Science Policy Report


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08 February 2017

In This Issue:

Policy News

~ Societies speak out in support of scientific integrity
~ Scientific groups battel back against Trump travel ban
~ Geoscience coalition sends policy recommendations to Trump administration
~ How a culture clash at NOAA led to a flap over a high-profile warming pause study
~ Rumors swirl about Trump's science adviser pick
~ Professor Smith goes to Washington
~ What science groups are saying about joining the March for Science
~ GMO labeling fans, Trump just slowed your roll
~ Ag Secretary hopeful Sonny Perdue snags Tom Vilsack's endorsement
~ Trump will keep France Córdova on as head of National Science Foundation
~ Gingrich suggests ways to guide Trump on science and environment
~ First 2018 Farm Bill hearing scheduled

Science News

~ Splitting nitrogen applications reduced nitrous oxide emissions
~ “Between Earth and Sky” chosen for prestigious film festival in nation’s capital
~ 1.5 degrees C may be closer than we thought
~ From flask to field: How tiny microbes are revolutionizing big agriculture
~ In America’s heartland, discussing climate change without saying ‘climate change’
~ Soil air permeability facilitates its hydraulic permeability prediction
~ AAAS CASE Workshop: Accepting participation from Societies and Universities
~ FFAR accepting applications to join Expert Reviewer Database

International Corner

~ Winners and losers in India’s science budget
~ G20 farm ministers seek to protect precious water supplies
~ Mexican scientists feel the Trump effect
~ How an Australian mentoring program is improving plant biosecurity in Africa
~ The £6 billion man: New top job in U.K. science goes to Mark Walport
~ Faced with U.S. retreat on climate change, EU looks to China

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities

~ Nominations Open for ASA, CSSA, SSSA Awards and Scholarships
~ Rathmann Challenge: Mitigating Climate Change by Expanding the Use of Compost
~ Sustain Our Great Lakes 2017
~ Delaware River Restoration Fund
~ Geotechnical Engineering and Materials
~ California Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program
~ Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Policy News


(TOP) ~ Societies speak out in support of scientific integrity

Last week, employees at several federal research agencies received messages restricting their communication with the public. This concerning development prompted a letter to President Trump on behalf of the ASA, CSSA and SSSA membership signed by all three Society Presidents and CEO, Ellen Bergfeld.  ASA, CSSA and SSSA also sponsored a National Call in Day encouraging Society members concerned about scientific integrity and federal scientists’ rights to share their findings, to call Congress on Thursday, February 2nd. Society members called in to nearly 100 Congressional offices asking them to protect the scientific integrity and open communication of federal scientists. See the alert here.


(TOP) ~ Scientific groups battel back against Trump travel ban

One hundred and fifty-one professional scientific organizations – including ASA, CSSA, and SSSA – have signed a letter opposing an executive order issued by President Donald Trump. In the letter, the groups state the executive order that has banned refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries has profound implications for diplomatic, humanitarian, and national security interests, in part, because of the negative impact on U.S. science and engineering capacity. Read more about how the travel ban could negatively impact the US science enterprise.


(TOP) ~ Geoscience coalition sends policy recommendations to Trump administration

SSSA, along with seven other geoscience organizations, sent the Trump administration a transition document on the importance of the geosciences and outlines policy recommendations that help achieve the national interests of: enhancing national and homeland security, increasing economic prosperity, securing resources and strengthening national infrastructure, supporting strong and resilient communities, and growing a dynamic workforce. Read the full document here.


(TOP) ~ How a culture clash at NOAA led to a flap over a high-profile warming pause study

A former scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Washington, D.C., made waves this past weekend when he alleged that climate scientist Thomas Karl, the former head of a major NOAA technical center, “failed to disclose critical information” to the agency, journal editors, and Congress about the data used in a controversial study published in Science in June 2015. Karl was the lead author of that paper, which concluded that global surface temperatures continued rising in recent years, contrary to earlier suggestions that there had been a “pause” in global warming. John Bates, who retired from NOAA this past November, made the claims in a post on the prominent blog of Judith Curry, a climate researcher who has walked the line between science and climate contrarians over the past decade. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Rumors swirl about Trump's science adviser pick

US President Donald Trump has met with two rumored front-runners for the role of White House science adviser. Trump met with David Gelernter — a computer scientist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and a critic of liberal academia — on 16 January. And on 13 January, Trump met with William Happer, a physicist at Princeton University in New Jersey who rejects the notion that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities will cause dangerous levels of global warming. Several media reports have identified the two men as contenders for the science-adviser job. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Professor Smith goes to Washington

For American science, the next four years look to be challenging. The newly inaugurated President Trump, and many of his Cabinet picks, have repeatedly cast doubt upon the reality of human-made climate change, questioned the repeatedly proven safety of vaccines. Since the inauguration, the administration has already frozen grants and contracts by the Environmental Protection Agency and gagged researchers at the US Department of Agriculture. Many scientists are asking themselves: What can I do? And the answer from a newly formed group called 314 Action is: Get elected. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ What science groups are saying about joining the March for Science

The upcoming March for Science, set for 22 April, is creating a buzz in the scientific community. The march arose as a grassroots reaction to concerns about the conduct of science under President Donald Trump. And it has spurred debate over whether it will help boost public support for research, or make scientists look like another special-interest group, adding to political polarization. Now, the leaders of many scientific societies are mulling whether to formally endorse or take a role in the event. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ GMO labeling fans, Trump just slowed your roll

President Donald Trump has offered federal agencies a regulatory 2-for-1 deal they can’t refuse — and it’ll come at a cost for some players in the food industry. Trump’s latest executive order, signed Monday, cracks down on federal regulations under the guise of helping small business, requiring that two regulations be slashed for every new one that is undertaken. While the full impact of Trump’s order is far from clear at this vantage point, regulations required by the GMO labeling bill are a prime example of how the White House action will likely serve as deep mud to the tractor tires of rulemaking. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Ag Secretary hopeful Sonny Perdue snags Tom Vilsack's endorsement

Sonny Perdue received the endorsement of his Democratic predecessor on Tuesday as he prepares for U.S. Senate confirmation hearings to be Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary. Ex-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Perdue’s background as a former Republican governor helped prepare him for the “opportunities and challenges that exist in rural communities.” Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Trump will keep France Córdova on as head of National Science Foundation

Donald Trump’s administration has asked the current director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), France Córdova, to stay on as head of the powerful fundamental research agency. Francis Collins will also remain the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, anxiety about the Trump administration persists within the US scientific research community. It is unknown how long Córdova and Collins will stay at the helm of their agencies. In fact, it is unclear whether they are merely holding down the fort before being replaced, and it appears that officials at the agencies have few details and have had little contact with the Trump transition team. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Gingrich suggests ways to guide Trump on science and environment

Last week former House Speaker Newt Gingrich offered his candid thoughts about science and the new Administration as a speaker at the annual conference of the National Council for Science and the Environment. President Trump, he said, is guided by “intuition” and “attitude” ... “not a plan.” For scientists, he suggested approaching the Administration with an open mind; “if you go in aggressive enough and articulate enough and have thought it through enough, you are going to shape large parts of this administration.” He also expressed optimism about research and development funding in the future, particularly from the philanthropy sector. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ First 2018 Farm Bill hearing scheduled

On January 25, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) announced plans to hold the committee’s first hearing for the next Farm Bill. The hearing will take place on February 23 at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and is titled “Hearing from the Heartland: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Kansas.” The hearing will officially mark the beginning of the 2018 Farm Bill process, with more hearings expected by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees this year. Read the full article.

Science News


(TOP) ~ Splitting nitrogen applications reduced nitrous oxide emissions

While many soils in the upper Midwest of the U.S. are extensively tile drained, substantial cropland remains poorly drained, negatively affecting nitrogen (N) fertilizer use efficiency and possibly degrading the environment. Increasingly, farmers are using split N fertilizer applications over the course of the growing season, instead of a single early-season application, to enhance fertilizer efficiency and minimize environmental impacts. Despite an intuitive linkage between soil drainage, N fertilizers, and nitrous oxide (N20) emissions, evaluation of N20 emissions of single and split applications under different soil drainage conditions are lacking. A recently published article in the Journal of Environmental Quality reports on a two-year study in south-central Minnesota where single and split N applications for corn production were evaluated under drained and undrained conditions in soils with natural poorly to somewhat-poorly drained characteristics. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ “Between Earth and Sky” chosen for prestigious film festival in nation’s capital

“Between Earth and Sky: Climate Change on the Last Frontier” has been chosen for screening at the 2017 Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The festival is scheduled for March 14-26 throughout the nation’s capital. The film is produced by David C. Weindorf, the associate dean for research and the BL Allen Endowed Chair of Pedology in the Department of Plant and Soil Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. It is directed by Paul Allen Hunton, a two-time Emmy Award winner from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the Lonestar Region for his work in non-fiction directing. By highlighting the extensive work of University of Alaska-Fairbanks researcher Chien-Lu Ping, the film documents the effects of climate change on the arctic soils and ecosystems of Alaska and how it is altering both the wildlife and the residents of the state. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ 1.5 degrees C may be closer than we thought

Most scientists studying global warming compare today’s temperatures to those of the late 19th century because that is as far back as quality temperature observations go. But a new study makes the case for a better comparison period, one that includes the warming that had already resulted by the middle of the 1800s and shows how close the world already is to breaching international warming targets. Under the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above preindustrial levels and limit it to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above that mark in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But the agreement left undefined exactly what period is considered “preindustrial.” Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ From flask to field: How tiny microbes are revolutionizing big agriculture

Walk into your typical U.S. or U.K. grocery store and feast your eyes on an amazing bounty of fresh and processed foods. In most industrialized countries, it’s hard to imagine that food production is one of the greatest challenges we will face in the coming decades. By the year 2050, the human population is projected to grow from 7.5 billion to nearly 10 billion. To feed them, we will need to almost double food production within just three decades, all in the face of increasing drought, herbicide and pesticide resistance, and in a world where the best cropland is already being farmed. A new crop of scientists are working to harness the power of natural microbes to improve agriculture. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ In America’s heartland, discussing climate change without saying ‘climate change’

Doug Palen, a fourth-generation grain farmer on Kansas’ wind-swept plains, is in the business of understanding the climate. Since 2012, he has choked through the harshest drought to hit the Great Plains in a century, punctuated by freakish snowstorms and suffocating gales of dust. His planting season starts earlier in the spring and pushes deeper into winter. To adapt, he has embraced an environmentally conscious way of farming that guards against soil erosion and conserves precious water. He can talk for hours about carbon sequestration — the trapping of global-warming-causing gases in plant life and in the soil — or the science of the beneficial microbes that enrich his land. In short, he is a climate change realist. Just don’t expect him to utter the words “climate change.” Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Soil air permeability facilitates its hydraulic permeability prediction

Reliable prediction of soil hydraulic characteristics is often required to assess soil and ground water contamination risk or soil remediation activities. Soil permeability to water either in saturated or unsaturated zones is one of the most important hydraulic characteristics. Direct measurement of soil permeability to water or hydraulic conductivity is the most reliable approach to characterize it. However, its direct measurement, either in the laboratory or the field, is time consuming and requires significant human intervention. Therefore, soil scientists have attempted to develop several indirect approaches to predict soil permeability to water using its readily available properties. Soil air permeability is one of the its most appropriate readily available properties in this regard. In the November–December 2016 issue of the Soil Science Society of America Journal, researchers introduce a semi-theoretical equation to predict soil water permeability to water in unsaturated zone using its air permeability as a predictor. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ AAAS CASE Workshop: Accepting participation from Societies and Universities

A coalition of scientific and engineering societies, universities, and academic organizations has created an exciting opportunity for upper-class undergraduate and graduate students in science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines to learn about science policy and advocacy. The CASE program is open to universities or professional scientific or engineering societies that would like to provide an opportunity for their students to come to Washington, DC, and learn about science policy. Students who are selected by their institution to participate in the workshop will spend a few days learning about the structure and organization of Congress, the federal budget and appropriations process, and tools for effective science communication and civic engagement. Application deadline, Feb 20. For additional details about the CASE Workshop, go here.  


(TOP) ~ FFAR accepting applications to join Expert Reviewer Database

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) seeks expert reviewers from academia, federal and state governments, industry, commodity groups, professional organizations, and other stakeholder groups to evaluate research proposals submitted in response to calls for proposals in the following challenge areas. FFAR will establish a database of experts, who will be asked to serve as peer reviewers based on each individual’s balance of scientific expertise and experience as deemed appropriate for evaluating the specific research proposal. Applications are being accepted now with now deadline. Learn more and apply here.

International Corner


(TOP) ~ Winners and losers in India’s science budget

For scientists in India, 2017 is becoming a year of feast or famine. India's annual budget, unveiled this week, doles out lavish increases for space, biotechnology, and renewable energy. Programs vying for scraps, on the other hand, include nuclear research, spending on which won’t keep pace with inflation. The budget rollout comes on the heels of an economic crisis sparked last November, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took higher denomination rupee banknotes out of circulation. The surprise move triggered massive queues at banks as people struggled to deposit old notes and withdraw scarce new ones. Independent estimates peg that the crisis eroded gross domestic product growth by as much as 2%. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ G20 farm ministers seek to protect precious water supplies

Greater global efforts should be taken to safeguard precious world water supplies to secure food production, the agriculture ministers of the group of 20 leading economies (G20) said on Sunday. "We commit to approaches that improve sustainability of water use in food and agricultural production while ensuring food security and nutrition in accordance with our multilateral trade commitments," they said in a statement after meeting in Berlin. Climate change, the growing world population and demands for industrialization have put a strain on global water supplies, with the impact felt on rich and poor nations. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Mexican scientists feel the Trump effect

For Andrés Moreno-Estrada, the news was welcome but the timing, terrible. Moreno-Estrada, who hunts for genetic variations linked to disease, recently learned that he had won a 13-million-peso grant from Mexico and the United Kingdom to sequence DNA from blood samples in a public health biobank. But 13 million pesos isn’t what it was before Donald Trump assumed the U.S. presidency. When the population geneticist at the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity in Irapuato, Mexico, submitted his proposal in November 2015, the exchange rate was 16 pesos to the dollar, and his grant would have been worth $812,500. Now, the rate is 21 pesos to the dollar. “There’s no way I can do what I committed to,” he says, unless he raises more money. The fall of the peso, provoked in part by Trump’s insistence on building a border wall and making Mexico pay for it, is one contributor to the waves of angst sweeping through the Mexican science community. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ How an Australian mentoring program is improving plant biosecurity in Africa

Plant biosecurity management can be a boon to agricultural economies in sub-Saharan Africa, and Australia has a wealth of expertise to share. That’s the logic behind a mentoring program that helps the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the Plant Biosecurity CRC partner with fellows working at agricultural institutions in 10 African countries. The resulting program, the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership, aims to transfer skills in designing, delivering and managing plant biosecurity — measures to safeguard plants from pests and diseases. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ The £6 billion man: New top job in U.K. science goes to Mark Walport

It will be the most powerful agency in U.K. science, created to give research a stronger voice, and after a 5-month search, it has a director. Today, the government announced the selection of Mark Walport, currently the chief science adviser to the U.K. government, as head of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The umbrella organization for the existing research councils will serve as the strategic command center of government research funding. UKRI will be created by a controversial higher education reform bill that Parliament is expected to approve this year. The bill calls for UKRI to oversee seven existing research councils, which together hand out £6 billion in research grants and institutional funding each year. Read the full article.


(TOP) ~ Faced with U.S. retreat on climate change, EU looks to China

Faced with a U.S. retreat from international efforts to tackle climate change, European Union officials are looking to China, fearing a leadership vacuum will embolden those within the bloc seeking to slow the fight against global warming. While U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to act on campaign pledges to pull out of the 2015 Paris accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions, his swift action in other areas has sparked sharp words from usually measured EU bureaucrats. But with fault lines over Brexit, dependence on Russian energy and protecting industry threatening the bloc's own common policy, some EU diplomats worry Europe is too weak to lead on its own in tackling climate change. Read the full article.
 

Research, Education, Extension Funding Opportunities


(TOP) ~ Nominations Open for ASA, CSSA, SSSA Awards and Scholarships

Nominate deserving colleagues for awards, including Fellow, in research, education, industry, consulting, and extension. Initiate nominations by March 29 with reference letters and final submission by April 5. Students: Apply for ASA, CSSA, and SSSA scholarships, including Greenfield Scholars and Golden Opportunity Scholars, by April 5 with reference letters and final submission by April 12. Awards can be found here:

ASA Awards & Fellow

CSSA Awards & Fellow

SSSA Awards & Fellow


(TOP) ~ Rathmann Challenge: Mitigating Climate Change by Expanding the Use of Compost

Applications are now available for the 2017 Rathmann Challenge - Mitigating Climate Change by Expanding the Use of Compost. Compost has long been used by some for improved soil productivity, increased water retention, and reduced sensitivity to drought. Research has shown that an application of compost to agricultural lands increases carbon sequestration in soil. Research also has shown that compost can be an effective waste management technique for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We see widespread use of compost as an important tool for recapturing carbon from the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and stabilizing the carbon cycle. For this reason, we seek ideas to significantly expand the use of compost in the United States. Deadline, February 15. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Sustain Our Great Lakes 2017

The Sustain Our Great Lakes program is soliciting proposals to improve habitat and water quality in the Great Lakes basin. The program will award grants for: 1) stream habitat improvements; 2) coastal wetland habitat improvements; and 3) green storm water infrastructure in Great Lakes shoreline cities. Up to $7.8 million is expected to be available for grant awards in 2017. The program is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). Deadline, February 21. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Delaware River Restoration Fund

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals to restore the water quality and habitats of the Delaware River watershed. Grants will be awarded in four categories: 1) Targeted Watershed Implementation Grants; 2) Targeted Watershed Implementation Grants; 3) Cluster Cornerstone Grants; and 4) Habitat Restoration Grants and Innovation Grants. All proposals must specifically address how projects for which funds are requested will directly and measurably contribute to the accomplishment of program goals. Deadline, March 30. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Geotechnical Engineering and Materials

The Geotechnical Engineering and Materials Program (GEM) supports fundamental research in soil and rock mechanics and dynamics in support of physical civil infrastructure systems. Also supported is research on improvement of the engineering properties of geologic materials for infrastructure use by mechanical, biological, thermal, chemical, and electrical processes. The Program supports the traditional areas of foundation engineering, earth structures, underground construction, tunneling, geoenvironmental engineering, and site characterization, as well as the emerging area of bio-geo engineering, for civil engineering applications, with emphasis on sustainable geosystems. Research related to the geotechnical engineering aspects of geothermal energy and geothermal heat pump systems is also supported. The GEM program encourages knowledge dissemination and technology transfer activities that can lead to broader societal benefit and implementation for provision of physical civil infrastructure. The Program also encourages research that explores and builds upon advanced computing techniques and tools to enable major advances in Geotechnical Engineering. The program supports relevant research topics that address the emerging areas of geotechnical engineering and the Grand Challenges to “restore and improve urban infrastructure” and “provide access to clean water.” Proposals accepted at any time. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ California Agricultural Water Use Efficiency & State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program

Through this competitive grant program, DWR and CDFA intend to demonstrate the potential multiple benefits of conveyance enhancements combined with on-farm agricultural water use efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas reductions. The grant funding provided in this joint program is intended to address multiple goals including: 1) water use efficiency, conservation and reduction, 2) greenhouse gas emission reductions, 3) groundwater protection, and 4) sustainability of agricultural operations and food production. It is also anticipated that there will be benefits to water and air quality, groundwater security, surface water conservation, and improved nutrient management and crop health through this program. Projects that enhance and upgrade the supplier’s water conveyance, delivery and water measurement system to allow on-demand and flexible farm-gate deliveries, reduce spills and losses, increase the efficiency, and improve water management. A water supplier’s proposed project must generate State benefits to be eligible for grant funding. The project must be located within California. Deadline, April 21. Read the full announcement.


(TOP) ~ Regional Conservation Partnership Program

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking grant funding applications for its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) which will award up to $252 million dollars to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability. Applicants must match or exceed the federal award with private or local funds. RCPP connects partners with producers and private landowners to design and implement voluntary conservation solutions that benefit natural resources, agriculture, and the economy. Partnerships can include private industry, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts, and universities. Pre-proposal deadline, April 21. Read the full announcement.

Sources: USDA; NSF; NFWF; AAAS; FFAR; ScienceInsider; Agriculture; Washington Post; Nature; The Atlantic; Politico; Ag Professional; Chemistry World; EOS; NSF News; TTU Today; Grist; Genetic Literacy Project; The Conversation; New York Times; Forbes; Reuters; Devex

Vision: The Societies Washington, DC Science Policy Office (SPO) will advocate the importance and value of the agronomic, crop and soil sciences in developing national science policy and ensuring the necessary public-sector investment in the continued health of the environment for the well being of humanity. The SPO will assimilate, interpret, and disseminate in a timely manner to Society members information about relevant agricultural, natural resources and environmental legislation, rules and regulations under consideration by Congress and the Administration.

This page of the ASA-CSSA-SSSA web site will highlight current news items relevant to Science Policy. It is not an endorsement of any position.



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