Government Affairs Program

Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting Report

September 28, 1999
American Geological Institute Headquarters
Alexandria, Virginia

An appendix of background materials and cover memo accompany this report.


Murray Hitzman, Chair, Golden CO
Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Columbia SC
Marie Dvorzak, Geoscience Information Society, Madison WI
Pete Folger, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC
Blair Jones, Clay Minerals Society, Reston VA
Charles Mankin, Association of American State Geologists, Norman OK
Gordon Matheson, ASCE Geo-Institute, Bethesda MD
Mike McDermott, USGS Liaison, Reston VA
Clint Moore, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Houston TX
John Padan, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc., Montgomery Village MD
Maggie Toscano, Association for Women Geoscientists, Camp Spring MD
David Verardo, Association of Engineering Geologists, Washington DC
Stacey Verardo, Association of Engineering Geologists, Reston VA

Eileen McLellan, 1999-2000 AGI Congressional Science Fellow

David Applegate, AGI GAP Director
Margaret Baker, AGI GAP Staff Associate
John Dragonetti, AGI GAP Senior Advisor
Julie Jackson, AGI Outreach Coordinator
Marcus Milling, AGI Executive Director

1.0 Introductions and Preliminary Business

Following self-introductions around the table, the meeting began with approval of the report from the last committee meeting held in April 1999 at AGI headquarters. The report was approved by voice vote. A copy of the report and other background materials for the meeting are available on the committee's website. An appendix to this report lists links to those documents.

Applegate discussed the state of Government Affairs Program (GAP) finances, noting the decline in support in 1998 from the record high of nearly $100,000 in 1997. He felt confident that support would increase again in 1999 and encouraged member society representatives to contact their society in this regard. A table of member society contributions was distributed.

Committee Action Item: Contact your society to explain the value of GAP and continue new, continued, or expanded voluntary financial support of the program.

2.0 Recent GAP Activities

Applegate reported on recent program activities and developments on issues of interest to the committee.

National Science Foundation -- A new head of the geosciences directorate was just named: Margaret Leinen, currently dean of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and a well-known researcher in paleoclimatology. She replaces Bob Corell with whom the committee will meet the following day. A new head of the Earth Sciences Division is likely to be named by mid-November. GAP staff have assisted in arrangements for the participation of GSA President Gail Ashley in a meeting of scientific and engineering society presidents with NSF Director Rita Colwell to take place on September 29th. The presidents will also meet with House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders. Applegate also discussed the recent release of a National Science Board interim report on environmental science at NSF. AGI testified at a public meeting held in February by the Board's Task Force on the Environment, and AGI will also submit comments on the interim report. Applegate also described AGI's joint participation with AGU in the Coalition for National Science Funding's annual congressional exhibition of NSF-sponsored research. The AGI/AGU exhibit featured a museum display developed by the IRIS Consortium, which allowed members of Congress and staff to learn about seismology and even create their own earthquake with a working seismograph.

Geologic Mapping Legislation -- In June, AGI Treasurer Bill Thomas testified in support of this legislation before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Identical bills have passed both the House and Senate authorizing committees. According to Mankin, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has a hold on all bills coming out of that committee, including the geologic mapping bill. The House is deferring to the Senate and will not write a report of their own, waiting to pass whatever the Senate passes. Committee members discussed ways to bring pressure on the Senate, including state legislators and governor's offices.

Application of FOIA to Federally Funded Research -- Next week, the White House Office of Management and Budget will release its final revised rule in compliance with a provision enacted last year (as part of an omnibus appropriations bill) making data collected under federal research grants subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The final rule provides better definitions of key terms than an earlier draft and also limits the applicability of FOIA to those data used in the development of major federal regulations, i.e. those with a $100 million impact. The university community has been most involved in this issue.

Fossils on Federal Lands Public Meeting -- Held this past summer, the meeting was part of the Department of the Interior's process to develop a report at the request of the Senate Appropriations Committee on federal regulation of fossil collecting on federal lands. Several representatives from AGI member Society of Vertebrate Paleontology spoke at the meeting, and AGI submitted testimony to Interior. On a related topic, Applegate also discussed SVP concerns over limited access to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. Under the proposed management plan, several key vertebrate fossil localities would no longer be accessible by road.

Summer and Semester Internships -- This summer, the three AGI/AIPG geoscience policy interns were Sarah Robinson, a doctoral candidate in geology at Arizona State University; Scott Broadwell, a master's candidate at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks; and Althea Cawley-Murphree. Articles by all three will appear in the October issue of The Professional Geologist. This year's fall semester AGI/AAPG intern, Alison Alcott, arrived earlier in the week. She is completing a master's degree at the University of Utah in geology. Applications are due October 15 for the spring semester internship.

AAAS Meeting on Science in Federal Courts -- AGI President David Stephenson and Applegate attended a September meeting convened by AAAS to inform other societies about its Science and the Courts pilot project to provide federal judges with scientific experts. The project stemmed from recent Supreme Court decisions and a call by Associate Justice Stephen Breyer to improve the use of science in judicial proceedings. AAAS is seeking nominations of scientists and engineers who could be tapped to assist judges in vetting scientific experts, educating the court, and other tasks. AGI is passing along flyers on the project to its member societies and encouraging their participation but is not going to develop a community-wide list. A question was posed about the role of registered geologists and engineers in such situations. Several committee representatives had been involved in court proceedings at both the federal and state levels with decidedly mixed results. Padan noted that the use of court-appointed geoscientific experts was not a new concept, having been extensively used in the development of mining law in the West during the nineteenth century.

Appropriations Advocacy -- Applegate distributed a letter sent by AGI President David Stephenson to all members of Congress urging strong support for federal science programs in the Fiscal Year 2000 budget process. The letter was bundled with similar ones from 24 scientific and engineering society presidents to demonstrate the breadth of community support for these agencies and federal investment in science and technology. Hitzman asked if AGI was positioned to actively advocate for geoscience agencies when the budget caps come off and additional funding is made available in the coming weeks for which there will be considerable competition. Support for NSF is part of the reason for the upcoming visit by GSA President Ashley. Folger reported on an advocacy-limiting provision in the Senate report language accompanying the bill funding NSF and NASA.

Staff Presentations/Outreach -- Applegate reported on recent speaking engagements and policy meetings at the New Mexico Geological Society, US Forest Service Geo-Fest, and others. The New Mexico trip afforded an opportunity to speak on the need to become active citizen-scientists. Applegate learned of a geoscientist serving on a science advisory committee for Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and the active involvement of New Mexico geoscientists in fighting creationist efforts in the public schools as well as the active role of geoscientists in transferring the Valles Caldera to public land.

Staff Action Item: Get a one-page write-up for the AGI web site, and possibly a Political Scene column, on how the Rep. Wilson advisory committee works as an example for others.

3.0 Update on AGI Geoscience Data Preservation Efforts

AGI Executive Director Marcus Milling delivered a presentation on the history of the AGI data preservation efforts, including the recent end to efforts to develop a national repository at the former Continental Airlines hangar at Denver's Stapleton airport. He also described recent efforts to work with the DOSECC consortium to establish a university connection and possibly develop NSF support. He noted that low oil prices had caused companies to lose interest in saving data and that the large number of mergers was also having an adverse effect. Efforts to deploy the web-based Geotrek continue, and AGI has just received a new $1 million grant from the Department of Energy. The National Research Council's Board on Earth Sciences and Resources is considering either a workshop or study on the subject of data preservation. Mankin described the possible transfer of Amoco's core facility in Tulsa to the University of Oklahoma along with all their research facilities. Mankin is currently using oceangoing shipping containers (4,000 boxes on racks) at a cost of $1 per box. Hitzman reported that mergers in the mining industry were having the same effect as those in the oil industry with resulting losses in core as well as mine maps and other related data.

Committee Action Item: Milling asked the committee to consider whether there are other actions that GAP should take on this issue. He specifically noted the suggestion by one oil company executive of passing legislation requiring companies to preserve data or establishing a checkoff program by which a percentage of federal oil and gas royalties went to preservation. The committee, however, responded with skepticism to such approaches.

4.0 Update on Earth Science Week and AGI Outreach Plans

AGI Outreach and Earth Science Week Coordinator Julie Jackson gave a presentation on Earth Science Week. Developments in 1999 include development of external support and poster distribution through member society magazines and other sources. People are building on the programs started last year and adding components that will increase the visibility of the earth sciences throughout the year. International participation has also increased. There has been a large increase in USGS-related ESW activity. GAP has been helpful in supporting efforts to obtain ESW proclamations -- 20 are signed so far with at least a dozen more in the works. Statements of support will be released by USGS Director Chip Groat and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. There have also been many oral proclamations. Milling stated that the ESW effort needs the support of AGI's member societies which in turn need to encourage the involvement of their membership. He encouraged the representatives to energize their society to get behind this effort and support it. He also stated his hope to get local gem and mineral societies involved. Jackson also noted that some actions could take place on Earth Day in the spring to get people thinking about Earth Science Week.

Staff Action Item -- Build on Senator Wyden's proclamation to have an Earth Science Week event on Capitol Hill.

Committee and Staff Action Item -- Obtain a United Nations proclamation, working through the UN Environmental Programme and World Meteorological Organization and possibly the World Bank as well.

Staff Action Item -- Develop one-page state factsheets, possibly including contact information for geoscientists in district/state. This action item stemmed from Mankin's report that the Oklahoma Geological Survey has put together such a document for the state delegation and media.

Staff Action Item -- Prepare an ESW press release, possibly in conjunction with Harvey Leifert. Develop an e-mail alert and web-based kit to encourage geoscientists to contact their representative and senators on the value of the geosciences.

Moore asked about links to museums, which need to be strengthened. He asked if there was a museum organization that could be contacted. Museums represent a major opportunity to tap into the public in large metropolitan centers. A model to follow is the Houston Geological Society's museum committee.

5.0 Member Society Reports

Gordon Matheson (GeoInstitute) -- Natural hazards are a top priority shared with AGI. Other priorities include USGS funding, transportation funding, federal agency competition with engineering and geology consultants, expanded funding for a new seismic network, and enhancement of the nation's stream gage network.

David Verardo (AEG) -- AEG has begun a program to get society members to volunteer to connect with their elected representatives. This dovetails with the science council concept -- Verardo related the story of Vern Ehlers who complained to his congressman, then-Rep. Jerry Ford (R-MI), once too often. Ford told him to quit complaining and help him. Ehlers now represents Ford's district in Congress and is vice chairman of the House Science Committee. AEG is starting its effort in Texas, where its headquarters is located. AEG also has a strong interest in natural hazards, and Verardo related his experience as a staffer for Senator Wyden of meeting with Sue Cameron, a county commissioner from Tillamook County, Oregon. She was very excited by the prospect of a congressional natural hazards caucus, so much that she called FEMA Director James Lee Witt to come down to the coffee shop where they were meeting and hear about the concept. She indicated that the caucus concept should include a GIS component because that is how counties do their work. With that addition, the National Association of Counties (NACO) would join in the effort -- one legislator telling another legislator that this is important back home.

Pete Folger (AGU and GSA) -- GAP has been an incredible help to AGU's efforts, and they appreciate the great support. AGU Committee on Public Affairs Chair Lou Lanzerotti wants to get AGU members involved in local politics. A survey of AGU members in Massachusetts (available on the AGU web site) showed greater than expected knowledge of local politics. On an experimental basis, AGU has sent alerts to all AGU members in a given state in response to the threatened elimination of the North Carolina Geological Survey, the Kansas school board decision, and the Massachusetts school board's plan to eliminate earth science standards from high school. AGU will launch a workshop at the fall meeting on how to get more involved in state and local politics. With AGU's membership now 30 percent international, it is looking for international policy issues to handle -- a possible test case being the GPS spectrum, which private companies want to take over for cellular telephone bands. A World Radio Congress meeting will be held soon with the US only getting one vote, hence the need for international pressure from the scientific community. AGU has finished its position statement on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which is a joint statement with the Seismological Society of America. Both the climate change forums and hazards caucus initiative are examples of societies working together to get things done. AGU has also focused on appropriations, particularly the low House numbers and the large number of congressionally earmarked funds, a practice against which AGU has a position statement. Putting on his GSA hat, Folger reported that GSA has a new executive director, Sara Foland, whom he recently accompanied on a series of Capitol Hill courtesy visits. The GSA Geology and Public Policy Committee, which Pete chairs, is looking for ways to activate the society's members. They have chosen natural hazards and sustainability as themes.

Blair Jones (CMS) -- Without official funds for society officers' travel, CMS seeks to encourage local members to attend policy events for the society. GAP updates are very much appreciated and are being excerpted in the society newsletter. CMS is seeking to develop a response to the hazards initiative. The new CMS education committee head is a teacher at Idaho State, and she has emphasized the need to increase interaction between education departments and geology departments, the former having much more contact with teachers yet lack the expertise of the latter, which would prove beneficial.

Maggie Toscano (AWG) -- Toscano is incoming AWG president. The society is undergoing a major restructuring including firing the former management firm. She forwards GAP updates to the society's newsletter editor and others. They are seeking to get their individual members involved. AWG has signed on to the AGI climate change statement. Supports the concept of getting a geoscientist in each congressional district armed with a publicity packet. She expects AWG to form a public policy committee in the coming year.

Marie Dvorzak (GIS) -- Noting that GIS was one of the initial groups pushing for a national geoscience data repository system, Dvorzak noted her distress at the slow progress, having felt that Stapleton was a good solution and now finding ourselves back at square one. Support for the USGS library is a major issue for GIS, which is also concerned with copyright and continuing restrictive interpretations of fair use. GIS is also concerned with digital database bills and the strong industry push against H.R. 1858. GIS is concerned about the Department of Commerce plan to eliminate the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), an act that would require congressional authorization. The Commerce plan to shift NTIS archives to the Library of Congress is flawed due to the volume of material. The plan to put material on the web fails to consider the fact that most of the older documents are not in digital form but are still heavily used and contain much valuable data. Libraries have not collected these documents because they were available through NTIS. It was noted that this was not the first time NTIS had been slated for abolition, suggesting a fundamental problem there that makes it vulnerable.

Committee and Staff Action Item: The GIS President will write a letter to Congress and the Secretary of Commerce opposing NTIS elimination, and GAP will distribute the letter to other member societies and consider further AGI action.

John Padan (SME) -- SME and AGI share many interests in outreach and other areas. SME did not have any specific geologic issues at the time, and engineering issues are handled through the American Association of Engineering Societies. He will discuss data preservation with others at SME. Al Perry has been providing material on minerals and health to Blair Jones. He noted that toxic elements from mineral processing is mentioned as an area for future research in the NSF environment report.

Phil Astwood (NAGT) -- NAGT has three constituencies: university faculty interested in teaching; K-12 teachers; and students in earth science classes. Within those constituencies, there are strong currents that government should and should not have anything to do with what goes on in schools. On the one hand, NAGT is pleased with the support of education research by NSF and the Department of Education's Eisenhower program. The Eisenhower money goes to local school districts to spend on professional development of their teachers, and a smaller portion goes to universities for programs for teachers. The problem with the current rage for block granting is that money will be spent at local level for fire control and not for the broader national problem of poor science and math education. In particular, earth science teachers are all too often not well prepared. The other hand comes in to play with students, and in that regard NAGT agrees with many others that the federal government should stay out of that area, leaving it to the states and local government.

Clint Moore (AAPG) -- Moore reported on an upcoming Washington fly-in with both the AAPG President and Vice President. AAPG has been actively developing position papers publicized to the membership through articles in Explorer. A postcard vote on tax reform issues was overwhelmingly positive with only a few negative letters. AAPG has adopted a trident approach to public policy activity -- forums to find out what issues resonate with the membership, position statements, and Washington fly-ins. The focus is on issues that have a major impact on the ability of AAPG's membership to practice their profession. AAPG seeks to find common ground with other AGI member societies on geologic issues. Discussion followed on the need to better communicate what the oil industry can do for the American taxpayer and the relationship between oil industry interests and those of AAPG. Mankin noted that most companies today are no longer run by geologists but by bean counters, creating a large disconnect between company geologists and their executives. There needs to be better communication between the AAPG Corporate Liaison Committee and the AAPG Executive Committee. Moore noted that the credo of AAPG is trying to provide professional opportunities for petroleum geologists. With respect to international issues, Moore stated that AAPG encouraged its membership to put together statements on issues that affect petroleum geologists in other countries. Discussion ensued on the changing demographics of the petroleum industry and AAPG's membership, specifically the rapid drop in the number of AAPG members employed by the top 15 major companies and the rapid increase in the number of independent consultants.

Charlie Mankin (AASG) -- Mankin noted that he was filling in for Charles Gardner who was detained protecting dams in North Carolina (if he can find them). Geologic mapping remains the top concern of the association, which continues its efforts on Capitol Hill.

Murray Hitzman (SEG) -- The Society of Economic Geologists are also over 30 percent international, and next year almost the entire leadership will be international, underscoring the need to develop policy initiatives that are meaningful for both domestic and international members.

The group broke for lunch.

6.0 USGS Reorganization

USGS Outreach Coordinator Mike McDermott reviewed the recently announced reorganization of the Survey, which includes abolition of decision-making councils, a greater commitment to approaching issues from a multi-disciplinary standpoint, and a greater role for the regions, which will be headed by senior executive service positions. The division chiefs have been retitled as associate directors -- the same title as the regional directors -- and moved into the director's office. The regional directors have been named with Tom Casadavell moving to Denver to become central region director, hence the USGS is looking for input on candidates to be Deputy Director. From an outreach perspective, however, they will still retain their role as chief geologist, chief hydrologist, and the like. A new office of outreach will report directly to the Director, as will the offices of budget and strategic planning. The eastern region will likely move out of Reston, perhaps to Leesburg, WV.

In the ensuing discussion, Hitzman asked whether we could expect another radical change in a year and a half given that this is a lame-duck Administration. McDermott noted that Groat had obtained buy-in for the change both from Interior as well as on the Hill. Mankin noted that Groat would like to stay on beyond the current Administration. Jones noted concerns within the Survey about regionalization and its effect on national programs. He noted that one cannot promote collaborative research from the top down. He also noted that former House Appropriations Committee staffer Barbara Wainman is coming to head the new Office of Outreach.

Staff Action Item -- Plan to meet with Barbara Wainman downtown at the committee's next meeting or invite her to the meeting itself.

7.0 Responding to the Kansas Challenge -- Evolution and Public Policy

Folger initiated this discussion item by providing some brief background on the issue. He also discussed AGU's actions including an e-mail alert to all members in Kansas and a press release that produced considerable press attention. He noted that a number of AGI member society position statements were included in the National Center for Science Education's book Voices for Evolution. Concerned over elimination of cosmology, the American Institute of Physics held a meting at which a number of action items were suggested. First, getting people to run for the school board, which was successfully done in New Mexico after that state's school board voted for creationist-influenced standards. Another suggestion was to get corporate America to make a statement. Another was to send letters of support to the governor. Other current problem states include Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Alabama, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. AAAS recently released a joint statement with the National Academies and the National Science Teachers Association refusing permission for Kansas to include extended excerpts from their standards material. AGU is currently revising its position statement to focus more on the centrality of evolution. The GSA G&PP Committee has drafted a statement for the GSA Council's consideration. They hope to take advantage of the media coverage of the GSA Annual Meeting in Denver to get press on a special forum on this topic.

In the ensuing discussion, McDermott made the point that the science story is not getting out in this country, making it possible for situations to arise like that in Kansas. Applegate concurred with that comment, noting that the creationists success was in setting religion against science, finding fertile ground in the public's ignorance of science and alienation from increasingly unfathomable technology. Dvorzak noted that textbooks have been stripping out evolution for a long time. Hitzman asked whether any societies reviewed textbooks.

Staff action item -- Determine how one can have input into the textbook selection process either through publishers or the state-level vetting process in key states such as California and Texas. The scientific societies need to bring pressure to bear on state boards and legislatures who in turn influence textbook publishers. McDermott noted that here was a galvanizing issue for individual geoscientists, one that could serve as a wake-up call, just the tip of the iceberg and linked to efforts such as those in Massachusetts to get rid of earth-science standards. There was a general discussion of the broader societal currents bringing about the present situation, including lack of respect for anything resembling an authority figure and decrease in sense of community and civil society.

The question was put how do we accomplish our goals. One way is to get involved in a larger coalition, another is to communicate directly to our membership. Hitzman suggested using AGU to help spearhead such efforts.

8.0 Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Development

Folger and Applegate provided the group with background on the Natural Hazards Caucus, an idea that stemmed from the PPP2000 meeting two summers ago. AGI along with AGU and the IRIS Consortium have worked along with the American Red Cross, American Society of Civil Engineers, the Institute for Business & Home Safety, Reinsurance Association of America, the Seismological Society of America, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Together these groups have formed the Natural Hazards Caucus Working Group, which hopes to have the first official event sometime during January 2000. One goal of the caucus is to develop a wider understanding in Congress that mitigating natural hazards is a public value, another is that hazards cut across district, county and state lines. To illustrate the extent to which hazards impact the US, Applegate showed an overhead that indicated the frequency of presidential disaster declarations from January 1965 to December 1998. The working group hopes to include more local and state governments and groups from the land use planning sphere in the future. Related to the caucus planning, AGI and the USGS will be holding a Hill briefing on the tenth anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. They discussed types of activities that the caucus might engage in, and the opportunities it presented for the geosciences.

Committee Action Item -- Let GAP staff know if your society would like to join the working group on establishing a natural hazards caucus and what issues the caucus should discuss.

9.0 AGI Climate Change Statement -- What Next?

Applegate introduced this topic by describing the process that brought about the AGI climate change statement and the current status of member society endorsements, which total 14 with one society having declined and several still deciding. Some concerns were raised about the statement itself, specifically from Mankin over its focus on carbon dioxide rather than water vapor, from Verardo that it could be interpreted to be saying that policymakers should not take action due to the uncertainty of the science, and from Toscano who noted that a waffling statement would reinforce stereotypes of scientists. Verardo questioned the need for the statement to which Applegate replied that geoscientists have been marginalized in this issue, and the statement makes the point that the geosciences have much to contribute.

Moore stated that AAPG would probably sign on but that the decision by the AAPG Executive Committee could be delayed. With AAPG's membership very concerned about the Kyoto accords, AAPG's leadership formed an ad hoc committee with 25 people, chaired by Bruno Hansen and Lee Gerhard, and they are in the midst of a two-year study. Padan noted that he had received no feedback on this issue from SME leadership and opined that some societies may not feel qualified to comment on the issue. He asked whether it would be useful for AGI to have societies submit statements of non-opposition, to which Hitzman replied in the affirmative.

A motion was made by Mankin and seconded by Matheson to advise AGI to proceed with the release of the statement. The motion carried with one nay vote from Dvorzak. Verardo suggested that the statement be sent to the industry and environmental organizations involved in this issue in addition to members of Congress. Toscano suggested holding the statement until there was a climate-related event that would draw attention. Folger asked whether the goal was to get the statement on record for policymakers or whether the intent was to make a media splash. It was agreed that the purpose was the former and that the statement should be sent to every member of Congress with a short cover letter of explanation. Dvorzak noted that GIS did not respond, because its board felt that the issue was outside their expertise.

Staff Action Item: Distribute AGI climate change statement to all members of Congress as well as to other organizations interested in this issue.

10.0 IUGS Proposal for Improving International Public Policy Awareness

Applegate read from an e-mail message sent by International Union of Geological Societies President Robin Brett asking GAP's help in organizing a committee to examine the state of geoscience community involvement in public policy issues around the globe. The initial goal would be to poll IUGS member societies on their policy-related activities and collect any and all position statements that societies have developed. This information could then be shared. Hitzman suggested that a related task would be to put together a list of geoscientists abroad who hold policymaker positions such as geochemist Claude Allegre who is the French science minister. Jones suggested that there should be an equivalent IUGG effort. The committee expressed general support for this activity, and Matheson suggested:

Staff Action Item: Follow up with IUGS President Robin Brett on exploring international geoscience policy activities and report back to the GAP advisory committee in six months.

11.0 AGI Congressional Science Fellowship

Applegate presented the committee with a proposal from 1998-99 AGI Congressional Science Fellow David Wunsch to expand support for congressional fellows to allow them to travel to universities and society meetings during the year after their fellowship and give talks on their experience. Such an initiative would build recognition for the fellowship program and disseminate the knowledge of Congress and policy that the fellows acquire during their year on Capitol Hill. Folger stated that this was a good opportunity for AGI to take the lead and set an example for other societies sponsoring fellows to follow. The committee recommended that the AGI Foundation view this proposal favorably.

Staff Action Item -- Take the proposal for post-fellowship outreach travel support to the AGI Foundation with the GAP advisory committee's full endorsement.

11.1 Presentation by 1999-2000 AGI Congressional Science Fellow

Dr. Eileen McLellan, AGI's 1999-2000 Congressional Science Fellow, joined the meeting. She is on sabbatical leave from the University of Maryland where she teaches in the geology department and directs the College Park Scholars program in environmental studies. McLellan will spend her fellowship year working in the personal office of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D).

McLellan began her presentation with a hearty "Thanks!" to the committee and to AGI for giving her a tremendous opportunity. She then described her class of science fellows, the orientation process, and her placement decision.

The orientation process is run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. There were 80 fellows at the orientation of which 32 were congressional and the rest going to work for various federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense, the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Of the new fellows, 40 percent are women; a few had just received their master's degree, some had 30-35 years of industry experience, but the majority had recently finished their Ph.D.'s and were in their late 20's. The majority had taken the fellowship as a career change and were thinking about their next step. There was also a substantial range of policy experience from those who had once written a letter to the editor to ones who had worked for the Senate and as a lobbyist. The fellows have a broad range of interests, but the hot area was environment and natural resources -- 12 of 32 congressional fellows listed those topics as their top choice. In contrast, most congressional offices were looking for fellows to work on health care issues.

She was surprised to find that the focus of orientation was not on how to do the job but was instead what she described as Anthropology 101 for people going to a completely different culture. The focus was on how did the natives behave and how do you not get boiled in a pot. The fellows learned that they are there to learn politics, not to make policy. That comes later as many fellows stay on in Washington and do get involved in policymaking. The new fellows were daunted by the prospect that they will be THE scientist in their office expected to handle any and all science-related questions, no matter how far from their area of expertise. The best part of the orientation was a budget process briefing in the Old Executive Office Building followed by an afternoon exercise in solving the federal budget problem. Fellows soon found themselves throwing around billions of dollars without a second thought. The most useful day was one spent at the Library of Congress learning about the Congressional Research Service and by extension learning how much information and expertise is available to handle all the diverse questions that will arise.

The advice she received about the placement process was to talk to as many different and varied offices as possible. They were also advised to make contacts in the states in which one had lived, and indeed three or four fellows went with their home states. McLellan decided to work in a Senate personal office where she could experience a broader exposure to politics. She narrowed her choice to those senators who sit on either the Environment and Public Works Committee or the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She then learned the great truth that senators who look very good on paper may not work out in reality, all depending on the feel of the office. She received an offer from Sen. Wyden's office and decided that was a good bet, because the senator had a strong interest in land-use planning as well as energy and environment issues. She began work on the Friday before the meeting and already had three projects: the environmental cleanup at the Department of Energy's Hanford site, a lands exchange project intended to coalesce inholdings in a national forest, and the use of septic systems and slope stability limitations on future growth. McLellan then fielded several questions from the group.

12.0 Review Action Items and Set Next Meeting

Action items were duly reviewed, and the next committee meeting was set for April 2, 2000, two days before the next Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day event. With that, the meeting adjourned ahead of schedule.

Appendix. Links to Background Material for the September 1999 Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting

Preliminary Meeting Agenda

Report from 4/99 Committee Meeting

News Note on CNSF Exhibition

AGI Geologic Mapping Testimony

AGI Update on Fossils on Federal Lands Public Meeting

AGI/AIPG/AAPG Summer and Semester Internships Flyer

AGI Update on NSF Task Force on the Environment Report

AAAS Meeting on Science in Federal Courts

AGI Update on Appropriations

Earth Science Week Website

AGI Update on Kansas School Board Decision

Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Proposal

AGI Climate Change Statement

AGI Congressional Science Fellowship Flyer

Memo Accompanying Distribution of Draft Report

October 13, 1999

To: Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Members
GAP Advisory Committee Meeting Attendees
AGI Executive Committee

From: Dave Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Re: Report from September 1999 GAP Advisory Committee Meeting

The draft report from the September 1999 Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee (GAPAC) meeting, held at AGI Headquarters, is available on the committee's web site at:

Action items follow in this memo. Please let me or Margaret know if you have any changes or additions to the report or to the action items. Also let us know if you would like to have the minutes sent to you as a Word97 document or in hard copy via snail mail.

The report will be reviewed at the next committee meeting to be held on Sunday, April 2, 2000 at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

Action Items from September 1999 meeting:

GAP Staff

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

Uploaded October 13, 1999; Revised October 30, 1999

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