GSPA recipients bridge the gap between science and policy
Dec08

GSPA recipients bridge the gap between science and policy

In some respects, this year has been a politically tumultuous one for scientists working in federal policy. The US House Science, Space and Technology Committee has pushed legislation that would radically alter how the National Science Foundation prioritizes its budget and made repeated requests for information related to how certain federal agencies utilize science in their decision-making processes. While it is true that for some policymakers, their critique of scientific findings or priorities are based in fundamental differences of ideology, there are many others who are simply unaware of the degree of rigor involved in the scientific peer review process for science publications or the high level of transparency and competitiveness that constitutes the National Science Foundation’s merit review process for grant proposals. Consequently, it is critically important to maintain an open dialogue of communication between those who make science policy and those who practice the science. This is necessary to advance understanding of basic scientific research and seek consensus on how this research can be used to improve and improve our way of life. The Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) is one such tool the Ecological Society of America (ESA) uses to engage scientists in policy and help lawmakers understand the ecological research being conducted in their congressional districts and how it helps the communities they represent. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2015 GSPA recipient Emlyn Resetarits (University of Texas-Austin) reflects on her experience. For Resetarits, meeting with congressional offices highlighted the “isolated scientific community” she operates in, given that certain ecological terms and species she referred weren’t immediately familiar to some of the legislative staff during their discussion. She hopes that more Members of Congress will hire scientists as policy aides, but noted it’s beneficial to continue a dialogue with not just offices that are less familiar with science, but also those that may be critical of certain scientific findings or processes. “I think we’re strengthened when we really are able to talk to people who disagree with us, take their doubts and incorporate it into our research or how we explain ourselves,” said Resetarits. “I think it strengthens how we do science when we talk to people who maybe disagree with us.” Resetarits encourages scientists looking to get involved with policy to volunteer with a local agency whose work they found valuable— noting that public speaking skill is vital for communicating scientific research to wide audiences. “Just being able to public[ly] speak to a general audience about what you do is really important and if you can do that, that will really give you a leg up on trying...

Read More
Programs that promote diversity in science education
Oct30

Programs that promote diversity in science education

The White House recently released a fact sheet as part of its efforts to promote Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics). The fact sheet focuses largely on how implicit bias (unconscious or unintentional assumptions that influence perceptions and judgements of others) can hinder participation among women and other underrepresented demographic groups in STEM-related fields. This finding reinforces the need for programs and initiatives that help promote careers in science for traditionally underrepresented groups. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2015 Ecological Society of America (ESA) Graduate Student Policy Award winner Natalie Hambalek, a first generation college student, highlights some of the science education programs available to underprivileged and underrepresented minorities. She also discusses her work to promote careers in science for young women as Co-President of Graduate Women in Science at Oregon State University. “When young students are asked to draw scientists, they draw and Einstein-looking man, usually with big glasses, frazzled hair, a lab coat and a chemistry flask. I think there’s this common notion that science isn’t accessible because of the use of a lot of technical jargon. So I wanted to help in changing this stigma, particularly engaging young girls in science activities,” stated Hambalek. “Because women are traditionally underrepresented in many STEM fields, I think it’s really important to assist in normalizing women in science,” she continued. She also cites three programs she participated in that help promote educational opportunity and career growth in STEM fields: The Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program is a program specifically targeted to racial and ethnic groups traditionally underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Funded through the National Science Foundation, the program helps colleges and universities in their efforts to increase the number of student who obtain STEM-related degrees among these underrepresented groups. The Ronald E. McNair scholarship is a federal TRIO program funded by the US Department of Education. The program funds 151 institutions throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The McNair program is geared towards individuals with demonstrated strong academic potential who are either first-generation college students with financial need or members of a demographic that has been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. Sponsored through the Aspen Institute, the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fellowship for Minority Students offers graduate students and undergraduate students from underrepresented communities of color the opportunity to work within the Aspen Institute, a non-profit research think tank. The program promotes collaboration between grant-making entities, non-profit groups, social enterprises and public-private partnerships towards addressing various policy issues facing society. Within ESA, Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS) has worked...

Read More
ESA Policy News October 14: Republican speaker search continues, OSTP seeking interns, White House signs STEM bill
Oct14

ESA Policy News October 14: Republican speaker search continues, OSTP seeking interns, White House signs STEM bill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. HOUSE: MCCARTHY DROPS OUT OF SPEAKERSHIP RACE On Oct. 8, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dropped his bid to succeed John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. With no clear successor in place, Boehner postponed the speakership election until further notice. McCarthy had undergone criticism for statements that linked the creation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi with an effort to damage 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) also announced his intent to run against McCarthy for speaker. The House Freedom Caucus, which consists of over 40 far-right conservatives, had also endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) for speaker. Collectively, these alternative candidates raised doubt on whether McCarthy could easily secure the 218 majority votes necessary to win among the 247 member House Republican conference. Much of the media speculation for alternative candidates for speaker has centered on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who currently chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most sought-after committees in the House. To date, Ryan has declined interest in the role. Other House members reportedly mulling a run include Michael Conaway (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX)  and Lynn Westermoreland (R-CA). INVASIVE SPECIES: COURT RULES FOR STRONGER BALLAST WATER REGULATIONS In a 3-0 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with environmental groups who contended that  existing  US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations did not go far enough to reduce the spread of invasive species through cargo ship ballast water. Environmental groups sued EPA in 2008 seeking stronger regulations related to the spread of aquatic invasive species through cargo transport vessels. While EPA eventually finalized ballast water rules in March 2013, the groups argued that the standards did not sufficiently protect waterways from future species invasions. As a result of the ruling, the agency will reconsider its technology decisions and its exemption for certain older vessels. The existing standards will remain in place until the agency can finalize stricter regulations. Click here to view the full ruling. EPA: COURT STAYS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WATER RULE On Oct. 9, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an order granting the request of eighteen states to place a nationwide stay on the Obama administration’s rule clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction over US waterways. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers had finalized the rule in May. In a 2-1 ruling the court decided that the rule,...

Read More
ESA Policy News September 30: Pope preaches to Congress on climate, Speaker Boehner to resign, Science committee examines NEON
Sep30

ESA Policy News September 30: Pope preaches to Congress on climate, Speaker Boehner to resign, Science committee examines NEON

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. CONGRESS: POPE CALLS ON LAWMAKERS TO AVERT ‘ENVIRONMENTAL DETERIORATION’ On Sept. 24, Pope Francis spoke before a joint session of the United States Congress, advocating for compassion and equal opportunity for the underprivileged. He also urged Congress to take action to protect the earth and touched on the value of scientific discovery. While Pope Francis did not explicitly utter the phrase climate change, he stated that protecting the earth should be one of the many ways in which human society works to advance the common good. “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all,” said Francis. Highlighting the value of scientific research, Pope Francis stated “America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead” towards combating poverty and protecting nature. Click here to read the text of the pope’s speech. Click here to read the text of the pope’s White House speech. HOUSE: SPEAKER BOEHNER TO RESIGN IN OCTOBER House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced last week that he will resign from Congress effective Oct. 30. The announcement came a day after Pope Francis made history as the first pope to speak before a joint session of Congress. Boehner was instrumental in arranging his invitation. It also came amid growing unrest among the House Republican conference with Speaker Boehner. One lawmaker, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), had introduced a resolution in July that called for Boehner’s resignation as speaker. The party is also strategizing over how to continue funding the government throughout FY 2016. Prior to Boehner’s resignation, far-right conservatives had been pushing party leaders to include language prohibiting funding for Planned Parenthood in any continuing resolution to fund the government beyond tonight’s deadline, when FY 2015 funding expires. The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto any legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. The Senate recently passed a clean continuing resolution by a vote of 78-20 that will extend government funding at existing levels through Dec. 11. The House is expected to approve the bill before today’s midnight deadline, allowing the government to remain open. Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the leading contender to succeed Boehner. The next speaker will likely be under political pressure to adopt a more confrontational approach to dealing with the White House and Congressional Democrats. The House Republican leadership elections are scheduled for Oct. 8. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE DELVES INTO NEON DESCOPE PLAN On Sept. 18, the...

Read More
ESA Policy News September 16: Organizations request sequestration relief, Court blocks bee-killing insecticide, Nominations sought for NSF award
Sep16

ESA Policy News September 16: Organizations request sequestration relief, Court blocks bee-killing insecticide, Nominations sought for NSF award

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: ESA JOINS ORGANIZATIONAL LETTER REQUESTING SEQUESTRATION RELIEF The Ecological Society of America was among 2,500 national, state and local organizations that signed a letter to Members of Congress requesting that they work to replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. The letter comes as Congress debates how to continue funding federal agencies beyond the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015. Republicans, who control both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006, have put forward Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bills that have adhered to the spending constraints set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25). In Dec. 2013, the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in that year were able to work out a short-term deficit reduction agreement that provided spending increases for overall discretionary spending and prevented sequestration from taking effect in FY 2014 and 2015. Congress will need to enact a new deficit reduction agreement for FY 2016 and beyond in order to raise the caps on spending above those set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Click here to view the organizational letter. FOREIGN AFFAIRS: ECOLOGICAL SOCIETIES URGE CLIMATE ACTION AT PARIS CONFERENCE The Ecological Society of America joined with a dozen ecological societies in issuing a joint statement requesting that the countries meeting at this year’s United Nations climate conference in Paris take decisive steps to deter the effects of global climate change. “Given that an important cause of these changes is the impact of people on the climate, the Presidents urge the Parties meeting in Paris in December during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, to take the decisive steps urgently needed to prevent a 2°C rise in average global temperatures as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” reads the statement. “This is very likely the last decade when it will be possible to achieve this together and to establish a global legacy of a healthy planet for generations to come.” Click here to view the full statement. WILDFIRES: AGENCY HEADS URGE CONGRESS TO REALLOCATE SUPPRESSION EXPENSES The Secretaries for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of Interior (DOI), and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congress this week requesting that lawmakers fix the way wildfire expenses are allocated on order for the agencies to better invest in forest and rangeland restoration efforts....

Read More
ESA Policy News September 2: Obama talks climate in Alaska, Research groups praise Senators for science conference support
Sep02

ESA Policy News September 2: Obama talks climate in Alaska, Research groups praise Senators for science conference support

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  ARCTIC: OBAMA CALLS FOR CLIMATE ACTION AT ALASKA CONFERENCE On August 29, President Obama spoke before the conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) in Alaska where he discussed how climate change is impacting the Arctic and called on world leaders to join in global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama’s visit makes him the first sitting president to visit the Arctic. “Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism,” said the president. “Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges.  Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely.  In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.” The president used the forum to call on the world’s nations to agree to a climate treaty when they meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this fall. The president discussed the efforts the United States and China are implementing to cut carbon emissions while stressing that addressing climate change requires action from multiple nations. Click here to view the president’s full remarks before the GLACIER conference. Click here for additional Obama administration efforts to address climate change in the Arctic. WATER: COURT RULING IMPEDES OBAMA CLEAN WATER RULE US District Court Chief Judge Ralph Erickson in North Dakota has granted a preliminary injunction impacting 13 states against the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States rule, which redefines which streams and wetlands merit federal protection under the Clean Water Act that is administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency contends the injunction will only apply to the 13 states that filed the lawsuit: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, while the new rule will proceed in the 37 other states. Judge Erickson concluded that the regulation likely oversteps the US Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos vs. the United States. The injunction serves to halt implementation of the rule for as long as litigation persists and can be overturned. The 2008 guidance that has been on the books to govern Clean Water Act decisions will remain in effect for the 13 states. Click here to view the full ruling. Click here for additional information on the EPA clean water rule. ENDANGERED SPECIES: USDA ANNOUNCES SAGE GROUSE CONSERVATION EFFORT On August 27, the US Department of Agriculture announced a...

Read More
Amplified spending constraints, political division necessitates policy engagement by scientists
Aug28

Amplified spending constraints, political division necessitates policy engagement by scientists

  When Congress returns from the August recess, it will have just a few weeks (10 scheduled legislative working days total) to pass legislation to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30 when the current fiscal year ends. Both the House and Senate have introduced appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. Congressional Republicans, now in control of both the House and Senate, have vowed to adhere to the sequestration spending caps on discretionary spending that were put in place by the Budget Control Act (Public Law 112-25). The Senate has introduced, yet failed to move its 12 of its FY 2016 spending bills to the Senate floor. The minority party has filibuster power in the Senate, requiring many bills to secure support from at least 60 Senators. Senate Democrats have vowed to oppose any appropriations bills that adhere to the sequestered spending constraints. Congressional Democrats and the White House have urged lawmakers to negotiate a deficit reduction alternative that provides relief to federal discretionary spending programs. Meanwhile, the House has managed to pass six of its 12 FY 2016 appropriations bills, including its Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies bill, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other agencies. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2015 Graduate Student Policy Award recipient Cleo Chou discussed how sustained funding support from the NSF has been vital to both her research and continued education as a graduate student. Chou explained that her NSF Graduate Research Fellowship helped fund the past three years of her stipend as a Ph.D. student as well as her tuition. NSF also helped fund equipment at the facility where she conducts her research into carbon and nutrient cycling in tropical rainforests. Chou’s research will further understanding of climate change and will help ensure society can continue to benefit from the various ecosystem services tropical rainforests provide such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity and food. Chou also reflected on her overall experience in Washington, DC, learning about the federal budget process and the meetings she attended as part of the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition congressional visits to urge lawmakers to continue to support funding for NSF and biological research.  The visits helped lawmakers understand how sustained investment in scientific research benefits the communities they represent. The 2013 federal government shutdown showcased both the short-term and long-term effects a lapse in government funding can have on scientific research. Amid a multitude of political and practical considerations policymakers will weigh as they negotiate how to prioritize funding for national priorities, it is important that...

Read More
ESA Policy News July 1: White House voices concern with Senate CJS funding bill, Supreme Court rebuffs air pollution rule, ESA commends pope for climate emphasis
Jul01

ESA Policy News July 1: White House voices concern with Senate CJS funding bill, Supreme Court rebuffs air pollution rule, ESA commends pope for climate emphasis

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: WHITE HOUSE VOICES CONCERN WITH SENATE CJS BILL On June 24, the White House Office of Management and Budget submitted a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee expressing concern with the Senate Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. Like official Statements of Administration Policy, the letters outline its position on the bills. Unlike the Statements of Administration Policy, the letters do not specify whether the president would veto the bill. Areas of concern cited in the letter include significant funding decreases in the FY 2016 budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as compared to the president’s FY 2016 budget request. For NSF, the letter notes that the bill “would lead to about 700 fewer research grants, affecting about 9,100 researchers, technicians, and students.” The disparities in funding levels exist because Congressional Republicans have sought to adhere to sequestration, the automatic across-the-board cuts to all discretionary spending included in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25), while the administration has not. The sequestration cuts can be avoided if Congress passes a deficit reduction measure. Alternatively, Congress would have to pass a new law to nullify the automatic spending cuts, unlikely with the House and Senate under Republican control. The president’s FY 2016 budget would offset sequestration by implementing targeted discretionary spending cuts and revenue increases through tax reform. Click here to view the White House letter on the Senate FY 2016 CJS bill. EPA: SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS AIR POLLUTION RULE On June 29, the US Supreme Court struck down the Obama administration’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) rule for coal-fired power plants. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have considered compliance costs before deciding to move forward with the air pollution rule. The Supreme Court ruling effectively reverses the ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which concluded the EPA rule was within its powers under the Clean Air Act. The DC Circuit Court must now decide whether to instruct EPA to carry out additional analyses or strike down the rule altogether. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia stated “EPA must consider cost — including cost of compliance — before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost.”...

Read More