Report of the
Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Forum

Saturday, October 24, 1998
Delta Chelsea Hotel
Toronto, Ontario


A cover memo accompanies these minutes.

Attendees

Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Columbia SC
Joe Briskey, Society of Economic Geologists, Reston VA
Bob Cowdery, Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists and American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Wichita KS
Marie Dvorzak, Geoscience Information Society, Madison WI
Jim Franklin, Geological Survey of Canada (retired), Ottawa ON
Virgil Frizzell, Geological Society of America, Falls Church VA
Charles Gardner, Association of American State Geologists, Raleigh NC
M. Charles Gilbert, American Geological Institute, Norman OK
Bill Knight, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Arvada CO
Jon Price, Association of American State Geologists, Reno NV
Jamie Robertson, Association of American State Geologists, Madison WI
Russ Slayback, American Geological Institute, Trumbull CT
Mary-Claire Ward, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Toronto ON
Gordon Williams, Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists, Calgary AB

Marcus Milling, American Geological Institute
David Applegate, American Geological Institute
Kasey Shewey White, American Geological Institute

Applegate welcomed everyone and provided a brief update of GAP activities. In reviewing the program finances, he said that he hoped that 1998 member society contributions to GAP would reach $90,000. Applegate reported that the 1998-99 AGI Congressional Fellow, Dr. David Wunsch, will be working with the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. A main goal of the subcommittee next year is to take the abandoned mine land fund off budget to ensure that money put into the fund does not get used for deficit reduction or other purposes. AGI is already working to attract applicants for the 1999-2000 fellowship and has placed ads in a variety of member society publications. Applegate also reported on the success of Earth Science Week in activating grassroots geoscientists and marketing the geosciences. In addition to the Presidential and Senate messages supporting Earth Science Week, 39 governors proclaimed the week in their states as did several city mayors.

AGI Executive Director Marcus Milling spoke to attendees about the latest developments in the National Geoscience Data Repository System. AGI has signed a letter of intent with Stapleton Development Corporation for a hangar at Denver's former Stapleton Airport. AGI is now drafting a letter of intent for companies to see if they are willing to donate the 2-2.5 million boxes of core that are needed for the project to go forward. Milling said that the letter would be sent in several weeks and that AGI would have a clear picture of how to move forward by the end of the year.

Questions focused on federal funding for the facility, which Milling has been exploring. Frizzell said that he would suggest that GSA write a letter supporting the facility, and Milling responded that it would be helpful. SME and AAPG have both written letters to the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Interior, and he is working with the Colorado congressional delegation to write letters as well.

Canadian Geoscience and Public Policy

The bulk of the meeting was given over to learning about Canadian geoscience and public policy with three distinguished speakers providing their insights.

The first speaker was former Geologic Survey of Canada (GSC) Chief Scientist Jim Franklin, who spoke on the turbulent recent history of the GSC and current efforts to inform the Canadian Parliament on science and technology issues. The stage for the GSC's downsizing was set in 1994 when the Canadian government's deficit had reached 70 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and newly elected Prime Minister Jean Chretien instituted a top-to-bottom "program review" of all federal agencies. The review evaluated the agencies on six criteria: public interest, role of government, federalism, partnership, efficiency, and affordability.

The GSC initially expected an 8 percent cut but soon discovered that it was to be 50 percent. Franklin was detailed to the GSC's parent Ministry of Natural Resources to work on how to accomplish such a reduction for the ministry's science functions (which accounted for 70 percent of its total budget). The ultimate reduction for the GSC was approximately 40 percent with programs in energy resources and arctic research entirely eliminated.

The process of rebuilding the geosciences in Canada has begun, with some success. An external review, the Barnes Report, provided some direction. An Intergovernmental Geoscience Accord between the GSC and provincial surveys has improved their relationship and turned the provincial surveys into strong supporters of the GSC. Under the terms of the accord, the GSC cannot deploy a regional program without consent from the affected province(s). Problems still remain for the GSC, especially in the areas of international projects, marine geosciences, polar, and applied (exploration) geology. Additionally, the government and universities do not have a strong partnership in part due to their separate missions. Finally, many provinces were heavily dependent on federal funding for geoscience projects, and future problems will arise as the that funding continues to decrease.

The second part of Franklin's talk focused on efforts to improve communication between scientists and politicians in Canada. Franklin is actively involved in the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE), a grassroots confederation of 25 science and engineering societies sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada. Its purpose is to inform Parliament and senior government officials about the value of science to Canada's economic development and social well-being. One method PAGSE uses to communicate with policymakers is a monthly breakfast meeting -- referred to as "Bacon and Eggheads" -- where speakers from different scientific fields give talks on research of interest to the public. An average of 75 people attend these breakfasts, with 30 of those being Members of Parliament, and the discussions are broadcast by the Canadian equivalent of C-SPAN. The meetings are co-sponsored by NSERC, Canadian's principal research funding agency comparable to the National Science Foundation. In conjunction with Industry Canada, PAGSE sponsors science policy presentations to senior managers in government. PAGSE holds an annual forum on science innovation that targets politicians, senior advisors, and industrial leaders. It arranges targeted studies, for example on the societal impact of research. PAGSE also arranges meetings with the Minister of State for Science and the Minister of Finance as well as key members of all political parties. In part due to their efforts, NSERC received a 14 percent increase this year.

In response to a question by Milling, Franklin reported that the GSC staff is about 750 (down from 1,000), with scientists' education equally distributed between Ph.D., Masters, and Bachelors. The total staff of all the province state surveys is around 750 also.

The second guest speaker, Mary-Claire Ward, spoke on behalf of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) of which she is a director and the chair of their Geoscience Committee. She is vice-president of Watts, Griffis & McOuat Ltd. and is a former president of the Geological Association of Canada. PDAC represents the junior mining sector, which does the initial exploration on sites then sells to the larger companies. Key issues affecting this sector are the erosion of geoscience databases, security of land tenure, environmental regulations, and financial issues. She echoed Franklin's concerns about funding, noting that funding for government geoscience has eroded from $180 million to $80 million over 12 years. Currently, geoscientists are working to create alternative funding arrangements, creating government/industry partnerships, and determining how much geoscience information is "enough". She also spoke about challenges that are arising as the number of parks, restricted areas and aboriginal lands claims increase. In addition, the industry is facing decreasing security of tenure in lands both in Canada and internationally. Ward mentioned climate change and the Endangered Species Act as environmental policies affecting the mining industry, along with a negative stereotypes of the environmental practices of mining companies. Ward spoke about the annual Mining Lobby Day, which brings in geoscientists to Parliament, but admitted that more needs to be done on a regular basis.

The third guest speaker was Gordon Williams, who spoke about Geoscience Licensure in Canada. Williams chairs the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists and operates his own consulting company in Calgary. He explained that there is no "Canadian" licensure (a term interchangeable with registration) as such. Instead, licensure is provided for by legislation in each province and territory. A geoscientist must be licensed to practice in six jurisdictions in Canada, although exceptions are made for prospectors and certain people (mainly technicians and technologists) working for licensed geoscientists. To qualify for licensure, one needs a four-year honors degree in geoscience (or equivalent), including 60-80 semester hours of geoscience, 30 semester hours of fundamental science, and 30 semester hours of humanities; four years of appropriate post-degree work experience; good character; and continuing professional development. Licensure authority is delegated to self-regulating professional associations under legislation, rather than being effected through government-appointed boards. Currently, five provinces and one territory have licensure: British Columbia, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Newfoundland. In all cases, the professional associations are combined associations of geoscientists and engineers, a situation that recognizes the close affinity and significant overlap of engineering and geoscience practice, and which has benefited both professions. Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec are working to establish licensure. The two jurisdictions without licensure -- Prince Edward Island and Yukon -- do not have many geoscientists, and most practicing geoscientists have been licensed in an adjacent province or territory. The Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists is a federation of ten member professional associations representing about half of the approximately 10,000 geoscientists in Canada. The Council addresses national coordination, interprovincial mobility, international representation, and reciprocal recognition and practice.

Wrap-Up

To conclude the meeting, Applegate thanked the speakers for their presentations and gave a quick wrap-up of the 105th Congress, noting that not many bills passed. He reported that the FY99 appropriations process had concluded with increases in funding for most geoscience-related agencies. Joe Briskey spoke about the importance of international government issues, as the international membership of societies continues to grow. He would like to work with GAP staff to develop a new section for the GAP strategic plan that outlines how societies with international membership benefit from government affairs activities in the United States, for example obtaining lessons learned from US experiences as similar programs are developed in other countries. Jon Price noted that today's discussion was an example of ways to learn from international experience. Charles Gardner asked GAP to maintain a high priority on the marketing of geosciences and outreach.


Memo accompanying minutes

November 30, 1998

To: Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Members

GAP Advisory Committee Meeting Attendees

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

Re: Draft Report from October GAP Advisory Committee Forum

A draft report follows from the October 1998 discussion forum of the Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee (GAPAC), held during the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Toronto. The draft report is also available on the committee's web site. Please let us know if you have any changes or additions to the report. The forum featured a very interesting discussion with several leading Canadian geoscientists on how they are tackling many of the same public policy issues that we face in this country as well.

The report as well as the minutes from the September meeting will be reviewed at the next committee meeting, which will be held at AGI headquarters in Alexandria VA. Last year, the spring GAPAC meeting was held in February to coincide with the Science & Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD). With a new Congress settling in, the next CVD will be held on April 21-22, 1999. Consequently, the next GAPAC meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday, April 23rd. Please let us know if that date poses a problem for you, and please consider coming in early for CVD, which includes a day of briefings by top agency and congressional leaders followed by a day of visits with your congressional delegation. Last year, several hundred scientists and engineers participated including a strong geoscience contingent. More information on CVD is available at: http://www.agiweb.org/cvd.


Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Uploaded November 30, 1998


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