American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE


November 1996


This monthly update goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee as well as the leadership of AGI's member societies and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications betwe en GAP and the geoscience community that we serve.

GAP Advisory Committee on the Web
In order to improve communication with the program's advisory committee, we have created a committee home page containing a committee roster, these monthly updates, and the minutes from the May and October committee meetings. The site is also accessible from the GAP home page by clicking on the Capitol dome. We are very open to suggestions of additional information that would be useful for the c ommittee site as well as for the GAP site as a whole.

AGI Voices Concern on Draft Database Treaty
AGI has joined a chorus of other scientific societies and individuals -- including the presidents of the National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine -- in expressing concern over a draft intellectual propert y rights treaty that could fundamentally change the accessibility of scientific databases. The treaty is to be discussed at a conference of the World Intellectual Property Organization (an arm of the United Nations) this December in Geneva.

Although designed to fight international piracy of copyrighted material, the treaty would protect virtually all compilations of data from copy or reuse with no "fair-use" exemption for scientists or educators. This change could be most detrimental to ast ronomers and atmospheric scientists who rely on large international datasets but could also affect solid-Earth databases such as the global seismic network. The current draft has a number of strong supporters within the Administration, and similar languag e was introduced as a bill in the last Congress by Rep. Carlos Moorhead (R-CA), who chairs the House Judiciary subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property.

AGI President Edward C. Roy Jr. sent a letter to Jack Gibbons, the President's science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, urging the Administration to delay decisive action on the treaty until after the upcoming conference "in order to allow for a fuller understanding of the treaty's implications for the scientific community." For the text of the draft treaty and additional commentary, click here.

Meeting with USGS on Topographic Maps
This month, GAP staff met with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Mapping Division (NMD) and Office of Outreach to discuss ways of improving communication in the wake of concerns within the geoscience community over the NMD's proposed changes to topogr aphic map products. NMD recently developed a 14-page document entitled "Evolution of Topographic Mapping in the U.S. Geological Survey's National Mapping Division" that is available on the USGS home page under "What's New".

Meeting with U.S. Forest Service on Public Land Management
GAP staff also met with Tom King, chief geologist at the U.S. Forest Service, to discuss ways that AGI and the geoscience community can become more involved in how geoscience is used (or not used) in forest management plans and ecosystem studies. Next mo nth, GAP staff will be meeting with the Bureau of Land Management for similar discussions. It is hoped that discussions can eventually lead to a workshop or other activities geared toward improving the scientific input that goes into public land manageme nt decisions.

New Faces in the 105th Congress and the Second Clinton Administration
The November elections did not produce any dramatic shifts in power for either the presidency or Congress but there will be some turnover in cabinet positions and committee chairmanships. So far, the talk from both parties has been very conciliatory, and the new freshman class in Congress seems to lack the revolutionary zeal of the Republican freshmen in 1994. Democrats narrowed the gap in the House (226-206 with several races still undecided) but will face a larger Republican majority in the Senate (55 -45) with a more conservative makeup.

In the House, retiring Science Committee chairman Robert Walker (R-PA) will be replaced by James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). In the Senate, committee chairmanships have yet to be decided but retirements and one defeat will produce a few new faces. Retiring Ap propriations Committee chairman Mark Hatfield (R-OR) will be succeeded by Ted Stevens (R-AK). Defeated Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee chair Larry Pressler (R-SD) is likely to be replaced by John McCain (R-AZ).

Cabinet changes include the resignation of Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary and Secretary of Commerce (where NOAA resides) Mickey Kantor. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt appears to be staying on.

One change of note is that the House has a geologist -- Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV), who replaced retiring Rep. Barbara Vucanovich (R-NV). He holds both a B.S. and M.S. in geology from the University of Nevada's Mackay School of Mines and worked as a hydrolo gist and exploration geologist before becoming a commercial airline pilot, flying in the Persian Gulf War, and getting a law degree!

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities

Dec. 12		Colloquium at University of Utah		Salt Lake City UT
Dec. 15-19	AGU Fall Meeting				San Francisco CA

New Web Site and E-Mail Addresses

Just a reminder: the address for AGI's World Wide Web home page is http://www.agiweb.org, and the program's e-mail address is: govt@agiweb.org. The old addresses are being phased out.


(Contributed by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs)

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

Uploaded November 27, 1996

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