ESA Policy News June 3: America COMPETES narrowly passes, Clean Water Rule finalized, Sage grouse protection plan released
Jun03

ESA Policy News June 3: America COMPETES narrowly passes, Clean Water Rule finalized, Sage grouse protection plan released

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  RESEARCH: AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION NARROWLY PASSES HOUSE On May 20, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, by a vote of 217-205. No Democrats supported the bill and 23 Republicans broke with party leaders in voting against it. Sponsored by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill authorizes small increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Within the aforementioned federal agencies, it cuts funding for biological and environmental research at DOE as well as geoscience and social science research at NSF. A total of 12 amendments were voted on. The Ecological Society of America joined with other scientific societies in sending correspondence to Congress opposing the bill. ESA members relayed concerns to congressional offices in person during the 2015 Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition congressional visits last month. The Society co-organizes the congressional visits day with the American Institute of Biological Sciences. While a comprehensive Senate bill has yet to be introduced, early efforts suggest Senate legislation will be comparatively more bipartisan. A Senate bill introduced May 20 to reauthorize funding for DOE research would increase the agency’s Office of Science funding from $5.3 billion in FY 2016 to $6.2 billion in FY 2020 and does not include cuts to environmental research as H.R. 1806 does. The bill (S. 1398) was introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE). For additional information on the America COMPETES Reauthorization, see the May 20 edition of ESA Policy News. WATER: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FINALIZES CLEAN WATER RULE On May 27, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers finalized the Clean Water Rule, clarifying jurisdiction over streams and wetlands of the United States. Supreme Court rulings over the past decade, including Solid Waste Agency of North Cook County (SWANCC) v. United States Army Corps of Engineers (2001) and Rapanos v. United States (2006) called into question what “navigable waters” as defined under the Clean Water Act can be regulated by the federal government. The new rule clarifies that streams and wetlands that can carry pollution into larger waterways also fall under jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The rule includes exclusions for groundwater, artificial lakes and ponds, puddles and water-filled depressions from construction and grass swales. The rule will only apply to ditches that function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. Administration officials emphasize that the rule only protects...

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EPSCoR: Expanding Job Growth and Opportunity in Science
May06

EPSCoR: Expanding Job Growth and Opportunity in Science

    The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) provides science resources to its jurisdictions, which constitute 28 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands. A recent Capitol Hill briefing spotlighted the program’s work to expand science research and education across US states and territories that have traditionally been underfunded. Speakers noted how the program fosters career development and high-paying job opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The briefing was moderated by Paul Hill, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. NSF Deputy Director Cora Marrett also gave introductory remarks at the briefing. James Rice, Project Director for South Dakota EPSCoR, highlighted the important role businesses in his state play in providing career opportunities for STEM undergraduate students. In partnership with the South Dakota Department of Economic Development, South Dakota EPSCoR established the Dakota SEEDS program to connect STEM undergraduate students with career opportunities at 200 participating South Dakota companies. The program has provided a total of 231 interns (32 percent of participants) full time positions at the companies where they had interned. EPSCoR states and commonwealths are also important for expanding STEM research and education for racial minorities. NSF reports that the populations of EPSCoR jurisdictions consist of 24 percent of the nation’s African-Americans  in areas that are home to 50 percent of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The EPSCoR jurisdiction’s populations also compose 49 percent of the nation’s Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; 40 percent of the nation’s American Indians and Alaskan Natives; 16 percent of the nation’s Hispanics. EPSCoR jurisdictions include 16 percent of the nation’s Hispanics Serving Institutions and 68 percent of the Tribal Colleges and Universities. The Virgin Islands EPSCoR Project Director Henry Smith noted how the EPSCoR program had partially funded research into invasive lionfish, including research into improving methods for its harvesting for the fishing industry. He also noted how EPSCoR funding has contributed to the understanding of coral reef resiliency. Rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, ineffective management and other factors are affecting the decline of reefs, which are an important part of the local economy. Smith compared the loss of coral reefs with the tourism financial loss that would occur if Washington, DC saw its cherry blossoms dwindle. Additional information on EPSCoR is available...

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Sowing the seeds of support for science
Sep23

Sowing the seeds of support for science

Growing fiscal constraints as well as a growing distrust of science among some factions of the conservative movement have made it harder to reach the bipartisan consensus on science issues that existed in days of yore. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee, once a sanctuary from political sparring, has now fallen into the soap opera-style partisan rivalries more commonplace in committees with jurisdiction over hot button issues related to social or fiscal policy. Earlier this month, the House was scheduled to take up H.R. 1891, the Science Laureates of the United States Act of 2013, which would allow the president to appoint a Science Laureate of the United States to encourage young people to pursue careers in science. Despite the Republican chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee being an enthusiastic lead cosponsor, the bill was pulled by House leaders over concern from conservative groups that President Obama would appoint an individual who would promote a partisan agenda related to climate change. Issues related to science were not always so polarizing. As late as the past decade, substantive legislation to authorize funding for scientific research was signed by a Republican president after passing a Republican Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. In 2002, the National Science Foundation Authorization Act passed a Republican-controlled House with a lopsided 397-25 vote, was met with swift passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate by unanimous consent and was signed by Republican President George W. Bush. More recently, the initial America COMPETES Act passed the then-Democratic-controlled House with bipartisan support from leaders of both parties by a 367-57 vote margin in 2007 and was also signed by President Bush. In stark contrast, the America COMPETES Reauthorization bill, passed just three years later, passed the Senate by unanimous consent, but was opposed by a majority of House Republicans (16 supported, 130 opposed). When Republicans garnered control of the House after the Nov. 2010 mid-terms, buttressed by (and now arguably reliant upon) political support of the tea party movement, there have been marked increases in legislative attempts to curtail scientific processes. There have been increasing legislative attempts to unilaterally delist various species from protection under the Endangered Species Act without traditional scientific input, additional requirements placed upon the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) merit review process and even a successful effort to at least temporarily limit NSF’s ability to fund political science research. It should be noted that while the latter was pushed by a Republican Senator, there was not sufficient vocal opposition from either of the major political parties to prevent the provision from being signed into law. In the most recent edition of The Ecologist...

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ESA Policy News: June 28
Jun28

ESA Policy News: June 28

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here.   CLIMATE CHANGE: OBAMA OUTLINES PLAN TO REGULATE GREENHOUSE GASES On June 25, President Obama announced his plan to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The plan seeks to implement federal action on addressing climate change in lieu of  Congress that has not passed comprehensive legislation  to reduce carbon emissions throughout the president’s first-term. “Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants.  But here’s the thing:  Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air,” said President Obama. “We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free.  That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.” The president asserted that rising sea-levels over the past century have contributed to more damaging hurricanes and that temperature changes have caused more severe droughts and increased the duration and reach of wildfires. Implemented largely through the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture and Interior, the plan would set carbon limits on coal-fired industrial plants and invest in renewable energy usage on public lands. To brace for the continued impacts of climate change, the plan utilizes strategies developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to help communities guard against flooding and extreme weather events. It also intends to apply scientific knowledge to help farmers, ranchers and landowners manage droughts and wildfires and improve forest restoration efforts. Recognizing that mitigating climate change is a global effort, the White House plan also increases federal government involvement in international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and sets guidelines for how foreign assistance is spent. For additional information on the plan, click here. To read President Obama’s full remarks, click here. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES PASS ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILLS This month, the House and Senate appropriations committees move forward on legislation to fund federal energy and water development programs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. Such programs are implemented largely through the Department of Energy (DOE) and US Army Corps of Engineers. The $30.4 billion House energy and water bill slashes funding for a number of renewable energy and research programs at DOE. Funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would be cut by 40 percent compared to existing sequester level funding. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would be cut by 80 percent below the sequestered funding. The...

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ESA Policy News: June 14
Jun14

ESA Policy News: June 14

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. EDUCATION: STEM REORGANIZATION EFFORT MEETS BIPARTISAN CRITICISM On June 4, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee convened for a hearing examining the Obama Administration’s proposed reorganization of Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) programs outlined in its proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Under the plan, 110 of 226 federal agency STEM programs would be eliminated. The plan would house STEM programs primarily under three agencies: the Department of Education (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Smithsonian Institution (SI). DOE would oversee K-12 programs, NSF would oversee undergraduate and graduate programs while the Smithsonian would be responsible for informal science education. The proposal, an effort on the part of the administration to deal with the reality of current fiscal constraints, was met with inquiries and skepticism from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and former chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) were all particularly concerned with the reorganization’s impact on STEM programs within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The reorganization would cut NASA programs by one-third. NASA’s STEM programs would lose $50 million under the reorganization effort.  There were also bipartisan concerns that the reorganization does not include enough focus on vocational training programs or programs that seek to increase STEM participation among underrepresented groups, including women and minorities. Members of Congress expressed concern that the reorganization effort was decided primarily through the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, with little input from school districts, non-profits, universities or the federal agency program managers responsible for the programs slated for elimination. “In addition to being concerned about the process, I have serious concerns with the budget proposal itself.  To be blunt, it seems to me it was not very well thought out,” stated Ranking Member Johnson. Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren noted that no one wants to see their own programs reduced or eliminated. View the full hearing here. CLIMATE CHANGE: US, CHINA REACH DEAL ON HFC EMISSIONS On June 8, the White House announced that the United States had reached an agreement with China to reduce the use of use of heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are greenhouse gases used in refrigerator and air conditioner appliances. The most common types of HFCs are anywhere from a hundred to a thousand times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the planet. According to the White House, HFC emissions could grow to nearly...

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Briefing highlights importance of social science research

By Terence Houston, Science Policy Analyst In recent months, there have been multiple congressional attempts to interfere with  the  National Science Foundation’s support of the nation’s fundamental research particularly  related to social and behavioral science research.  Such attacks have happened periodically over the years, but recent actions have been particularly aggressive. Congressional Republicans have pushed legislative efforts to restrict federal funding for social science research. The Continuing Resolution enacted to fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013 included language authored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) prohibiting NSF from funding political science research unless such research was certified to promote the national security or economic interests of the United States. House Space, Science and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has repeatedly emphasized his intention to increase oversight of NSF’s grant approval process. Chairman Smith has also put forward draft legislation, the High Quality Research Act, which would cripple NSF’s existing scientific merit  peer-review process . These actions have drawn criticism from Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and concern from science advocates. On April 25, the Coalition for National Science Funding joined with the House Research and Development Caucus, Co-Chaired by Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), in sponsoring a briefing entitled “Social Science Research on Disasters: Communication, Resilience, and Consequences.” The briefing highlighted examples of federally-funded social and behavioral science research contributions to the nation. Rep. Holt, a practicing Ph.D. physicist before he was elected to Congress, highlighted the need for the US to continue to sustain investment of basic research across all fields of science.  NSF Acting Director Cora Marrett also underscored that message. For example, NSF-funded social science research at Washington University in St. Louis helped the Army Research Institute incorporate nonverbal communication into soldier training, helping defense efforts towards improving cross-cultural non-verbal communication. A Western Washington University behavioral study on US veterans identified certain patterns of disadvantages in educational and career trajectories that could help the 200,000 military servicemen and women  who must readjust to civilian life each year post-service. Behavior research on human response to natural disasters shows that local culture plays a role in how individuals respond to evacuation orders issued for hurricanes. Researchers Susan Weller (University of Texas) and Roberta Baer (University of South Florida) identified various factors, including exhaustion, traffic concerns and a belief in the ability to “ride out the storm” as affecting the manner in which people respond to mandated evacuations. Each of the briefing’s speakers gave their perspective on how behavior research informs federal response to human-made and natural disasters. H. Dan O’Hair(University of Kentucky) discussed the sociology of collaborative efforts between broadcast...

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ESA Policy News: April 19

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: SCIENCE RECEIVES HIGH PRIORTY IN WHITE HOUSE FY 2014 PROPOSAL On April 10, the White House released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget proposal, which includes significant increases for scientific research. The proposal sets different priorities than the proposed budgets put forward by Congressional leaders, particularly those of the House majority. The budget takes into account spending caps instituted through the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). However, it does not take into account implementation of sequestration and compares program funding levels to those of FY 2012, before sequestration was implemented. Obama’s budget proposes to nullify budget sequestration with $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction. This would include $580 billion in revenue through closing tax loopholes, $400 billion in healthcare savings, $200 billion in mandatory spending programs that would include agriculture and retirement contributions and $200 billion in discretionary savings. The remaining $430 billion would come from cost-of-living adjustments and reduced interest payments on the debt. Congress needs to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings to eliminate the existing sequester cuts. In total, the White House FY 2014 budget request includes $142.8 billion for federal research and development (R&D), a 1.3 percent increase over FY 2012. In his official message on the budget, President Obama sought to tie science investment to economic development. “If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas,” he asserted. “That is why the budget maintains a world-class commitment to science and research, targeting resources to those areas most likely to contribute directly to the creation of transformational technologies that can create the businesses and jobs of the future. The president’s budget would provide OSTP with $5.65 million for FY 2014, an increase from $4.5 million in FY 2012. In the president’s proposal, many federal agencies that invest in scientific research would garner large boosts, compared to what was enacted in FY 2012: National Science Foundation: $7.6 billion (an 8.4 percent increase) US Geological Survey: $1.2 billion (a 9 percent increase) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.4 billion (an 8 percent increase) Department of Energy R&D: $12.7 billion (an 18 percent increase) National Aeronautics and Space Administration R&D: $11.6 billion (a 2.6 percent increase) US Global Change Research Program: $2.7 billion (a 6 percent increase) Additional information on the White House FY 2014 budget request is available here. Information specific to the White House’s scientific research budget proposals is available here. Information specific to the White House’s proposal for STEM programs is available here. BUDGET: PRESIDENT’S PROPOSAL INCLUDES...

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Congressmen Lipinski, Reichert lauded for commitment to biological research

Representatives Daniel Lipinski (D-Illinois) and Dave Reichert (R-Washington) are the recipients of the 2013 Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Leadership Award.  The award is given to recognize congressional leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting public policy that advances the nation’s scientific research enterprise. “We are fortunate to have two such strong supporters of the natural sciences in Congress,” said Nadine Lymn, co-chair of BESC and director of public affairs for the Ecological Society of America.  “Representatives Lipinski and Reichert have repeatedly demonstrated that they value the contributions of biology and other sciences to society and believe that sustaining the nation’s research and technology enterprise is a worthy investment.” Lipinski is the Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Research.  He sponsored the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2010, which authorized increased funding for the National Science Foundation; the legislation became part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which was signed into law in 2011.  Lipinski is a vocal supporter of the use of prizes to stimulate innovation, and successfully amended U.S. law to allow federal agencies to award cash prizes to innovators.  The congressman is also a co-chair of the House Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Education Caucus, and a member of the Congressional Research and Development Caucus. Reichert has worked actively to conserve the wild areas of Washington state and the nation.  A former member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, he sponsored a resolution that recognized the contributions of female scientists.  Reichert was one of only 17 House Republicans to support the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.  He is co-chair of the National Parks Caucus and National Landscape Conservation Caucus, and a member of the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus and Wild Salmon Caucus.  Reichert is chair of the Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. “Representatives Lipinski and Reichert are steadfast advocates for scientific research, particularly at the National Science Foundation,” said BESC co-chair Robert Gropp, director of public policy at the American Institute of Biological Sciences.  “They both appreciate that research drives innovation, contributes to the solution of complex problems, and will help drive new economic growth.” The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) is an alliance of organizations united by a concern for every aspect of the biology of the natural world, from agricultural systems to zoology.  BESC supports the goal of increasing the nation’s investment in the non-medical biological sciences across all federal agencies including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, and the National...

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