National Science Board report highlights need for continued science investment
Feb12

National Science Board report highlights need for continued science investment

Southeast Asia’s R&D performance shoots up through the aughts, eclipsing US A Feb. 11 Capitol Hill briefing orchestrated by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Science Board (NSB) showcased the board’s latest biannual Science and Engineering Indicators report, which outlines the current state of science investment domestically in the United States as well as internationally among other countries. The briefing was held in a hearing from of the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee (Russell 253). The 25 member board sets policy for the NSF and advises the President and Congress on science and engineering. Biannual indictors reports fulfill a statutory mandate to report to Congress and executive agencies on the status of science and engineering, including R&D trends and the demographics of the S&E workforce. Entitled “What the latest Federal data tell us about the US Science and Technology Enterprise,” the briefing spotlighted a number of statistics from the report of interest to policymakers. The report highlighted a shift in the global science landscape with countries such as China and South Korea rapidly eclipsing the United States in their share of worldwide research and development (R&D) investment. Collectively, the information compiled the support helps showcase both the importance science investment plays in economic development and the importance of this investment in maintaining America’s global competitiveness in innovation. Since 2001, the share of the world’s R&D performed by the United States has decreased from 37 percent to 30 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, Asian countries’ share of global R&D has risen from 25 to 34 percent over the same period. China’s share alone spiked from four percent to 15 percent over that decade. The Great Recession (2008-2009) caused declines in R&D expenditures attributable to business R&D, which contributes the largest share of US R&D spending. The NSB report notes that the decrease was partially offset by a one-time bump in federal funding for scientific research included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5). According to the report, the US has rebounded better than other developed countries in overall R&D funding. The report also found that science and technology degree holders “weathered” the recession better than other sectors of the US workforce. It also stated that workers in S&E occupations have almost always had lower unemployment than workers in other jobs. In 2011, the federal government was the primary financial support source for 19 percent of full-time S&E graduate students. Graduate students in the biological sciences, physical sciences and engineering received relatively more federal support than those in computer, math, health, or social sciences. The report also found that tuition and fees for colleges and universities have grown...

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ESA Policy News, January 31, 2014: farm bill conservation wins, record CA drought, comment on the prairie chicken
Jan31

ESA Policy News, January 31, 2014: farm bill conservation wins, record CA drought, comment on the prairie chicken

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. STATE OF THE UNION: OBAMA HAILS 2014 AS ‘YEAR OF ACTION After a year of very few real legislative achievements in Congress outside of averting a politically self-inflicted federal government shutdown, President Obama cautioned that continued gridlock and inaction from the legislative branch during the second session of the current 113th Congress will spur unilateral action from the executive branch. President Obama praised Congress for coming together on a budget that offers some relief for sequestration, and urged the body to move forward on administration proposals that create jobs and advance opportunity for Americans. The president’s call to get the economy moving included a request for Congress to increase funding for scientific research. “We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow,” said Obama.  “This is an edge America cannot surrender.  Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smart phones.  That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel.” The president touted the United States’ energy successes such as higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and investments in solar. While noting that these efforts have led to a “cleaner, safer planet” he maintained that more needs to be done to tackle the issue of climate change. “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth,” said President Obama.  “But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods.  That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.” The full address is available for listening and reading here. AGRICULTURE: FARM BILL CONFERENCE REPORT INCLUDES WINS FOR CONSERVATION On Jan. 27, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) unveiled the final conference report for a new farm bill reauthorization. H.R. 2642, the Agricultural Act of 2014, renews federal agricultural programs through the end of Fiscal Year 2018 while implementing a number of consolidations and spending reductions to federal agriculture programs. The bill passed the House by a vote...

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President presses for action on climate, research in 2014 SOTU
Jan29

President presses for action on climate, research in 2014 SOTU

This post contributed by Terence Houston, Policy Analyst and Liza Lester, Communications Officer President Obama’s 5th State of the Union address came after a year where Congress experienced an unprecedented amount of partisan gridlock and the first lengthy government shutdown in nearly 18 years. Consequently, the theme of President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address was a call to action on numerous legislative fronts. The president made clear that 2014 will be a year of action, in not from the legislature, than certainly from the executive. “America does not stand still – and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” said President Obama. The president’s with-you-or-without-you tone received mixed reviews in Congress, currently enjoying a 19 percent approval rating. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) commented that he doesn’t like it, and as a former governor, “I don’t think it works,” at a Wednesday morning debrief, cosponsored by The Atlantic and the National Journal. “Watch this debt ceiling issue” to see how the President’s strategy plays out, he said. But Congressman Aaron Shock (R-IL) saw opportunities to work with the president on transportation infrastructure, tax and immigration reforms, and on fast-tracking international trade agreements. Shock is not in favor of debt ceiling brinksmanship. He challenged his own leadership in the House to recognize a need for bipartisan legislation. “It behooves us to work with pragmatic, centrist Democrats,” he said, during the Wednesday debrief. The president’s call to get the economy moving included a request for Congress to increase funding for scientific research. “We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow,” said Obama.  “This is an edge America cannot surrender.  Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smart phones.  That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel.” A representative of Research America asked Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) this morning about the climate in Congress for working with the President to “fix the damage” to research funding, noting the impact of the sequester on top of several years of stagnant federal science budgets.  DeGette echoed the president’s statement that federally-supported science is a job creator necessary to keep the US at the forefront of science and technology. She feels hopeful that science funding will receive bipartisan support as our economy improves. DeGette, a representative from...

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ESA Policy News, January 17, 2014: budget relief, enviro-ed grants, and a toxic spill in WV
Jan17

ESA Policy News, January 17, 2014: budget relief, enviro-ed grants, and a toxic spill in WV

APPROPRIATIONS: congress passes FY 2014 spending bill
TOXIC SUBSTANCES: West Virginia spill sparks chemical safety policies review
WHITE HOUSE: OSTP director Holdren explains ‘polar vortex’ via Youtube
USGS: Kimball nominated as new director
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS: ESA weighs in on federal employee conference attenance
EPA: environmental education grant applications accepted
POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA announces 2014 GSPA recipients
FWS: wildlife refuges to offer free days in 2014

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Endangered Species Act turns 40
Dec30

Endangered Species Act turns 40

This past week, the Endangered Species Act celebrated its 40th birthday. Throughout 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) commemorated the occasion with special news articles highlighting the major success stories for various plant and animal species protected by the Act. President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law on Dec. 28, 1973. Since its enactment, FWS reports that 99 percent of species under its protection have been saved from extinction. The law currently provides protection for over 1,400 plant and animal species in the US, as well as 600 foreign species. The Act is administered primarily by FWS (terrestrial and freshwater species) as well as the US Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (marine life). Over the years, the law has garnered its share of criticism from policymakers concerned with the constraints that complying with the law places on hunters and land developers. The US Congress (predominantly the House of Representatives) has held various hearings questioning the law’s effectiveness, including hearings on legislative proposals to modify the law. In recent years, there have also been increasing actions to legislatively delist species, circumventing scientific review processes. In addition to informing the general populace, FWS activities commemorating the law’s anniversary seek to counter such criticism of the law’s success. Many species’ recovery plans span decades from the date on which they were first listed. FWS also created a “tool kit” of resources to help inform the general public about the many species protected under the law. The agency has also created a state map spotlighting wildlife species under protection in the United States and territories. A special ignite session at the Ecological Society of America’s 2013 annual meeting in Minneapolis also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Panelists discussed existing fiscal and political factors that affect the law’s implementation and ideas to improve species protection. An August, 2013, EcoTone post outlines the arguments, and includes links to the participants’ slide presentations. Photo Credit:...

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