ESA Policy News: February 15

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here.   STATE OF THE UNION: PRESIDENT URGES ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE, SEQUESTER President Obama’s fourth State of the Union address outlined a number of bold domestic priorities, including addressing climate change and diverting a series of automatic discretionary spending cuts set to occur in March as a result of congressional  failure to come to agreement on comprehensive deficit reduction. “Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense,” said President Obama. “We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.” With regard to budget sequestration, President Obama affirmed his support for a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction while contending that he would oppose an effort that unduly burden discretionary programs. “Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse,” said the president. “We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters.” Among solutions to avert the sequester, President Obama endorsed changes to Medicare and tax reform proposals such as those outlined in the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles commission. Read or listen to President Obama’s full 2013 State of the Union address here. BUDGET: SENATE DEMOCRATS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO AVERT SEQUESTER On Feb. 14, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled a legislative proposal to avert automatic discretionary spending cuts to federal agencies. The deficit reduction in the bill is equally divided between spending cuts and new revenue. Members of Congress have until March 1 to pass a bill to avert the $1.2 trillion cuts to federal programs over the next ten years. The American Family Economic Protection Act would postpone the sequester for one year by canceling out the first year of the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, which total $85 billion. In total, the bill includes $110 billion in deficit reduction, $55 billion in revenue increases and $55...

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60 years of helping graduate students pursue their dreams

By Nadine Lymn, ESA director of public affairs Earlier this afternoon, the National Science Foundation (NSF) celebrated the 60th anniversary of its Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), the nation’s oldest fellowship program directly supporting graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Featuring high-level science luminaries such as Nobel prize-winner and Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the program highlighted the contributions of NSF-supported graduate research fellows and underscored the agency’s continued commitment to supporting aspiring scientists and engineers.  The program supports individuals of high potential early in their careers who receive an annual stipend and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited US institution of graduate research they choose. The highly competitive program (this year, 12,000 individuals applied for 2,000 slots) started in 1952 when winners were notified via telegram.  In the past 60 years, the agency has supported over 45,500 graduate fellows, among them Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Maxine Singer, President Emeritus, Carnegie Institution for Science. A highlight of the afternoon celebration was the showing of three short videos, the winning entries of NSF’s video contest that asked current GRFs to submit 90 second videos showcasing how their research can “help shape the future-for them as individuals, for their fields of work, even for the world.” Erica Staaterman, a graduate student in marine biology at the University of Miami won 3rd prize for her video showing her work in acoustic navigation in reef fish larvae.  Candy Hwang, a graduate student in chemistry at the University of Southern California won 2nd prize for her video entry depicting her aspirations to reduce fossil fuels and mitigate climate change.  When she stepped to the podium to accept her prize for the video, Hwang shared with the audience her extreme excitement when she first learned she had won a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.  Waking up at 4 am, she fairly quivered with excitement and a renewed sense of urgency in making a difference in the world.  Upon arriving at her lab however, her shaking hands made lab work that day impossible and her advisor kindly told her to go home and calm down first.  Eric Keen, a marine biologist at the University of California in San Diego won first prize for his video highlighting the need to better understand fin whales that forage along the coast of British Columbia.  NSF says the winning videos will be posted online later today here. The afternoon celebration also included short vignettes by former graduate research fellows including Energy Secretary Chu and University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer.  Chu, who received over $6...

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National Lab Day: White House, science societies begin campaign for science education

This post was contributed by ESA’s Director of Education and Diversity Programs, Teresa Mourad. A new nationwide campaign was launched yesterday at the White House, designed to motivate and inspire America’s youth to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Speaking about the “Educate to Innovate” campaign, President Obama reaffirmed the importance of science and mathematics education to drive America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and innovation. The President sees STEM education as vital in the development of a citizenry with the ability to solve problems, think critically and make informed decisions throughout their lives. A series of high-powered partnerships have come together to invest $260 million in the project. Among these is a coalition of science and engineering societies supporting National Lab Day, a grassroots effort to bring hands-on learning to 10 million students by upgrading science labs, supporting project-based learning and building communities of support for grades 6-12 STEM teachers. The coalition of more than 200 public and private sector organizations, including ESA, represents more than 2.5 million STEM professionals and almost 4 million educators, with strong financial support from the Hidary Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and industry partners, including Microsoft, AT&T and Texas Instruments. National Lab Day will facilitate inquiry-based hands-on STEM experiences in classrooms, learning labs and after-school programs throughout the year and culminate in special events each May.  “We wouldn’t teach football from a textbook,” said John Holdren, Science Adviser to President Obama. “It is even more important that America’s youth have the opportunity to learn math and science by doing.” What’s refreshing about National Lab Day is its grassroots approach, reflecting the community-building ethos in a digital age. It is a timely recognition that no one group can move students to the top in math and science achievement alone. The initiative will help to engage the scientific and educational community in this challenge.  National Lab Day will match teachers with scientists and technology professionals in a sort of “eHarmony” system, based on educational needs and rooted in local communities. With the pressing need for a world class STEM workforce, National Lab Day is the scientific community’s response to President Obama’s challenge issued at the National Academy of Sciences this spring to raise STEM education as a national priority. This initiative promises to help move the U.S. from a position of being 21st in the world in science achievement to being 1st.  As President Obama says, it will “expand opportunity for all Americans, including women and minorities” and “unlock a sense of promise”. To join in this important national campaign, please visit www.nationallabday.org. Other...

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