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AIBS Public Policy Report
AIBS Public Policy Report, Volume 13, Issue 21, October 9, 2012
Senate Bill Would Boost Funding for Some Environmental Science
Despite the uncertainty associated with the forthcoming budget
sequestration, currently set to begin in January 2013, the House and Senate
continue to draft appropriations bills that would allocate fiscal year (FY)
2013 funding for federal agencies. Recently, the Senate Subcommittee on
Interior and Environment Appropriations released a spending plan that could
restore funding cuts proposed in the current House bill.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would receive $1.08 billion, an increase
of $15.8 million relative to FY 2012. This is $117 million more than the
current House level. Funding for the Ecosystems activity would increase by
5.8 percent; this would benefit USGS research on fisheries, wildlife,
ecosystems, and invasive species. Conversely, the House plan would cut
funding for Ecosystems by 17.8 percent. USGS research on climate change and
carbon sequestration would receive a 2.3 percent increase in the Senate
The current Senate plan also proposes to cut the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service budget by 4.6 percent, to $1.5 billion. Despite a proposed top-line
reduction, the agency would receive increased funding for land acquisition
and endangered species management. The House bill would cut $317 million
from the agency’s budget.
Science and technology at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would
receive about 0.6 percent more funding. This is $60.4 million more than the
current level being proposed in the House of Representatives. Water research
would receive an additional $1.2 million under the Senate bill, but
environmental and human health research at EPA would fall by $4.1 million.
The Senate appropriations panel also proposes a 1 percent or $297.8 million
increase for the United States Forest Service Forest and Rangeland Research
program. All of the increase would be directed to forest inventory and
analysis, whereas research and development would continue to be funded at
the FY 2012 level. The program would be subject to a 16 percent cut under
the current House legislation.
NSB Report Calls Attention to Declining State Funds for Public Research
Declines in state funding for public research universities threatens to
impair their ability to provide affordable education for new scientists and
engineers, and to recruit top faculty and staff to perform high-quality
research, according to a report released by the National Science Board
(NSB)—the advisory body for the National Science Foundation.
The report was an expansion on the 2012 edition of Science and Engineering
Indicators, which examined 101 public research universities that were among
the top recipients of academic research and development funding. Those
universities award more than half of U.S. doctoral and a third of bachelor's
degrees in science and engineering, in addition to performing a substantial
portion of basic research in those fields (greater than 50 percent in 2009).
Those institutions also face declining state funding and rising college
State funding on a per-student basis at 101 major public research
universities declined on average by 20 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars
between 2002 and 2010, with some declines as high as 48 percent. Over the
same time period, enrollment grew nationally by 13 percent. The decrease in
state funding in conjunction with rising college attendance has resulted in
public universities increasing student tuition in order to minimize the
impact of funding cuts on research and teaching facilities. Between 1999 and
2009, revenue from tuition increased by 50 percent at public research
The rising cost of education could have resounding consequences. According
to a report by the Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities, of
the million minorities enrolled in research universities, 80 percent attend
public institutions. José-Marie Griffiths, former NSB member and vice
president for Academic Affairs at Bryant University, expressed concern over
this trend: "[cuts and tuition hikes] could hinder large populations of
students with limited financial means from pursuing science and engineering
education at world-class institutions. We need the talent of all students
from all backgrounds, and we need it nationwide."
The NSB report additionally warned of a widening gap between public and
private research universities, particularly in spending per full-time
student and faculty salaries, both of which have grown much faster at
private research universities.
EPA Launches Eco-Health Relationship Browser
The public can now easily explore the benefits provided by ecosystem
services to people and communities. The Eco-Health Relationship Browser,
launched by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a new online tool
that illustrates the linkages between human health and ecosystem services.
The benefits of ecosystem services are summarized from over 300
peer-reviewed papers. Access the Eco-Health Relationship Browser at
* Federal employees may support the scientific programs and services
of the American Institute of Biological Sciences via the 2012 Combined
Federal Campaign. AIBS is CFC # 69973.
* A bill introduced in the House of Representatives would change the
way the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) receives scientific advice
from its advisory board. According to the legislation’s four Republican
sponsors, all of whom serve on the House Science, Space, and Technology
Committee, HR 6564 would strengthen public participation, require
communication of uncertainties in scientific findings, and make the views of
dissenting board members known. The bill would also limit the Science
Advisory Board’s ability to give “non-scientific policy advice” and would
require board members to disclose financial ties, such as grants they
received from the EPA.
* The National Science Foundation has put out a call for
interdisciplinary research across its Directorate for Social, Behavioral,
and Economic Sciences (SBE). Researchers are encouraged to submit proposals
that span the social sciences or extend outside the SBE sciences. Examples
of interdisciplinary fields of research include population change, language
and cognition, and social network analysis. Learn more at
* The Department of the Interior is seeking nominations for the newly
established Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource
Science. The Committee will provide advice on matters and actions relating
to the establishment and operations of the U.S. Geological Survey National
Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the DOI Climate Science
Centers. For more information, visit