ESA Policy News April 29: Scientific societies weigh in on America COMPETES reauthorization, relay support for federal participation at conferences, oppose ‘climate riders’
Apr29

ESA Policy News April 29: Scientific societies weigh in on America COMPETES reauthorization, relay support for federal participation at conferences, oppose ‘climate riders’

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION On April 22, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) bill to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. The bill passed by a party-line vote of 19-16. H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, would reauthorize funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Collectively, this bill authorizes a five percent increase for these agencies through Fiscal Year 2017. However, a large number of controversial provisions in the bill drew critique from committee Democrats and the scientific community, which opposed the bill. The bill boosts funding for DOE fusion and the NSF directorates with jurisdiction over the biological sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, computer science and engineering at the cost of sharp cuts to NSF geosciences, social and behavioral directorates and DOE renewable energy and environmental research. DOE Office of Science is flat-funded as are DOE high energy and nuclear physics, DOE advanced computing and DOE basic energy sciences. While the bill somewhat softens transparency and accountability requirement language from past bills, it expands oversight and legislative authority in others. Foremost of concern was that the bill authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation by directorate, which Congress hasn’t done since Fiscal Year 1999, when the agency’s pot of money was significantly smaller and in a period where the agency was arguably under less contentious political scrutiny. The Ecological Society of America was among professional organizations in the scientific, education and conservation community writing in opposition to the bill. ESA also signed onto a joint letter from the Coalition for National Science Funding opposing the bill. Click here to view the mark-up. Click here to view the statement from Chairman Smith and Chairman Thune. Click here to view the ESA letter. Click here to view the CNSF letter. Click here to view Democratic amendments and additional letters from professional organizations opposing H.R. 1806. Click here for a summary of H.R. 1898, the Democratic alternative America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. HOUSE: SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES FY 2016 ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILL On April 22, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed its spending bill for the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill (H.R. 2028) includes $35.4 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) major water office, and the Bureau...

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ESA Policy News November 19: US, China reach emissions agreement, NSF ‘Truthy’ study scrutinized, House committee chairs named for 2015
Nov19

ESA Policy News November 19: US, China reach emissions agreement, NSF ‘Truthy’ study scrutinized, House committee chairs named for 2015

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  FOREIGN AFFAIRS: US, CHINA REACH AGREEMENT ON CARBON EMISSION REDUCTIONS On Nov. 12, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an agreement that aims to set the US and China on a path to dramatically reducing their carbon emissions. The United States will cut its emissions 26–28 percent below 2005 emission levels by 2025. China agreed to “peak” its emissions by 2030 and will work to meet that goal earlier. China has also set a target to expand use of non-carbon emitting energy sources to 20 percent of its total energy consumption by 2030. The breakthrough is pivotal as China previously resisted calls to cap its emissions. The Obama administration declared the reduction goals can be met “under existing law,” without approval from Congress. However, Congress could block funding for the effort using the appropriations process. It appears likely that the Republican-controlled Congress will try. This could pose problems for the president’s subsequent pledge of $3 billion (USD) for the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund to address the ramifications of climate change in developing nations. Click here for additional information on the agreement. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR QUESTIONS ‘TRUTHY’ NSF STUDY On Nov. 10, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France Cordova requesting information on the agency’s decision to fund research into the spread through social media of ideas and memes, including political commentary and campaign messaging. The study in question, entitled “Truthy,” is a multi-year research project by the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing. The name is derived from the term “truthiness,” coined by political comedian, Stephen Colbert for information that feels like truth. The authors apply the term to social media messages from bots [programs] that seem to come from real people and sponsored messages that seem to come from grassroots movements. According to the University of Indiana project website, one of the goals of the study is to “develop machine learning and visual analytics tools that could aid people in recognizing misinformation such as harmful rumors, smear campaigns, astroturfing, and other social media abuse.” Chairman Smith contends that the project singles out conservative messaging tactics and threatens free speech. The day Chairman Smith issued the letter; the Association of American Universities (AAU) released a statement on his committee’s continued inquires into NSF grants. Click here to view the AAU statement. Click here to view Chairman Smith’s letter. Click here to view the author’s response. Click here to link to the ‘Truthy’ study website. HOUSE: REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE NAMES NEW COMMITTEE CHAIRS...

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ESA Policy News, March 28, 2014: NSF funding reviewed, new climate change intiatives, EPA releases draft water rule
Apr02

ESA Policy News, March 28, 2014: NSF funding reviewed, new climate change intiatives, EPA releases draft water rule

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: CJS SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING DRAWS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR NSF RESEARCH On March 27, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce Justice and Science and Related Agencies (CJS) held a hearing examining the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget request. The hearing is among the last duties of Cora Marrett attending in her current capacity as acting director of NSF before she hands the reins over to the new NSF Director France Cordova, confirmed by the Senate on March 12. “The subcommittee is a big supporter of basic research, both [Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA)] and myself, which enables innovative discoveries that boost our economy, improve our national security and answer fundamental questions about the world,” said CJS Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA). “As a result, we have worked hard to ensure NSF receives adequate support even in times of fiscal restraint. In fact, with the exception of Fiscal Year 2013, when sequestration unfortunately produced across the board reductions, we have increased NSF’s research budget every year for the past decade.” Chairman Wolf expressed concern, however, over NSF’s main research account, which would decrease under the president’s budget and for the consequences of such a decrease on areas such as advanced manufacturing cyber-security and cyber-infrastructure. Acting Director Marrett shared Wolf’s concern while noting the current fiscal restraints that the administration is operating under in view of existing overall discretionary spending limits set by the Murray-Ryan budget agreement for FY 2014-2015. Marrett expressed interest in working with Chairman Wolf and Ranking Member Fattah to address any perceived shortcomings in the existing budget request. View the full committee hearing here. BUDGET: SCIENCE COMMITTEE HEARING PROMPTS DISCUSSION OVER NSF TRANSPARENCY A March 26 House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on the president’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal included discussion over research grants funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and whether there is presently adequate accountability and transparency at the agency. House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) questioned Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren about NSF grants funding a “climate change musical,” and studies of fishing practices around Lake Victoria in Africa, the ecological consequences of early human-set fires, and causes of stress in Bolivia, among others. The committee recently approved H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, which would require NSF to describe why grants they fund are in the national interest. The Ecological Society of America has joined with the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) in...

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ESA Policy News: November 22
Nov22

ESA Policy News: November 22

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. SCIENCE: SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS LEGISLATION TO REAUTHORIZE NSF On Nov. 13, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research considered the Frontiers in Innovation Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, draft legislation to reauthorize programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education programs. Committee Democrats were concerned about provisions of the bill that would supersede NSF’s existing merit review process. Chief among Democrats’ concerns was Section 104 of the bill, which requires the NSF director to provide a written justification for each grant verifying that it meets certain requirements, including furthering “the national interest,” being “worthy of federal funding,” furthering economic competitiveness and advancing the health and welfare of the general public. The requirements are similar to those laid out in a previous draft bill authored by science committee Republicans, the High Quality Research Act, which was opposed by the scientific community. The Ecological Society of America joined the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) in sending a letter to the science committee expressing concerns with such efforts earlier this year. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-LA) states that the language is necessary to ensure accountability to the American taxpayer over federal funding decisions. “They [government employees] should explain why grants that receive taxpayer funding are important research that has the potential to benefit the national interest. It’s not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money,” asserted Smith. “Enhanced transparency and accountability isn’t a burden; it will ultimately make NSF’s grant award process more effective.” The draft is the second bill House Republicans have put forward to reauthorize the AMERICA COMPETES Act. Several weeks ago, the committee considered a bill to reauthorize Department of Energy science initiatives. For additional information, see the Nov. 11 edition of ESA Policy News. To view the CNSF letter to Chairman Smith, click here. For more information on the hearing, click here. SENATE: COMMITTEE APPROVES SCIENCE AGENCY NOMINEES AHEAD OF RULE CHANGE On Nov. 12, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved several of President Obama’s choices to lead key positions at the administration’s science agencies. The committee approved Kathryn Sullivan for the position of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Jo Handelsman to be Associate Director for Science for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Robert Simon for Associate Director for Environment and Energy for OSTP. Sullivan has previously served as NOAA’s chief scientist...

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Showcasing science on Capitol Hill

By Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs Last night was the 18th consecutive year that researchers and policymakers came together over finger food and beverages to talk about the science and education projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  “STEM Research and Education: Underpinning American Innovation” is sponsored by the Coalition for National Science Funding.  Its goal is to showcase the wide variety of projects made possible by NSF and facilitate some good conversations between the recipients of these federal grants and those who manage the purse strings—Congress. Nearly 40 exhibit booths showcased a wide range of topics to over a hundred congressional staff and Members of Congress, including Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Hanson Clarke (D-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI). The Ecological Society of America (ESA) was among the exhibitors and featured ESA graduate student Sarah Roley’s work on mitigating nutrient pollution in the agricultural Midwest.  Roley, a freshwater ecologist who is completing her Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame, spoke with numerous congressional staffers who were interested in how the two-stage ditch—the focus of her research—works and how it might be applied in other areas besides Indiana.  Among those interested were Kevin Warnke, Legislative Assistant for Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Robert Bonner, with the House Committee on Appropriations (pictured above, speaking with Roley).  Roley also told several senior NSF staff about her work, including Myron Gutmann, who heads the Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences Directorate at the agency. Roley is a GLOBES NSF Fellow.  Earlier in the day, she visited her Indiana delegation to express her appreciation for their past support of STEM research and education and to talk with them about how her work can help address a persistent problem in the Midwest and in areas downstream, particularly the Gulf of Mexico.  As Roley explained during her congressional meetings and the CNSF reception, fertilizers used to grow crops move from farm fields and can contaminate drinking water and harm fishing industries downstream by fueling algal blooms.  The two-stage ditch adds floodplains to incised channels, slowing the flow of water and allowing bacteria and plants to take Nitrogen out of the system.      Farmers with whom Roley has worked seem receptive to the two-stage ditch.  They usually don’t need to give up much land because many already have grassy buffers next to existing ditches and the addition of floodplains to these ditches keeps their fields from being flooded during high-water events.  According to Roley, nutrients travel half as far from two-stage ditches than from conventional ditches and remove at least twice as many nutrients during floods.  Another bonus,...

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A science poster session for Congress

Last week, several hundred congressional staff and several Members of Congress mingled with over 30 scientists during an evening reception on Capitol Hill. While nibbling on finger food and sipping libations, policymakers and researchers chatted about the wide range of research and education projects supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The event was the 17th Annual Exhibition and Reception of the Coalition for National Science Funding, an alliance of over 120 organizations focused on the future of U.S. science, mathematics and engineering. Sharon Collinge, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder—sponsored by the Ecological Society of America—showcased her work on restoring vernal pool plant communities on California’s Travis Air Force Base. Collinge explained to interested visitors who stopped by her poster exhibit that her long-term ecological research demonstrates the difficulties in restoring a system, in this case imperiled plant communities.  She said that one problem is that invasive species can take root and may outcompete native vernal plant communities.  Collinge’s project is of interest to the Department of Defense (DOD) because DOD owns vast acreages of public land and is charged with managing its natural resources holistically through integrated natural resources management plans. Collinge involves 6th graders in her research project, something that delighted Representative Fattah’s (D-PA) Chief of Staff, Maisha Leek.   She enthusiastically recalled a time in elementary school in Philadelphia in which she too was involved in a captivating hands-on outdoor project.  Many other attendees stopped to talk with Collinge about her work, including NSF staff, other exhibitors and staff from the offices of Collinge’s Colorado senators. Collinge’s exhibit was one of 35 at the evening event and reflected the wide breadth of NSF support.  Among the many exhibit topics were: –          Innovations for future computers –          Weather research –          Deepwater Horizon oil spill –          Mathematics and the melting polar ice caps –          Engaging the public in science, technology, engineering and mathematics –          Conversion of biomass carbon to liquid fuel –          Mentoring the next generation of behavioral neuroscientists Collinge and other participants had preceded the exhibition with visits to their respective congressional delegations.  Visiting with the offices of her representative and senators, Collinge talked about the important role NSF plays in her state, where state support of research is fairly weak.   Colorado does very well competing for NSF grants, ranking 5th in the funds it receives from the agency. Well past the scheduled end of the reception, exhibitors and attendees were still talking.  It was only when the tablecloths were removed from exhibit tables and the candles blown out that folks took their cue that it was time to say goodnight. Photo credits: ESA...

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Speaker Pelosi featured at CNSF exhibition

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) is an alliance of more than 100 non-profits, universities and scientific societies that advocates for funding to the National Science Foundation in Washington. Each year the coalition hosts an evening exhibition on Capitol Hill to showcase NSF-funded research.  Last night’s 15th annual exhibition boasted 34 exhibits from scientists, students and educators across the country. This year the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, made a special guest appearance and said a few brief words. Following an introduction by Bart Gordon (D-TN), chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, the outspoken science proponent repeated her drumbeat catch-phrase of the nation’s domestic agenda: “science, science, science and science.” She thanked the researchers in the room in animated language, commenting that no advances can be made in the nation’s top priorities – education, health care and energy – without science. ESA member and research exhibitor Travis Huxman of the University of Arizona appreciated Pelosi’s comments, even though he could barely see her over the crowd of an estimated 400. Huxman presented regional-scale data showing a marked reduction in biodiversity and ecosystem function for North American ecosystems under climate change.  His most current results show that shrublands, contrary to current belief, may be a source of carbon to the atmosphere. “A lot of people are trying to replace grasslands with shrublands to increase carbon sequestration,” he said. “But unless those shrubs are in riparian zones, they’ll serve as a source of carbon.” Among others, Huxman explained his research to Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Dahlia Sokolov , the staff director of the Research and Education Subcommittee of the House Science...

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