American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE

Special Update: AGI, Geoscience Societies Sign Letter Urging Research Funding Increases (3-9-97)

AGI's Government Affairs Program (GAP) seeks to keep the AGI member societies informed of its activities and related events in Washington through monthly updates and occasional special updates. Monthly updates go out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee as well as the leadership of AGI's member societies and other interested geoscientists. Prior updates can be found on this site.

The presidents of AGI, AGU, GSA, and AIPG were among those who signed an open letter to Congress and President Clinton from the scientific community calling on them to "renew the nation's historical commitment to scientific research and education." The letter specifically called for a 7 percent increase in research budgets for fiscal year 1998. In all, the 23 organizations whose presidents signed the letter in turn represent 108 individual societies and a million and a half scientists. It is hoped that this letter represents the beginning of a community-wide campaign to reverse the constant-dollar declines in federal science and technology investments. The text of the presidents' letter and a list of signers can be found below.

The signatures of AGI President Ed Roy, AGU President Sean Solomon, GSA President George Thompson, and AIPG President Jonathan Price ensured that the geosciences were well represented within the broader science community. The presidents of several other AGI member societies expressed an interest in joining the letter, and only time prevented their inclusion. Nevertheless, their societies and all other member societies were represented through AGI.

The letter was released at a National Press Club briefing in Washington this past Tuesday (March 4th) that highlighted both the significance of the event as well as the long road ahead. Remarks were given by American Physical Society President and former presidential science advisor D. Allen Bromley, American Chemical Society President Paul Anderson, American Mathematical Society President Arthur Jaffe, and American Astronomical Society President Andrea Dupree. Their statements focused on the landmark nature of the event and emphasized the value of science to the nation, particularly the contributions made by science to the health of its citizens. The latter focus is indicative of the science community's desire to tap into the popularity (and hefty budget increases) currently enjoyed by the biomedical research community. Bromley drew sharp comparisons between the declines in US spending for research and the significant increases in Japan and other countries, warning that the US must keep "the coffers of new knowledge filled." Dupree's remarks focused on the need for the science community to come together and referred to the letter effort as the "one and a half million scientist march." If we continue that metaphor, the march has just begun. Critical questioning from the press was a reminder that the real tasks lie ahead: providing compelling justifications for such budget increases, prioritizing where the increases should go, and identifying where they should come from in a flat budget environment.

The release of the letter was accompanied by statements of support from Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), who has introduced legislation to authorize a doubling of spending for civilian R&D over 10 years, House Science Committee ranking member George Brown (D-CA), and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), a co-founder of the nascent Senate Science and Technology Caucus.

If this letter represents the first step toward greater cooperation in the scientific community, then it is a step in the right direction. In April, AGI will participate in two more events intended to increase the visibility of science in Congress. On April 16-17, AGI will bring several geoscientists to Washington to join with over a hundred other scientists and engineers for a Science and Technology Visits Day event that features congressional and White House briefings followed by a day of visits with members and staff on the Hill. On April 30th, AGI and AGU will jointly present a booth at the Coalition for National Science Funding's Congressional Exhibition and Reception in the Rayburn House Office Building. This event provides an opportunity to display the results of research funded by the National Science Foundation.

Joint Statement on Scientific Research

March 4, 1997

As the federal government develops its spending plans for Fiscal Year 1998, we call upon the President and Members of Congress to renew the nation's historical commitment to scientific research and education by providing the requisite funding for the federal agencies charged with these responsibilities. Our call is based upon two fundamental principles that are well accepted by policy makers in both political parties.

We strongly believe that for our nation to meet the challenges of the next century, agencies charged with carrying out scientific research and education require increases in their respective research budgets in the range of 7 percent for Fiscal Year 1998. These agencies include, among others, the NSF, NIH, DOE, DOD, and NASA. The increases we call for strike a balance between the current fiscal pressures and the need to invest in activities that enable long-term economic growth and productivity. Such increases would only partially restore the inflationary losses that most of these agencies suffered during the last few years.

Prudent planning argues for strengthening the respective activities of major research agencies, as already recognized in pending legislation. To constrain still further federal spending on their scientific programs would jeopardize the future well being of our nation.

Endorsed by Presidents of:

American Association of Physicists in Medicine
American Astronomical Society
American Chemical Society
American Geological Institute
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Institute of Physics
The American Institute of Professional Geologists
American Mathematical Society
The American Physical Society
American Society of Engineering Education
Association for Women in Mathematics
Association for Women in Science
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Council on Undergraduate Research
Engineering Deans Council
Federation of Materials Societies
Geological Society of America
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Materials Research Society
Mathematical Association of America
Optical Society of America
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

(Contributed by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs)

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Uploaded March 9, 1997

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