New & Noteworthy

Archive for February, 2009

24 Feb 2009

AIBS Launches New Science Policy Advocacy Center

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has launched the AIBS Legislative Action Center.  This science policy advocacy tool is provided by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) to members of the biological sciences research and education community.  Financial contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, American Society for Limnology and Oceanography, Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, and the Botanical Society of America made the Legislative Action Center possible.

This new advocacy tool allows individuals to quickly and easily communicate with members of Congress, executive branch officials, Governors and state legislators, and selected media outlets.

AIBS and its partner organizations invite you to become a science policy advocate today.  Simply go to in order to write your Senators in response to their vote on the Coburn amendment to the Senate version of the economic stimulus legislation.  This provision adopted by the Senate would have prohibited museums, zoos and aquaria for competing for federal funds provided under the stimulus package.  Ultimately, this prohibition was eliminated from the final version of the legislation.  This is, however, an excellent opportunity for natural history museum advocates to thank Senators that opposed the Coburn amendment and to educate other Senators about the importance of museums and science collections to the nation’s economy and scientific research and education enterprise.  Via the AIBS Legislative Action Center, individuals may send a prepared letter to their Senators.  The system will provide a model letter that is appropriate to your Senator depending upon their vote on the Coburn amendment.

To send a letter or to sign up to receive action alerts, please visit

24 Feb 2009

NSC Alliance Active on Economic Stimulus

The economic stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has been at the forefront of the news for several weeks.  Passed by Congress on 13 February, the legislation was signed into law by President Obama on 17 February 2009.   Obama signed the $787.2 billion package into law at a ceremony at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  While at the museum, the President toured the roof-mounted solar photovoltaic system installed last summer by Namasté.  The system consists of 465 solar panels that can generate 134,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year on average–enough to power 30 homes.

As museum advocates are well aware, museums, zoos and aquaria received significant attention during the Senate’s debate on the stimulus package.  Among the large number of amendments proposed in the Senate was one by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (Senate Amendment No. 309), the so-called Coburn amendment.  This proposal would have prohibited funds in the stimulus package from being provided to museums, zoos, aquariums, and golf courses, and for several specific activities.  If included in the final law, the Coburn amendment would have prohibited museums from even competing for funds.

Concerned by the precedent the Coburn amendment would set, science and museum groups mobilized to oppose the amendment.  For example, the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) wrote to Senators urging them to oppose the Coburn amendment, requested that museum advocates call Congress, and requested that the House-Senate conferees and leadership work to remove the limiting language of the Coburn amendment form the final legislation.  The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) issued an Action Alert asking members to contact Congress to request that members oppose the Coburn amendment and support a plan to ensure that funding for various science agencies, including the National Science Foundation, not be stripped from the final legislation.

During a remarkably quick conference between the House and the Senate, compromise legislation was adopted.  The final $787 billion compromise legislation was significantly smaller than the $819 billion House bill and the $838 billion Senate bill. The compromise legislation was approved by each chamber on 13 February 2009. The House of Representatives passed it by a largely party-line vote of 246-183, with all Republicans and 7 Democrats voting against the bill. The Senate passed the measure with 60 votes, which included three Republican Senators — Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), and Arlen Specter (PA).

Although the Coburn amendment was adopted by the Senate, congressional leaders listened to scientists and museum advocates and the final version of the stimulus legislation no longer prohibits museums from receiving or competing for funds provided via the stimulus. Overall, the final bill includes funding for scientific research and development.  Early analysis suggests that $176 million will go to the Agricultural Research Service, $830 million to NOAA, $2.5 billion to NSF, and $140 million for the US Geological Survey.  The National Institutes of Health will receive $10.4 billion.

Click here to read the letter sent to the House-Senate conferees about the Coburn amendment.

Click here to read the thank you letter sent to House-Senate conferees for removal of the prohibitive language.

24 Feb 2009

NSF Launches Search for New AD for BIO

February 18, 2009
Dear Colleague:

We are initiating a national search for the National Science Foundation’s Assistant Director for Biological Sciences (BIO) and seek your assistance in the identification of candidates.  Dr. James Collins has served in this position with great distinction since October 2005.

The Assistant Director, BIO, leads a Directorate comprised of five divisions: Biological Infrastructure; Environmental Biology; Emerging Frontiers; Integrative Organismal Systems; and Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.  Enclosed is an information sheet that summarizes the Directorate’s activities and the responsibilities of the position, together with the criteria that will be used in the search.  Employment may be on a temporary or permanent basis in the Federal Service or by temporary assignment under provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act.

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Barbara Schaal of Washington University in St. Louis has agreed to head the Search Committee. We seek your help in identifying candidates with the following qualifications: outstanding leadership; a deep sense of scholarship; a grasp of the issues facing the biological science community in the areas of education and research; and the ability to serve effectively as a key member of the NSF management team. We are especially interested in identifying women, members of minority groups, and persons with disabilities for consideration. Recommendations of individuals from any sector - academic, industry, or government - are welcome.

Please send your recommendations, including any supporting information that you can provide, to the AD/BIO Search Committee via e mail ( or at the following address: National Science Foundation, Office of the Director, Suite 1205, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230. We would appreciate receiving your recommendations by March 31, 2009.

Your assistance in this very important task is appreciated.  A PDF version of this letter, including the enclosures, is attached.  This announcement is also available on the Web at

Arden L. Bement, Jr.                                        Cora B. Marrett

Director                                                    Acting Deputy Director