American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


Minutes for the
Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting

Tuesday, October 29, 1996
Denver Marriott City Center, Silverheels Room


A cover memo with action items accompanied these draft minutes.

Attendees
Jim Gibbs, Committee Chair, Dallas TX
Lou Taylor, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Littleton CO
Mac Ross, Mineralogical Society of America, Reston VA
Bill Knight, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Arvada CO
Tom Dutro, Association of Earth Science Editors, Washington DC
John Slack, Society of Economic Geologists, Reston VA
Rodney Feldman, Paleontological Society, Kent OH
Gary Howell, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Littleton CO
Dennis Pennington, AIPG, Tel Ford PA
Dan Sarewitz, Geological Society of America, Boulder CO
Dave Verardo, Association of Engineering Geologists, Charlottesville VA
Mark Kramer, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, Denver CO
Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Columbia SC
Bob Cowdery, Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists, Wichita KS
Blair Jones, Clay Minerals Society, Reston VA
Ed Roy, AGI President-Elect, San Antonio TX
Russ Slayback, AGI Member-at-Large, Trumbull CT
Bob Fakundiny, Association of American State Geologists, Albany NY
Marie Dvorzak, Geoscience Information Society, Madison WI
Karen Spaulding, Association for Women Geoscientists, Arvada CO
Linda Schieber, AWG, Seattle WA
Logan MacMillan, AIPG, Littleton CO
E-an Zen, GSA, College Park MD

John Dragonetti, AGI Government Affairs Program
David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

1.0 Introductions

Jim Gibbs welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for their attendance.

1.1 Approval of minutes from May 1996 meeting at AAPG San Diego

The minutes were approved.

1.2 Review program finances

Gibbs noted the new and increased contributions from a number of member societies. The largest increase comes from AAPG, which doubled its contribution to nearly $40,000. GSA provided an additional $10,000 challenge grant to encourage new or increased contributions. Subsequent support from the AIPG Foundation, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and several other societies has brought the program to within $1800 of meeting that challenge. Gibbs also noted that when the program began, the planned budget was $150,000. Although still not there, the program is getting closer. Given that contributions are voluntary, Gibbs stressed that they are more effective when more societies participate at whatever level.

1.3 Chairman's Remarks

Gibbs discussed some of the program's history and accomplishments, emphasizing the need to continually strive for consensus positions reflective of all societies. At the same time, GAP is designed to be responsive to member society needs and specific concerns. Gibbs reviewed the action items and initiatives from the March meeting. Noting the priority issues developed by the committee, Gibbs also stressed that GAP will help societies express their issues. Although many of the objectives have been met, Applegate expressed regret that less progress had been made on two fronts: position papers and a memo explaining current lobbying laws. The latter should be ready by the end of the year. Howell noted that ASAE provides useful information on lobbying.

1.4 Increased Involvement with National Park Service

Tom Dutro pointed out that GAP outreach activities should include the Park Service. Applegate replied that the program has had discussions with them and sees real opportunities there either through summer internships for geoscientists or through increased opportunities for geoscientists to work in parks. Sarewitz, Ross, Howell, and Verardo all suggested a variety of no-cost options for AGI to work with the Park Service. Reservations were expressed over internship programs that would amount to giving money to the federal government. Ed Roy noted that the NRC Board on Earth Sciences and Resources had also identified this problem and the Park Service representative would be addressing the board's next meeting.

2.0 Update on GAP Activities

Applegate discussed recent GAP activities (for additional background see attached monthly update):

3.0 AGI Foundation Activities

Jan van Sant, AGI Foundation Executive Director, came to the meeting to update the committee on activities of the AGI Foundation, which is looking for support for a number of AGI programs including $100,000 annually to support two congressional science fellows. Van Sant also noted that the Foundation's board consisted of high-ranking leaders in a variety of companies that have Washington offices, presenting an opportunity for GAP to interact with them and benefit from their knowledge and expertise.

4.0 Reports from member societies

Mac Ross (Mineralogical Society of America) -- We must get more involved with environmental issues; mineralogy is facing the challenge of being accepted as a valid area of research. He also expressed concern over attempts to regulate below ambient levels, for example lead in water and ambient dust in air. There is a need for basic geoscience research into background levels.

Rod Feldmann (Paleontological Society) -- Access to public lands for collecting is the primary issue, and the society has been involved with federal agencies regarding the development of regulations and now of laws. They are seeking to develop common ground within the paleontology community. Another issue is conservation of geologic data -- preservation of fossil collections. We must elevate the general awareness of the importance of this business -- libraries are important yet we cannot convince people that geologic resources are of equal value. The society is also dealing with public education. Gibbs asked if there were liability issues associated with preserving these collections, noting SMU's experience with radioactive dinosaur bones.

Gary Howell (SME) -- He noted that SME is not politically active, but the National Mining Association is a large lobbying group. One-third of SME is dominated by geologists but also members in metallurgy, finance. The other two-thirds are engineers. SME is working in outreach, including annual exhibit at National Science Teachers Association meeting with free samples and members present to explain minerals. Although SME understands the need for data preservation, mining companies have been very proprietary and not been very ardent supporters of program, but they are going overseas as well and their support may change.

4.1 Discussion of Education Issues

Phil Astwood (NAGT) -- Noting an earlier comment about priority issues, he stated that he was not on the committee when education was ruled out. In response, Applegate stated that GAP has been and will continue to be active in promoting geoscience education, but that it is not responsible for developing educational programs. Astwood pointed to the recent success of the national science standards and the holding action on the Eisenhower program. He also noted that results of international testing for 8th graders were coming out, and we know what the results are going to look like. In response to these results, he feared a negative reaction to new initiatives and a feeling that it was time to go back to basics, with geoscience education viewed as a frill. He urged GAP to help support geoscience education in the schools.

A lengthy discussion of education issues resulted as many committee members and their societies shared a range of concerns in this area. Concerns were raised about the downgrading of geoscience in K-12 curricula, the lack of even basic physics and chemistry for elementary and high school science teachers (Cowdery noted the stunning figure that 80% lacked such training), the fragmentation of efforts in this area, and the fact that every society wanted to have its own K-12 program without effective coordination.

Ed Roy in particular noted the need for bringing continuity to our programs -- the fragmentation was confusing to those who we want to address. He and others stressed the need to pay attention to local government, involving ourselves in school districts. With the importance of the geosciences raised in the new national science standards, we are poised to bring earth science into school curricula. He also noted the presentation at the Member Society Council on the importance of leveling the playing field, reducing the enormous differences between the haves and have nots. Pennington noted that AGI could play a role at the national level, coordinating state efforts on issues such as evolution, helping to focus individual efforts.

Hitzman raised the textbook issue, particularly the fact that Texas and California drive textbook sales, and it is their legislatures that make the political not scientific decision. He stressed the importance of contacting the review boards and otherwise making political contacts in these and other relevant states. Gibbs raised the issue of liability -- many schools do not hold field trips because of the cost. He suggested an omnibus insurance policy for geologic field trips that individual schools could plug into.

Verardo asserted that what was needed was a change in the culture of geology -- we are still educating lone rangers and need a more gregarious group who will get out and do volunteer activities, telling other folks what it is that we do. He related his experience of trying to communicate his research to a lay person following a NSF press release on his work. Cowdery recalled a comment made by Charlie Mankin that geologists don't have an image problem, they don't have an image!

MacMillan asked if societies could develop a resource could be developed providing the names and organizations of people that provide assistance to K-12 education, so that people from one region are aware of what other member societies have going on with AGI playing a key clearinghouse role. Applegate responded that AGI had developed such a resource, and Fakundiny noted that AASG has made a resource directory of material useful to earth science teachers available from state surveys, designed to complement AGI's effort. The AASG document is on the Web through the Kansas Geological Survey and it is possible to download the entire thing

Dutro asked Applegate to relate these discussions to Marilyn Suiter and expressed his concern over the threat to the Department of Education, asking who will push through the new standards? He noted that we cannot go out to 15,000 local school boards but we can raise awareness -- there needs to be a focus at the national level. Astwood stated that the challenge was at two levels -- national support but local decisionmaking and involvement, expressing the need for someone at the top to support activities.

4.2 Continued reports from member societies

Dave Verardo -- AEG is very happy with AGI's government affairs activities, particularly its very balanced approach and prompt response to queries He has taken information from GAP and put it into AEG News column and recently developed an electronic network to mobilize the membership in response to congressional action alerts. AEG is very interested in natural hazards. He also noted that AGI was helpful in his efforts to save the paleontology collection at the University of Virginia from destruction. Communication and outreach are the keys to success. He expressed hope that AEG would increase its annual contribution to the program, noting that AEG's new president has targeted government affairs as a priority issue. Applegate stated that the AEG e-mail network could serve as a prototype for other societies and expressed his eagerness to improve GAP's ability to reach the membership of each society.

Bob Fakundiny (AASG) -- He began by noting that AASG has contributed $59 per member because it feels that this is a very important program. He also stated that there is not one issue brought up here today that is not an issue before AASG, which is deeply concerned and would like to work with other member societies. Issues include the national geoscience data repository system; concerns about USGS warehousing of geologic maps and what is happening with the topographic map production; working with the USGS to make the National Geologic Mapping Act more effective; and the earth science education resource book. Finally, AASG is quite interested in continuing to support GAP in taking congressional action -- state geologists are available to go to Hill on short notice.

Dennis Pennington (AIPG) -- He expressed his concurrence with Fakundiny's last point, noting that AIPG had a new government affairs manual that could be included with AGI's publications as well as another manual on how to get one's message through agencies. AIPG also updated its home buyers guide on geologic hazards. He expressed support for expanding resources for AGI's efforts -- the success of program points to the fact that we need more of it. He emphasized the importance of getting people involved, increasing our communication. AIPG plans to begin setting up quarterly meeting with legislators and will ask GAP to help coordinate efforts on NGMA and other issues including data preservation. In particular, he noted some disturbing meetings with large universities where funding pressures were forcing them to give up their collections.

Marie Dvorzak (GIS) -- Three big issues: preparation, production, distribution and access of geologic information. They are particularly concerned with degradation of data quality and proposals to change tographic maps (pleased to see comments on topo maps that came out of AGI's data preservation workshop). Electronic distribution is promising but access not there yet and current users could suffer, particularly smaller companies and public libraries in rural areas. She also expressed concern over a recent proposal on federal repository program that would strip the program of responsibility to distribute information -- the federal government has a responsibility to make its information available to the general public. In response, Dragonetti noted that in recent discussions with the National Mapping Division, they are open to discussing these issues. He added that AGI would love to help facilitate such discussions. MacMillan stated that we should all be concerned about what the USGS will make available in topographic maps, noting particular concern at rumors that they were going to do away with 7.5 minute quadrangles. He asked AGI to help the member societies understand what is going on. Zen expressed concern that the Survey will stop updating topographic maps. Pennington urged that legislators be asked to sponsor a bill in support of topographic maps, noting that Senator Alan Simpson's (R-WY) staff were interested and emphasizing the role of topo maps as a basic resource and environmental tool. Zen suggested that the Alaska delegation was a good place to start.

Fakundiny suggested a GSA issue symposium on geologic mapping and public policy; noting that people conversant with GIS who want to use it in government affairs often do not understand the difference between data and interpretation -- much of what they think is data is interpreetation. They also do not understand scale issues or the distinction between precision and accuracy. He also noted that during the data repository discussions a question was raised about what facilities are available to receive these data, but he has not seen yet a consistent thorough review of facilities available to receive them, identifying those that can receive. Applegate responded that such a project was part of Phase II of the DOE-funded NGDRS effort and should be available this spring.

Tom Dutro (AESE) -- He expressed concerned about identifying places to put data as they became available. Need to set up program to identify repositories. There is also the archival problem of finding out where data are. Applegate responded that a metadata repository to be developed in Phase III of the NGDRS project would seek to address the critical problem of data access without which data preservation is meaningless.

E-an Zen (GSA) -- There needs to be better overview of the disposal of USGS paleontological collections, and scientific criteria for accession or deacquisition of data must be developed.

Linda Schieber (AWG) -- Newsletter editor noted society's grassroots focus on education through members and chapters gave them a particular ability to connect with teachers to address these issues.

Karen Spalding (AWG) -- Added that AWG members are active on state and local issues. For example, Texas members are reviewing textbooks, taking action on this very important issue mentioned earlier by Hitzman.

Murray (SEconG) -- The society is still trying to decide what to do about government afffairs given concern over its large international membership. Gibbs responded that this is an issue for many societies with large international memberships and that AGI is handling government affairs so that member socieites are not affected.

Cowdery (SIPES) -- Hopes to see SIPES start supporting GAP. He sent faxes in response to threat to data repository funding. Putting on his other hat, he expressed concern about AAPG representation or lack thereof at this meeting and involvement. Applegate and Gibbs both commented on the latter concern with Applegate noting in particular his contacts with AAPG DPA's Government Affairs Committee and recent participation in their symposium held at the GCAGS meeting in San Antonio. He also noted GAP's articles in AAPG Bulletin and Explorer as well as active information-gathering on a variety of energy issues of importance to the AAPG membership MacMillan acknowleged Applegate's help providing information on the issue of doing away with the Department of Energy. Dragonetti added that he acts as AGI representative on the IPAA Washington representatives group, keeping in touch with energy producers.

5.0 Discussion on improving communication between GAP and member societies

Applegate began the discussion by expressing his desire to see a greater sense of ownership of GAP on the part of the member societies -- the program exists to serve them. In order to develop such a sense, it is imperative to develop better ways of getting information out to the member societies and feedback from their membership.

During the discussion that followed, Zen suggested using the monthly GAP updates to get out information for easy dissemination to newsletters on key issues. Hitzman added that it was important for GAP to know newsletter deadlines and format. Dutro added that the advisory committee representatives have an obligation to transmit GAP activities back to their society's members. There was some discussion of the proper role of the representatives and the extent to which AGI should contact newsletter editors directly or should go through the society representative. It appeared that it should be taken on a case by case basis. Cowdery stated that he will get the addresses of SIPES chapter chairmen and AAPG's 80 affiliated societies to AGI to be included in GAP mailings. Dvorzak praised GAP's web site and urged others to go there for additional information. Zen suggested inviting the USGS director to GAP's next meeting in Washington.

6.0 Set next meeting date and adjourn

Applegate stated that the next meeting would be in Washington in late February or early March and that he would send out a calendar to find days that would work. Gibbs thanked all present for their attendance and input into the program.

Attachments


Cover Memo Accompanying Minutes

November 26, 1996

To: Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Members and Liaisons

From: Dave Applegate, Director of Government Affairs

Re: Minutes from October meeting

I am enclosing the minutes and several related documents from the October meeting of the Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee at the GSA Annual Meeting in Denver. The minutes will be reviewed at the next committee meeting to be held at AGI headquarters in February or March. I have attached a calendar and request that you fax it back with conflicts (or e-mail me at applegate@agiweb.org) so that we can set a tentative date. Also, please let me know if you have any changes or additions to the minutes. We will set a tentative date for the meeting by mid-December, so please have your schedule information back to me by December 10th. Many thanks to those of who were able to make the meeting for your helpful comments on the program.

Kasey Shewey is joining our staff next week, and we are very much looking forward to having her on board. The new 105th Congress poses many new challenges for the program as it prepares to take on a wide variety of issues that will affect the geoscience community. The program already has begun making plans for its second special "Geology and Government" issue of Geotimes, planned for April as well as for a Washington workshop on the role of the geosciences in natural hazards policy. We will also be developing the program's first-ever strategic plan.

Action Items from October meeting:


(Prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs)

Please send any changes to the minutes or questions to AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Uploaded November 27, 1996

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