Government Affairs Program

AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee Meeting Report

March 23, 2007
AGI Headquarters
Alexandria, Virginia

An agenda with links to background materials accompanies this report.

Jamie Robertson (Chair), State Geologist of Wisconsin
Kate Von Holle, American Geophysical Union
Laurie Scheuing, Association for Women Geoscientists
David Diodato, Geological Society of America
Leigh House, Society of Exploration Geophysicists
Hal Gluskoter, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc.
Tim West, U.S. Geological Survey
Allyson Anderson, AGI Congressional Science Fellow
David Lindbo, Soil Science Society of America
John Keith, Association of Earth Science Editors
Blair Jones, Clay Minerals Society
Gail Ashley, American Geological Institute
Skip Watts, Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists
Lenny Konikow, International Association of Hydrogeologists

Linda Rowan, AGI GAP Director

I. Introductions and Preliminary Business
Jamie Robertson called the GAPAC meeting to order at 2:00 pm and asked the member societies to continue to provide feedback to GAP or Jamie about the government affairs program.

A. Approval of agenda
Robertson asked that the committee approve the agenda, and the motion was agreed to.

B. Review of action items and approval of minutes from October meeting.
Linda Rowan reviewed the action items from the October 22, 2006 meeting:

1. Ask Ann Benbow or perhaps the AGI Education Committee to take part in the next Government Affairs Advisory Committee meeting to update everyone on public policy and public outreach related to education, particularly Earth Science Week.
a. Both Benbow and Camphire spoke at today's meeting.
2. Consider requesting a survey of the Member Societies on the best date for Earth Science Week.

a. Will be held in October.

3. Send out the GAP priority list to Member Society Executive Directors and/or Presidents to gather more input on society priorities and approaches to public policy.
a. Scheuing suggested sending a list of priorities and/or questions to member society committees and letting the committees prioritize and seek input from their directors rather than addressing the directors/presidents directly.

4. Include teaching teachers and college education on GAP priority list.

5. Continue to work on resource list and handbook for public policy, public outreach and educational materials and tools from Member Societies.

a. Rowan reviewed the list of resources for each member society, which are currently posted on the AGI webpage. She would like to add more and to make to information available for public use. Suggestions are welcome.
b. Robertson suggested posting short biographies of critical congressional staffers on the website, particularly if they have any sort of geoscience background. Such a resource helps society members find a common ground with staffers. Rowan commented that such a website would be difficult to maintain and is low on the priority list, but agreed that AGI could provide staffer biographies on an as-needed basis.
c. Allyson Anderson suggested Sara Mills as a resource. Mills is a legislative assistant who takes care of all the democratic LA information. Also, there are a couple listservs with this sort of information.
C. Review of program finances

III. Collaboration with AGI Education and Public Outreach
A. Ann Benbow discussed AGI's education and outreach program. She discussed curriculum development efforts, all of which is funded by the National Science Foundation. She noted that AGI is the only earth science curriculum supported by NSF.

a. Online material supports and supplements AGI modules and textbooks and is updated constantly.
b. AGI provides professional training to "teach the teachers."
c. Online courses will be offered this summer and count for graduate credit.
B. Ann showed clips from the new TV series "Faces of the Earth," which will air this fall

C. Geoff Camphire introduced Earth Science Week 2007, the theme of which will be "pulse of the earth." This year will mark the 10th anniversary of Earth Science Week

a. Earth Science Week had record participation across the country, with some 15 thousand kits distributed to schools and participation in the annual contest up 167%

IV. Building Consensus on Policy Issues

A. The concerns of individual organizations were discussed.

Jones- Open publication is the primary concern for the Clay Minerals Society, though the issue is dormant at the moment.

Diodato- GSA is developing a water resources position statement and an energy and mineral resources position statement; trying to evaluate effective science communication; and will possibly establish an office in Washington, DC with a full time public affairs person. That person would focus on public policy issues, not lobbying.

Keith- The Association for Earth Science Editors does not have any major government affairs activities. AESE is not really working on policy issues, though open access may become an issue.

Von Holle- AGU is reviewing its position statements about climate change, natural hazards, and teaching evolution. A position statement regarding open access is due out next year. Marianne Guffanti is actually the elected AGI liaison.

Scheuing- AWG is supporting four people for the Congressional Visits Day in May.

Rowan- AGI and other societies have lists of their past fellows. She recommended using these lists for visits and speakers. She also noted that Congress likes to hear from students on CVD.

Anderson offered to help anyone interested in carbon dioxide sequestration, mineral rights, or other energy issues.

Ashley- reminded people that the Leadership Forum will be April 30. The Forum is organized by AGI, AAPG, AGU, and GSA. Last year's theme was communicating geoscience with the public. This year the theme will focus on policy makers and next year it will emphasize relations with the private sector.

Rowan suggested invited Rep. Matsui's congressional fellow, who worked on legislation regarding scientists learning to communicate with policy makers.

Watts- AEG does not have a large public policy group, but it does have plans to become more active. Key issues for AEG include education, outreach, and public communication. Watts noted his concerns with the suppression of good science, especially in regard to the closing of the EPA libraries and to the debacle at NASA over climate change.

Robertson- The reauthorization of the Geological Mapping Program is a concern for state geologists. Also, the National Energy Policy Act, which is supposed to protect geological and geophysical data.

B. Building consensus within and amongst organizations was discussed.

Von Holle- The AGU Public Affiars Committee nominates people to serve on position statement panels. These panels craft a statement and post it to EOS for feedback from AGU members. The statements are rewritten with member input and are used as guidelines for directing AGU interests. The statements must be rewritten or reaffirmed every two years.

Gluskoter- The AAPG climate change statement is being rewritten by a new committee, as it was not initially well-received.

Diodato- The GSA council picks an issues, decides whether a position statement is necessary and then a committee with expertise in the matter crafts a statement. It was not clear how or if GSA members participate in the crafting of position statements. After the statement is written, it goes back to the council for approval. GSA position statements are not used to guide the society's public policy priorities.

Rowan- Member society position statements are available on the Resources page of the AGI website.

Rowan suggested publicizing position statements and distributing policy talks throughout society meetings as a means of encouraging communication between scientists and policy makers. She also recommended holding policy workshops during meetings and distributing member surveys immediately after policy sessions while the information is still fresh in people's minds. Action alerts and other "press power" notices are also an effective means of communicating policy issues to members.

Rowan- encouraged other societies to tell their members to let their Congress people know that they are available to provide advice, testimony, etc. She emphasized the power individuals have in Congress when they simply make calls, send emails, or write brief letters to their representatives. "It's not as hard as you think!"

Robertson said that societies need to find energized individuals and help them make a difference. He emphasized the importance of repetition and reminded others that congressional staffers are "drowning in information."

Rowan- GAP activities for 2007.
If anyone is receiving too much email about GAP, let Linda know.
Jones encouraged Rowan to get the meeting dates for all the different organizations and to "deluge" them with information just before their meetings.

Gluskoter asked about efforts to address Intelligent Design concerns. The Evolutionary Task Force is working with 50 plus societies to develop a public understanding campaign. The National Academy of Science is involved and is working on clarifying pamphlets to focus on the "murky middle." Efforts are being made to survey the public to understand how to target people who have not yet their minds up about ID. At the next GSA meeting, GSA will survey its members about ID.

Robertson suggested focusing on scientific integrity at the next GAPAC meeting.

V. Other business

Robertson adjourned the meeting at 5:10 pm.

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

Posted December 3, 2007