American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Minutes for the
Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting

Saturday, October 18, 1997
Little America Hotel, Arizona Room
Salt Lake City

A cover memo with action items accompanied these minutes.

Jim Gibbs, Dallas TX Committee Chair
Virgil Frizzell, Geological Society of America, Falls Church VA
Dan Sarewitz, Geological Society of America, Boulder CO
Charles Gardner, Association of American State Geologists, Raleigh NC
Joe Briskey, Society of Economic Geologists, Reston VA
Tom Dutro, Association of Earth Science Editors and Paleontological Society, Washington DC
Bill Pariseau, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, & Exploration, Salt Lake City UT (for Al Perry)
Bill Knight, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Arvada CO (for Steve Testa)
Fred Spilhaus, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC (for Margo Kingston)
Clint Moore, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Houston TX
Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Columbia SC
Marcus Milling, AGI Executive Director
Jan van Sant, AGI Foundation
Ed Roy, AGI President
Susan Landon, AGI President-Elect
Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs Program
David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

1.0 Introductions and Preliminary Business

Jim Gibbs opened the meeting by welcoming all attendees. Self-introductions followed.

1.1 Approval of minutes from April 1997 meeting at AAPG Annual Meeting in Dallas

The minutes were approved.

1.2 Review program finances

Reviewed handout (attached) of member society voluntary contributions to GAP. Applegate noted that program had already received close to record amount and was expecting to receive over $90,000 by year's end, up over 25% from 1996, which in turn was up nea rly 50% from 1995. The total budget for the program in 1998 is expected to be $200,000 with half from member society contributions, a quarter from the AGI Foundation for a congressional science fellow, and the remainder from AGI general funds. Gibbs point ed out that the program's goal was to become fully self-sustaining and have 100% participation from the member societies.

1.3 Report from AGI Foundation

Jan van Sant spoke about the AGI Foundation's efforts led by foundation chair Tom Hamilton, CEO of Enserch Exploration. They have been raising money for four programs -- the Earthcomm Curriculum Project, Internet-based Interdisciplinary Training (a progra m initiated by the Society of Exploration Geophysics), the AGI Environmental Awareness Series, and the Congressional Science Fellowship. The Foundation has committed to funding the fellowship for at least three years. Money has been raised for programs, n ot for an endowment. Gibbs commended van Sant for his success at fund-raising and noted that the congressional fellowship had been a priority pushed by this committee. Gibbs also recognized Fred Spilhaus for his leadership in creating the first congressio nal fellowship in the geosciences.

2.0 Update on GAP Activities

Applegate provided a brief overview of GAP activities since the last committee meeting. In light of the monthly and special updates sent to committee members, he refrained from more detailed comments.

2.1 Summer and Semester Interns

Applegate described the success of the summer internship program and the work done by the interns this past summer. He also described efforts to develop a semester-long counterpart for the spring of 1998, noting that this effort may take longer to get goi ng than the instant success of the summer program because students take longer to decide on term-time programs. Applegate thanked AIPG and its foundation for their strong support of the summer internship program.

Virgil Frizzell noted his support for the internship program but also voiced his concern over efficiency given the time needed to work with them. He also suggested that GAP make contact with programs such as Stanford in Washington. Dan Sarewitz noted that work/study students are another possibility for getting help. Van Sant reiterated the potential help represented by the government affairs representatives of the major oil companies in Washington.

2.2 GAP Outreach and Advocacy Activities

Kasey Shewey described AGI's work on the Department of Education's Eisenhower Program, teaming up with other interested societies, particularly the American Chemical Society. The program, threatened with elimination by the Senate, appears likely to surviv e this year's appropriations process intact.

2.3 Update on the 105th Congress

Although the new fiscal year began on October 1, Congress continues to work on spending bills and many geoscience-related programs are currently funded under continuing resolutions.

3.0 Review Prospectus for AGI Congressional Science Fellowship

Phil Astwood asked about the current number of fellows in the geosciences. Applegate replied that fellows were currently sponsored by the Geological Society of America jointly with the U.S. Geological Survey, the American Geophysical Union, and the Soil S cience Society of America jointly with several other agriculture science societies. In addition, AAAS selects two fellows each year, and geoscientists are eligible to apply. Joe Briskey asked if there were plans to raise endowment money for congressional fellowships, which Applegate replied was a long-term goal. It was also suggested that flyers on the fellowship be sent to university departments.

4.0 Discussion of Proposals for Activities

Applegate introduced a number of proposals that had been made to GAP for AGI involvement. Since several of these had not been seen by the committee beforehand, no actions were taken but a request was made for the representatives to go back to their societ ies and get feedback.

4.1 AAAS Statement on Database Protection

The AAAS Council has approved a statement on database protection that will be sent to its associated societies for endorsement. AGI and many of its member societies are affiliates of AAAS. Marie Dvorzak indicated that the WIPO treaty was a very important issue to the geoscience information community with the potential to be very harmful to the scientific community as a whole. Fred Spilhaus noted that the AAAS statement is factually incorrect, adding that there is nothing in the treaty that says you cannot make your data open if you choose. The alternative is to encrypt databases. He also noted the Feist Supreme Court ruling reaffirming the exclusion of databases from copyright protection.

Frizzell stated that it was difficult to be asked to take a position on an area outside of the group's area of expertise. Spilhaus stated that we all agree that the full and open exchange of data is important but that the issue is widely misunderstood. Bi ll Knight added that to protect our technical credibility, we do not want to be associated with an endorsement of the AAAS statement. Spilhaus suggested that this subject would be well suited to bringing together a group and developing a white paper.

4.2 APS: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Ratification

Applegate informed the group of the American Physical Society's plan to push for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Discussions were held about involving geoscientists, particularly seismologists, in an effort to educate Congress on the sc ience behind verification of nuclear tests. Societies that were interested in being involved in such an effort were asked to contact GAP staff.

4.3 Congressional Visits Day 1998

Earlier this year, several geoscientists participated in the 1997 Science and Technology Congressional Visits Day, an event that involved over 200 scientists and engineers making several hundred visits with members of Congress and their staff on the impor tance of federal support for R&D and the value of partnerships between government, industry, and academia. The event begins with a day of briefings by leaders in both the executive and legislative branches. AGI again plans to participate in this event in 1998 and Applegate is involved in the planning process. The next GAP Advisory Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 27-28, the days following the Feb. 25-26 dates for the visits day. All committee members and other interested geoscientists are encouraged to participate.

4.4 Database of Citizen-Geoscientists

Over the years, suggestions have been made to have a list of geoscientists available to give testimony, contact their member of Congress, visit Capitol Hill, or answer questions on a given topic in order to be ready when Congress came to AGI looking for h elp or information. Current GSA fellow Dave Verardo had suggested to GAP staff a modified version, asking societies to poll their members for those interested in answering congressional questions, then having AGI coordinate the resulting lists. Such a li st could also be helpful for media inquiries.

Joe Briskey cautioned against assembling a list of scientists for testimony, noting that once we get into controversial issues, AGI then takes on responsibility for people and their testimony. Spilhaus noted that even a policy-savvy scientist can cause pr oblems with testimony. Sarewitz pointed out that the other option, to do nothing, leads to irrelevance and urged that participation by the societies is better than the alternative which is that only people with a political agenda testify.

Frizzell asked whether developing such a database is a high-priority issue, and how we select those issues. He noted that the database sounds like a lot of effort, and emphasized the need to rationalize the concept with high-priority activities. Marcus Mi lling stated that we now operate by the seat of our pants and are not being proactive. He suggested asking the member societies who they feel would be the best individuals to address specific geoscience-related issues.

Tom Dutro questioned the efficacy of developing a centralized database, noting that media will call the scientists that they know. Dvorzak added that policymakers tend to call their local university and also questioned the utility of such a database for m edia questions. Charles Gardner noted that even now for media calls, GAP staff are only one call away from the relevant member society leadership who can be of help. Sarewitz noted that there is probably no way around the inefficiency of the current syste m.

4.5 Applied Geology Conference

John Pallister of the U.S. Geological Survey has developed the concept for an Applied Geology Conference. The member society representatives will review and comment on the proposal.


5.0 Discussion of Draft Strategic Plan for GAP

Gibbs began by describing the reasons behind this strategic plan and how it followed from the AGI strategic plan completed in 1996. Applegate emphasized that the planning process is still very much ongoing, that efforts have been made at each stage to obt ain member society feedback, and that the current draft will go through at least two more iterations before being finalized. Gibbs noted that the comments made by member societies in a survey of program strengths and weaknesses were very positive.

Frizzell noted that the first three sections of the draft are a tight package, showing the strengths of the existing program, and he suggested that the document as a whole should maintain that succinct nature. He suggested combining section 4 with the app endices. The shortened core document will help the advisory committee and prospective donors to understand what GAP is about.

Spilhaus noted several places in the draft where issues were framed in the negative and suggested changes to make for a more positive vision, particularly in regard to taking maximum advantage of changes taking place both for society and for science, and to find ways to serve society in the face of declining budgets. Gardner agreed with making the report as positive as possible, and noted that he was impressed with the quality of the draft both in form and content. He emphasized the importance of GAP gett ing out to the constituents. Briskey added that there is an opportunity to expand the sales job within the member societies that members can be effective as constituents.

Gibbs commented that in providing information to societies an effort should be made to provide focused subsets, defining issues that each society wants to be informed about. He noted that too much information can inure the recipient and lose its impact, c iting the flood of faxes from the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Sarewitz commented that GAP has been restrained and selective in the information it supplies and should continue that filter. Moore added that he is pleased to be receiving th e weekly updates and wants to see issues of broad interest to all parts of the geoscience community and in turn hopes that other societies will feel the same about issues of importance to his sector.

Frizzell posed the question of whether the communication works one way or both ways in terms of deciding which issues are of importance. Applegate replied that much of the communication is coming from AGI, which tries to assess the value of various issues to its constituency, but that an increasing amount comes from societies requesting information or action on specific issues of importance to them, using GAP as a resource.

Briskey stated his positive reaction to the plan and that the summaries were succinct. Dutro asked about the program's use of the web site and how it was maintained. Applegate replied that GeoRef librarian Linda Pierce is the webmaster for the AGI site as a whole, but that he maintains and uploads the GAP portions of the site in order to minimize the timelag in getting material up and available. The site serves as an important means of providing information to the geoscience community and others as well a s an archive for GAP work on various issues. Moore noted that several people had thanked him for an article he wrote in the AAPG Division of Professional Affairs newsletter, the Correlator, describing the web site. Knight emphasized the need to make clear how issues affect individual geoscientists in order for them to care about them.

Spilhaus stated that the current situation in which much of science policy is simply budget policy for science agencies has to change. The geoscience community needs to change the terms of the fight and must make ourselves relevant, providing significant input on many issues that require geoscience knowledge. Only then will we get the visibility that will help us on the funding side. The results of efforts to help Congress understand science will impact everyone. To that, Moore added that we can do a lot about our image and market appeal in Washington, noting that the geoscience community is not as well respected as it should be. Briskey emphasized the need to make science relevant, urging everyone to read the book Frontiers of Illusion by one Dan Sarewit z, who humbly added that it could now to purchased over the web at

Astwood commented that, stepping down one level, much of the respect and interest in science comes from science education. He was pleased by the inclusion of support for science education in the list of GAP priorities. As an example of what can be done, h e cited Charles Gardner for his work in North Carolina where geoscience is now a required part of the high school curriculum. That type of advocacy is something that we can all be a part of.

Gibbs stated the need to get ahead of the curve on issues and become more pro-active. As a community, we are starting late relative to the physicists and chemists and are trying to catch up. He emphasized the need for policy papers that represent the atti tude and philosophy of the community as a whole at a high level. By doing so, you prepare the ground before getting into the specific issues, where you are often lobbying against something. He cited the American Chemical Society and its large government a ffairs effort for its effectiveness in developing position papers to take to Congress. He brought a copy of the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) pamphlet on policy positions as an example of a successful tool, describing it as a "howdy book" to give to congressional staff as an introduction to engineering policy. We would serve ourselves well by putting out public priorities for geoscience policy, a long-term summary document of the outreach aspect of our government affairs program.

Spilhaus noted that AAES did not start from scratch, instead using the positions taken by member societies. Frizzell asked about how we prioritize among different issues. Spilhaus also noted the importance of getting material into the hands of our scienti sts to facilitate their taking action as an individual constituent with the power of an entire community behind them. Gibbs added that these are the arenas that matter get folks to understand that the geosciences are relevant to environmental and other high-priority national issues. Sarewitz noted that the value of such a document lies in aiming it at our members so that they can be effective constituents. Moore added that such a document can educate and activate your membership, getting folks to recogn ize that we have something significant to contribute to society.

Gibbs stated that the role of GAP is to serve as a focused voice of shared concerns of the geoscience profession. In terms of the program's future focus, Frizzell emphasized that if we are going to take up an issue or a project, we should do it well, expr essing concern about overextending the GAP staff. Gardner noted that public education, which is part of the AGI mission, should be part of the GAP mission as well. Its lack was one of the identified program weaknesses should it be a focus of GAP? If so , what can we do to improve GAP's efforts in this area? Milling commented that AGI will begin participating in the Inside Science project next year, which will involve airing short television segments on geoscience applied to society for use by local tele vision news programs. Sarewitz added that another issue is how to get scientists themselves involved, noting GSA and AGU efforts to increase the comfort level for scientists for dealing with the media. Spilhaus added that the societies must be the catalys t we are paid to help get the members to get the job done. Briskey noted that regional press is one area that members of Congress look at very carefully. Knight added that the AIPG booth at the National Conference of State Legislators convention has be en very popular with lots of questions from legislators. Briskey added that many federal priorities are set by what the individual state's position is at the governor's level. Astwood commented that this sort of information was what needed to be passed to local scientists, and Moore re-emphasized the need to energize geoscientists as constituents.

Gibbs commented that it is helpful to know the breadth of consensus within the community on a given issue, citing the white paper developed by GAP for the incoming Clinton Administration back in 1993. That effort was unable to establish consensus, and we were unable to respond to the request.

Briskey noted that it was sounding like the constituent group for the booklet is folks like us, so that we can take the next step of making the necessary response. First step: inform ourselves. Frizzell noted that we were already holding meetings and coll oquia within the community, but that we need to expand to meetings outside the geoscience profession. Spilhaus added that we must reach out to groups that we impact outside our community. Applegate responded that forming such strategic alliances had been a strong position of Jim Gibbs, and that the program was working to establish some, for example with the insurance industry. Frizzell added that there are many potential user groups for geoscience information who do not know what the geosciences can contr ibute. Perhaps GAP could make available appropriate software so that more people would read what comes out of AGI, thus spawning more interest and concern. Several others noted that the software was out there, but that we did need to find ways to get out the word.

6.0 Reports from member societies

Society representatives were asked to relay issues of concern from their societies as well as society activities in government affairs.

Gardner began by noting AASG's efforts to educate Congress on the value of geology to society. AASG was pushing for full funding of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, having succeeded this past year to pass the reauthorization of the Natio nal Geologic Mapping Act. AASG will hold a congressional reception next March with maps around the room to show the utility of geologic mapping. AASG is also very interested in natural hazards legislation, making sure that geology is a consideration in mi tigation. It also is focusing on topographic mapping and ASTM standard guidelines.

Dvorzak stated the concerns of the Geoscience Information Society about the quality and distribution of USGS materials and concern over the cuts in serials subscriptions at the USGS library. She emphasized that it is very important that GeoRef find a simi lar level of availability of publications to index if the USGS cannot do so. She also mentioned data access and availability issues.

Briskey noted that with the Society of Economic Geologists international membership, there was an issue of supporting a government affairs program in just one country and asked if other societies had similar concerns raised. Spilhaus stated that the inter national membership of AGU had shown a very positive reaction to its public affairs efforts because much of what goes on in this country affects them as well. Applegate stated that he was aware of this concern at SEG and other societies and that GAP had b een looking into the existence of similar programs in other countries but that so far it appeared that the US was fairly unique in this regard.

Moore stated that AAPG has attempted to promote government affairs in other countries as well as improving the practice of petroleum geology. In general, the relationship between the geoscience profession and government in these countries was a lot cozier than in the US. He went on to state that domestically, there was strong AAPG interest in increasing US production of oil and gas, including tax and public land management issues. The Division of Professional Affairs has formed an Instant Response Committ ee, held forums at annual meetings, and established a new subcommittee on government liaison headed by Lee Gerhard to offer professional and scientific expertise to the halls of government on petroleum geology, not lobbying but communicating the prioritie s of the society.

Parizeau, representing SME, stated his society's concern over access to resources, especially on western lands; issues of multiple use on federal lands and mining law reform. The US is viewed as a third-world country within the mining industry because exp loration is very risky.

Knight stated that AIPG worries about all of the above, sharing the concerns already heard as well as state registration laws and reciprocity issues. AIPG has been very involved in critiquing the new ASTM standards. Their experience with NCSL was very pos itive, and they are planning another Washington fly-in, building on the success of this year's effort. In regard to earlier comments on international members, AIPG has none but maintains a close relationship with the European Federation of Geologists, an organization much like AGI. Another concern of AIPG was the status of geologists in requests for proposals for federal and other contracts, where geologic jobs are often given to engineers.

Spilhaus stated that AGU was in the process of reorganizing its effort in the area of government affairs. AGU is currently interviewing for a new director of outreach, who in turn will hire a new full-time manager in public affairs. Meanwhile, AGU has bee n receiving help from AGI and the American Institute of Physics. AGU's program will return its focus to where the AGU Council says it should be getting members more involved, which ultimately leads to what we want to see happen in Congress. There are si x areas where AGU has or is developing positions besides funding, which is endemic: teaching of creationist science, which he considers a very high priority for our profession; global change understanding, what's needed to get us past the ignorance; space station; natural hazards policy input; delineate appropriate role of government in scientific research, to serve as the basis for testifying on all sorts of appropriations for research in government, trying to get out front on this issue; and data policy , in order to be prepared for the new legislation on this issue. AGU sponsored a meeting of earth and space science societies, which was very positive and which he hopes to repeat.

Gibbs stated that he was very pleased to have AGU on board, widening AGI's scope.

Astwood noted that most of NAGT's issues and projects were at the local level because education is local. But NAGT is also interested in the Eisenhower program at the Department of Education, the Education and Human Resources Directorate at the National S cience Foundation, and the attempts to re-establish a science and math education program at the Department of Energy.

AGI President-Elect Susan Landon stopped by the meeting and told the committee about AGI's 50th anniversary efforts for 1998 with a focus on involving the member societies. She thanked Charles Gardner and other state geologists for their efforts to declar e the second full week in October as Earth Science Week. Efforts are also underway to obtain a White House declaration. The goal of this week is to motivate every earth scientist to undertake some form of public outreach.

7.0 Closing Business: Announcement of New Chair and Honoring Jim Gibbs

Applegate announced that Murray Hitzman had agreed to succeed Jim Gibbs as chair of the committee. Murray is the Charles Fogarty Professor of Economic Geology at the Colorado School of Mines and previously served as a GSA Congressional Science Fellow and AAAS/Sloan Fellow in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy after a career in the minerals industry. Applegate noted that Hitzman will have a tough act to follow, thanking Gibbs for his five years of service as founding committee chairman . Gibbs was presented with a copy of the new fourth edition of the Glossary of Geology and a plaque recognizing his outstanding service to AGI.

Moore made a motion, which was seconded and passed unanimously, that the committee ask AGI to present Gibbs with a distinguished service award for his work with GAP.

7.1 Set next meeting date and adjourn

The next meeting was set for the Friday, February 27th and Saturday the 28th directly after the Congressional Visits Day (February 25-26), which Applegate hopes all representatives will attend as well. The meeting will be at AGI headquarters in Alexandria , Virginia.

Memo accompanying minutes

December 13, 1997

To: Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Members and Liaisons
GAP Advisory Committee Meeting Attendees

From: Dave Applegate and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs Program

Re: Minutes from October GAP Advisory Committee Meeting

I am enclosing the minutes from the October meeting of the Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee (GAPAC) at the GSA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City. The minutes will be reviewed at the next committee meeting to be held at AGI headquarters in Alex andria, Virginia on February 27-28, 1998. Please let me know if you have any changes or additions to the minutes or to the action items which are included in this memo.

Action Items from October meeting:
GAP Staff

GAP Representatives

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

Uploaded January 15, 1998

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