclusively to exploration and research
of our oceans. The new vessel will join NOAA's fleet, under the direction
of NOAA's Marine and Aviation Operations. For more information about
the contest, visit www.education.noaa.gov/shipname.
Johnson Controls and the National Energy Foundation (NEF) have announced
the launch of the fourth Igniting Creative Energy Challenge. The Challenge
is an educational competition designed to encourage students to learn
more about energy and the environment. Students are asked to submit
entries that reflect the competition theme, Igniting Creative Energy,
and demonstrate an understanding of what an individual, family, or
group can do to make a difference in their home, school, or community.
Students may express their ideas on energy conservation and the environment
in the form of science projects, essays, stories, artwork, photographs,
music, video, or website projects. They may also submit recent service
projects or results from the National Energy Foundation's own Energy
"Students play an important role in energy usage which naturally
extends to our business of providing energy solutions," said
Jeff Crenshaw, Director, Public Sector Sales for Johnson Controls.
"As we introduce our fourth Challenge, we are continually impressed
by the excitement and creativity students and teachers exhibit in
showing ways to preserve the environment and conserve energy."
The Challenge is open to all students in grades K-12 in the U.S. and
Canada, excluding Quebec. All entries are due by February 19, 2005,
and winners will be announced on or about March 21, 2005. The Challenge
is sponsored and funded through an educational grant by Johnson Controls,
Inc. with additional support from the United States Energy Association,
and is administered by the National Energy Foundation. Official rules
about the contest and a downloadable entry form can be found at www.ignitingcreativeenergy.org.
How to Find Key
Federal Register Notices
Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency
meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community
are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved,
the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available online
Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also
available online at http://www.regulation.gov.
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs
portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org/gap
since the last monthly update:
- OMB Data Quality Standards (12-23-04)
- Political Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution (12-23-04)
- Natural Gas Policy (12-16-04)
- Climate Change Policy Overview (12-16-04)
- High-Level Nuclear Waste Legislation (12-10-04)
Monthly review prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs
Sources: ABC News, American Institute for Biological Sciences,
American Institute of Physics, Chronicle of Higher Education, Department
of Interior, Discovery Institute, Environment and Energy Daily, International
Union of Geological Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics,
Roll Call, Triangle Coalition, Washington Post, White House Office
of Science and Technology Policy, York Dispatch.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Posted January 12, 2004