Programs: Science and Policy
S&T Newsletter: April 2006
Reining in Earmarks
In the wake of recent lobbing scandals, a backlash against earmarks could affect the politics of science budgets.
On March 29, the Senate passed (90-8) the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006 (S. 2349), a lobbying reform bill that will place restrictions on congressionally-designated projects (aka, earmarks). The bill, introduced by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), requires that any earmark introduced in a conference report after it has already passed the chamber will be subject to a point of order. This means that the earmark is subject to floor debate unless the sponsor is able to obtain 60 votes to counter the point of order.
The House has also weighed in on the subject with H.R. 4975, the "Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006." The bill, which has been reported out of the House Judiciary and Government Reform Committees, would require that earmarks submitted in appropriations bills to include the sponsor’s name. It would also make earmarks introduced in conference reports out of order.
Though some research and development (R&D) agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, have stayed free of earmarks, they are becoming exceedingly prevalent in others.
In fiscal year (FY) 2006, R&D earmarks set a new record climbing to $2.4 billion, a thirteen percent increase over the previous year. Of that amount, five agencies (USDA, NASA, DOE, NOAA in Commerce, and DOD) receive 94 percent of the total R&D earmarks. For the Department of Energy, extramural agricultural research at USDA, and NOAA R&D, earmarks make up more than 1 out of every 5 R&D dollars. Additional information on earmarks is available on the R&D Budget and Policy Program website.
The significant increases in earmarking among federal R&D agencies coincide with declining R&D budgets. In FY 2006, the overall federal investments in R&D grew just 1.7 percent, compared to the 13 percent surge in earmarked dollars, leaving agencies to cut into their core competitive programs to accommodate the appropriations. Thus, if earmarks are curtailed, the spending power of some agencies could increase even in a constant budget.
-- Joanne Carney
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a standing-room-only, all-day climate conference on April 4 on key issues surrounding the structure of a greenhouse gas regulatory program. The conference was based on a selection of the 150 responses to a white paper issued by Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chair and ranking member of the committee.
Among the questions the senators asked are whether limits should be imposed on particular industries or economy-wide, and how to allocate emission allowances for those who exceed targets. The white paper concludes by raising questions about linkages to other international activities.
Though the conference was originally expected to lead to legislation, both Senators Bingaman and Domenici have recently stated that they do not expect to pass legislation this session; therefore, follow-up action from the conference is unclear. Sen. Domenici opened the hearing by noting, ``Designing and implementing a mandatory system will be very difficult, both politically and economically. But we need to start somewhere. This conference is our starting point.''
Domenici’s statements held true, as a consensus emerged among the vast majority of participants, including many from the electric industry and other industrial sectors, for a mandatory, economy-wide system that would take effect soon.
“Customers and shareholders need greater certainty,'' said Ruth Shaw, president of Duke Energy's nuclear subsidiary. The company is in the process of evaluating how it will spend ``many billions of dollars'' to provide power its growing customer base over the next 50 years, said Shaw, and wants to know what future carbon limits will be. Others echoed her calls for regulatory certainty as they made long-term investments in facilities.
All participants agreed on the pivotal role for new technology. Even those opposing a mandatory system, such as Southern Company, testified that they would adopt new low-carbon technology even without a mandatory system. Most witness, however, stated that a mandatory system would create incentives for faster adoption of technology than a purely voluntary approach.
Many business encouraged legislation that would start slowly and become more stringent over time, whether a carbon tax or cap and trade system. They advocated for making the initial allowance of allocation mainly free, and then auctioning allowances as technology developed. Much discussion occurred on who receives the permits, and using permits as a way to distribute costs associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A majority of witnesses agreed that regulating emissions upstream would be most effective, as it would send price signals all the way through the economy. Several others noted that additional carbon reduction could be achieved through a hybrid approach that regulates small sources upstream and larger sources at the plant level. Still others noted that point of regulation is primarily an administrative decision that would not affect the effectiveness of the program; allocation of permits would have a far greater effect.
Businesses also tended to agree on the need for a safety valve, such a ceiling on emissions credit prices, and receiving credits for offsets. Billy Pizer, Resources for the Future, explained the importance of working within the constraints of businesses, noting “No mitigation benefits will arise if a policy cannot be enacted.”
-- Kasey White
In the same week as the climate conference, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Global Climate Change and Impacts held a hearing on the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The partnership has been touted by the Administration as an effective voluntary program that will use technology to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly in developing countries. Chairman David Vitter (R-LA) held the hearing to “ensure our national climate strategy is coordinated” and determine how the budget request of $53 million for the Asia Pacific Partnership within the Departments of State, Energy, Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency fits into the portfolio of climate programs.
Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) used their opening statements to call for mandatory U.S. action on climate change. McCain stated that “it is not enough to do scientific study after study” and admonished that “we have done a terrible thing to future generations by our failure to act.” Lautenberg added that there is broad consensus among scientists that global warming is occurring and caused by humans.
James L. Connaughton, Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality, explained details of the Asia Pacific Partnership. It was launched in January as a public-private partnership between the U.S., China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia– countries that combined contribute 50% of world’s economy, population, and emissions.
The partnership focuses on integrating new technology to meet challenges related to energy security, climate change, and air pollution. It is based on the concept that economic growth is needed to invest in new technology to solve these problems. The partnership will work through 8 task forces: cleaner fossil energy, renewable energy and distributed generation, power generation and transmission, steel, aluminum, cement, coal mining, and buildings and appliances. The partnership focuses on identify profitable technology investment opportunities, building local capacity, and removing barriers to the introduction of cleaner, more efficient technologies.
Sen. Vitter questioned how the Asia Pacific Partnership fits in with other activities, such as the climate efforts by the G8, and if there were too many programs to be efficient. Connaughton replied that we “need dozens and hundreds of initiatives, can’t have too many of these” and that multiple smaller programs could be on the leading edge of technology. Connaughton also explained the breakdown of the $5 billion climate change request. He noted that the U.S. is the international leader in climate research spending, and the approximately $2 billion research budget is guided by priorities established by the National Academy of Sciences. An addition $3 billion is spent on technology, including new transformational technologies such as hydrogen.
Full testimony and opening statements are available on the subcommittee website.
-- Kasey White
Two years ago, in the wake of the anthrax incidents on Capitol Hill and concerns that terrorists would seek to utilize bioterror weapons in future attacks, Congress and the White House collaborated to create Project Bioshield. The interagency program, funded at $5.6 billion over ten years, was designed to accelerate research and development (R&D) and procurement of countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents.
A hearing in early April of the House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on Health highlighted continuing congressional concern that Project Bioshield still lacks a strategic plan, its focus on acts of terror is too narrow, and industry incentives are either too lenient or too restrictive.
In testimony before the committee, Alex M. Azar, II, a deputy director at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated that approximately $35.6 million had been awarded in research grants and contracts to date, and another $1.08 billion has been obligated for the procurement of vaccines to be stockpiled.
Azar stated that in order for a countermeasure to qualify for Project Bioshield it must have “solid clinical experience and/or research data must support” that it could eventually qualify for FDA approval in eight years. He noted that the 2004 act that created the program also states that “no payment shall be made until delivery has been made of a portion, acceptable to the Secretary, of the total number of units contracted for.” He emphasized that “it is estimated that the cost of developing and bringing to market a new drug is between $800 million and $1.7 billion.” Thus, the significant investments that must be made before a countermeasure would be eligible for Project Bioshield funds requires a substantial risk to industry, especially small businesses. Hence, Azar argued, liability protection for industry remains a major source of concern.
Under harsh questioning from the subcommittee Members, Azar acknowledged that liability issues had yet impeded the agency from obtaining any countermeasures. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), a medical doctor, argued that the government’s focus on industry liability while ignoring the risk that the general public must takes was shortsighted. “The public doesn’t understand why they don’t have protection against a vaccine,” he stated.
Subcommittee chairman Nathan Deal (R-GA) and Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) both expressed reservations that Project Bioshield was restricted to intentional acts of terror and not naturally occurring infectious diseases, such as the growing avian flu pandemic threat. Cubin argued that a human pandemic poses an equal threat to national security. Azar stated that the government’s legal counsel was analyzing whether the H5N1 virus would be eligible for funds.
Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), meanwhile, both sharply questioned Azar on what they perceived to be inertia on the part of the agency. “I think what’s lacking in all this is a real sense of urgency,” said Rep. Eshoo. Azar conceded that they did not have a strategic plan and that has impeded the private-sector’s ability to anticipate the government’s needs.
Both Chairman Deal and Rep. Shimkus argued that a centralized government agency is required to make the program effective, rather than the current interagency model.
Such a model has been proposed in the Senate and all eyes are on a pending proposal to be resubmitted this spring by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to revise Project Bioshield in order to strengthen coordination and to provide added incentives for private-sector investments. An earlier version of Burr’s reauthorization bill, the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005 ( S.1873), was met with heavy criticism over FOIA exemptions.
The Burr bill would establish a Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) within HHS to coordinate and oversee activities that support and accelerate advanced research and development of “qualified” countermeasures. BARDA is to be the single coordinating body that some have argued is needed to better implement Project Bioshield.
It would also establish a National Biodefense Advisory Board to provide advice and guidance to the Secretary of HHS on the potential threats and opportunities presented by advances in biological and life sciences.
The controversial aspect of Burr’s proposal was language that would allow either the Secretary of HHS or the Director of BARDA to conduct meetings and consultations in a closed setting. Furthermore, it provided full exemption to BARDA from having to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Critics complained that the exemption was too broad and noted that even intelligence agencies lacked such an expansive exemption.
The Burr bill is to be reintroduced after the Easter recess.
Full testimony is available on the committee website.
-- Joanne Carney
A number of bills designed to improve science education and increase U.S. competitiveness were introduced in March, and more are expected in the coming months. Although the bills address familiar themes– K-12 education, teacher training, college funding, and workforce preparation – each includes novel proposals.
The House Republican innovation agenda, HR 4845, introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) includes provisions to reduce corporate taxes, discourage lawsuits, improve health information technology and change state regulation of health insurers. The bill would enlarge and make permanent R&D tax credits for industry, but does not include any direct funding for research. The legislation authorizes a total of $41million for three STEM education programs: undergraduate scholarships administered by a nonprofit organization selected by the Secretary of Education, a program that would pay the interest on educational loans held by math and science teachers or STEM professionals, and grants to states to improve math and science education through the creation of coordinating councils.
To improve America’s economy, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a wide-ranging bill innovation bill, S. 2347. "The Right Time to Reinvest in America's Competitiveness Act" (“Right TRACK” Act) addresses issues ranging from investment in high-tech industries to reporting of outsourced jobs. The bill would authorize a 10% annual increase for NIH, NSF, NASA, DOE’s Office of Science, and DOD’s 6.1-6.2 categories over 7 years and increase and make permanent the R&D tax credit. The legislation would also create a New National Defense Education program providing scholarships and tax credits for STEM and foreign language teachers, loan forgiveness and professional development for teachers, and funds for improving school infrastructure. It would encourage states to use the National Assessment of Educational Progress as a benchmark for their own assessments, and create a “Contract for Educational Opportunity” that would provide extra funding to ensure that all students could afford college.
Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) introduced H.R. 4906, which includes a mixture of familiar proposals such as scholarships for future teachers and STEM professionals, an Advanced Research Projects Agency in the Department of Energy, early career awards for promising researchers and a national coordination office for research infrastructure.
In addition to scholarships for math and science teachers, S 2423, introduced by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), includes grants to states to create incentive programs for math and science teachers in which pay would be based on student performance, tax credits for employers who provide employee training, a program to pay interest on student loans, and a campaign to increase public support for math and science education.
S. 2450, introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), focuses on math, science and language education in the context of improving national security. The Homeland Security Education Act supports both STEM and foreign language education. It provides grants to states that can be used to create and implement STEM curricula, establish STEM mentoring programs, and equip school laboratories. It also includes STEM and foreign language teacher scholarships and a number of programs to increase foreign language instruction.
In addition, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa recently introduced H.R. 5106 to provide funding for laboratories in high-poverty schools.
As these bills are introduced, the House Committee on Science continues its efforts to produce its own legislation, which committee staff say will build on the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative. At a March 30 hearing that featured testimony from top officials of the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) emphasized that these agencies can play important roles in Federal K-12 science education but should coordinate their efforts. Boehlert said that "Coordination doesn't mean that every program has to fit a single mold. . . But coordination does mean that any overlap should be intentional and justified and that agencies should be drawing on each other's expertise and experiences." The Committee expects to introduce its legislation sometime in April. Rep. Rush Holt is drafting a STEM scholarship bill as well.
-- Laura Pomerance
As part of Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on March 27 to include an amendment that will raise the existing H-1B non-immigrant visa quota from the current 65,000 to 115,000 annually. The H-1B visa is a guest-worker program targeted primarily to high-tech professionals. Increasing the number of visas issued each year has been a goal of information technology and engineering companies that rely on foreign nationals to meet existing shortages.
Though focus on H-1B visas has waxed and waned on Capitol Hill over the years, the subject has gotten an added boost from the current wave of concern over our nation’s ability to compete in a global market. Reports, such as the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm, include recommendations to reform immigration and visa processing. Even the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative includes a statement that immigration reform is important to “meet the needs of a growing economy.”
Several competitiveness bills address the H-1B visa, though in slightly different ways. For example, the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge Through Education and Research Act of 2006, also known as the PACE-Education Act (S. 2198), written in response to the Academy report, includes language to increase the number of H-1B visas, but by a mere 10,000. It further restricts that allocation to “applicants with doctorate degrees in science, or engineering from a United States university.”
The National Innovation Act (S. 2109), meanwhile, simply includes a Sense of the Senate that the United States should seek to retain science and technology (S&T) talent through H-1B visa or other programs. It too recommends that preference be given to those who have received an advanced degree from a U.S. university.
Immigration reform, however, is a complex subject that elicits a spectrum of opinions from all sectors and the H-1B visa is no exception. Many foreign nationals who initially have come to the United States on an H-1B have utilized their time here to obtain a green card and ultimately to become a citizen. Though the high-tech community eagerly seeks these professionals, not all of the S&T community is eager to have the number of visas increased.
The electrical engineering community has fought against any efforts to increase the existing H-1B caps, arguing that sufficient talent exists among U.S. citizens and pointing to the unemployment rates of computer programmers to argue their position. The same week that the Senate began debates on comprehensive immigration reform, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the need for expanding H-1B visas. An unemployed network engineer testified that he had been replaced by three foreign nationals at one-third the salary.
The controversy over immigration reform is spawning other creative visa reform programs to expand the U.S. technical talent pool.
Both the Specter bill and the Securing America’s Border Act (S. 2454) introduced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) would create a new F-4 visa category for foreign nationals pursuing advanced degrees in “science, technology, engineering, mathematics and related fields at American colleges and universities.” Furthermore, it would automatically extend for one year a student visa for foreign nationals “who receive doctorates or the equivalent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or other fields of national need at qualified United States institutions” in order to facilitate their ability to seek employment in our country.
The PACE-Education Act, which currently has more than 60 cosponsors, also outlines similar measures to ease the ability of highly-skilled foreign students graduating in the United States to move into jobs and smooth the path towards legal permanent resident status. The rationale behind the provision is that advanced degree students who first must leave the country after matriculating may be less tempted to return for employment opportunities if they must first reapply for another set of visas.
Another recommendation included in both the PACE-Education and immigration reform legislation is to exempt “[a]liens who have earned an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering, or math and have been working in a related field” from annual numerical limitations that are placed on employment-based immigrants. The exemption would also extend to the individual’s spouse and children.
At the time this article was written, the Senate was debating the Frist proposal and considering the Specter bill as an amendment. Furthermore, nearly 400 amendments to S. 2454 have been introduced, including a proposal by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) to amend the new F-4 visa category to include students that receive a master’s degree and wish to remain in the United States for employment. The Bond amendment would also provide a waiver to postdoctoral students on a J-visa to be exempt from a requirement to return to their home country for two years after completing their postdoctoral studies.
All of these immigration reform proposals being offered and debated before the full Senate makes consensus a daunting task. A compromise written by Sens. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was introduced to try to bring both parties to a consensus in order to pass a bill before the recess, but negotiations over procedures failed to receive sufficient votes and the bill has now become stalled. What a final product will look like is highly uncertain.
-- Joanne Carney
CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
“Sensitive But Unclassified” Information and Other Controls: Policy and Options for Scientific and Technical Information (RL33303)
This report analyses the new classification of scientific research known as “sensitive but unclassified” (SBU) material. Much confusion has arisen on this topic, largely because federal agencies do not use uniform definitions of SBU information or have consistent policies for safeguarding or releasing it. There is also not clarity as to whether SBU information is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). On December 16, 2005 , President Bush instructed federal agencies to standardize procedures to designate, mark, and handle SBU information, and to forward recommendations for government-wide standards to the Director of National Intelligence, joining other proposals to reconcile differences related to these issues.
- Fuel Ethanol: Background and Public Policy Issues (RL33290)
The promotion of alternatives to petroleum, including fuel ethanol, has been an ongoing goal of U.S. energy policy. Significant federal policies beneficial to the ethanol industry have been established, including tax incentives, import tariffs, and mandates for ethanol use. The costs and benefits of ethanol — and the policies that support it — have been questioned. This report found that the overall benefits in terms of energy consumption and greenhouse gases are limited, especially in the case of corn-based ethanol. Cellulosic feedstocks have the potential to dramatically improve the benefits of fuel ethanol as their production requires less energy, as well as decreasing associated greenhouse gases. However, technologies to convert cellulose to ethanol at competitive costs seem distant.
Managing Sensitive Information, Departments of Energy and Defense Policies and Oversight Could Be Improved (GAO-06-369)
This report examines the treatment of information that is unclassified yet still sensitive by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DOD). DOE marks documents with this information as Official Use Only while DOD uses the designation For Official Use Only. GAO found that the agencies policies show a lack of clarity in key areas that could allow for inconsistencies and errors. In addition, the report found that the lack of training requirements and oversight leave DOE and DOD officials unable to assure that these documents are marked and handled in a manner consistent with agency policies and may result in inconsistencies and errors in the application of the programs.
- Health Information Technology: HHS is Continuing Efforts to Define a National Strategy (GAO-06-346T)
In April 2004, President Bush called for widespread adoption of inter-operable electronic health records within 10 years and established the position of the National Coordinator for Health IT (information technology). The use of IT is believed to have enormous potential to improve the quality of health care and is critical to improving the performance of the U.S. health care system. This report assessed the progress being made by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) since 2005 to develop a national health IT strategy and provided an overview of selected federal agencies’ health IT initiatives related to the national health IT strategy.
These reports are currently only available on the NAS website, but hard copies will be available shortly.
The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development (ISBN 030910145X)
This report focuses on the importance of maintaining and strengthening the contributions of the science, engineering, and medical capabilities of the United States to foreign assistance programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). It recommends that USAID reverse the decline in its support for building S&T capacity in developing countries, strengthen the capabilities of its leadership to recognize and take advantage of opportunities for effectively integrating S&T considerations within USAID programs, and provide leadership in improving inter-agency coordination of activities relevant to development.
Improving the Regulation and Management of Low-Activity Radioactive Wastes (ISBN 0309101425)
This NRC report recommends that wastes containing small concentrations of radioactive material (also known as low-activity wastes) should be regulated based on the risk they pose rather than the type of industry that produced them, as is currently the case. For example, low-activity wastes from nuclear utilities currently must be sent to one of only three licensed disposal sites, despite the fact that these wastes may be less radioactive than low-activity wastes from other industries that are allowed to use local landfills. The new "risk-informed" approach would be based on science-based risk assessments and public participation.
State and Federal Standards for Mobile Source Emissions (ISBN 0309101514)
In this report requested by the Environmental Protection Agency, the NRC committee found that the basis for California 's role in setting emissions standards for cars, trucks, and off-road equipment -- which are generally stricter than the federal government's -- is scientifically valid. California 's standards also tend to spur the development of better emission-control technologies that benefit the rest of the nation, the committee noted. It did not comment on the state's recent standards for greenhouse-gas emissions because they were adopted while the report was in progress, and because there are no federal standards to which they can be compared.
AAAS Urges Defeat of Oklahoma Science Education Bill
AAAS is urging that Oklahoma legislators reject an “academic freedom” measure now pending in the state Senate, saying that it would undermine the teaching of evolution and confuse students about fundamental and widely accepted scientific knowledge. More details, including the letter sent to Oklahoma elected officials and a commentary published The Oklahoman, are available on the AAAS website.
AAAS Encourages Innovation
AAAS Board Chair Gil Omenn recently wrote to the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, as well as President Bush, thanking them for bringing science to the national agenda through the innovation initiatives. He offered AAAS assistance and reiterated actions that AAAS believes necessary to keep the United States at the forefront of technological development and economic growth: enhance budgets for fundamental and multidisciplinary research across multiple agencies; invest in a better-prepared, better-educated domestic workforce; improve accessibility and receptivity to international students, scientists, and engineers; and create and expand incentives for innovation. All letters are available on the AAAS Statements, Letters, and Testimony website.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Public health countermeasures: What is the impact of pathogen resistance on our vaccine and drug supply?
April 19, 2006, 2:00 pm
Location - Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 419
This seminar, featuring Gigi Kwik Gronvall, Associate at the Center for Biosecurity and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, is the third of four in a series sponsored by Security for a New Century, in partnership with the Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The series will focus on public health preparedness for and emergency response to natural biological events or intentional bioterrorist acts. Additional information on the series is available on the AAAS website.
2006 AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy
Thursday and Friday April 20-21, 2006
Washington Court Hotel, Washington, DC
Registration is now open for the 2006 AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy (formerly the "AAAS Colloquium") that is held in Washington each spring to provide a forum for discussion and debate about budget and other policy issues facing the S&T community. The 2006 Forum features sessions on the budgetary and policy context for research and development in 2007; achieving energy security; avian flu and other global health threats; science and technology and homeland security; the global innovation challenge, and responses by U.S. industry and policymakers; and protecting the integrity of science.
The Forum web site now offers online registration for the meeting and features the latest version of the 2006 Forum program. It will be updated continually.
The Origin of Species: What do we really know?
Thursday April 20, 2006
Reception 5:15 PM, Lecture and Discussion 6:00-8:00 PM
American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Avenue, NW
Anti-evolutionists sometimes argue that, although they can accept the occurrence of microevolution within species (such as the evolution of antibiotic resistance), they don't see how the same set of rules could lead to new species or to the large differences seen between current organisms. Dr. Via will review current understanding of how the process of speciation by natural selection can occur, and will illustrate that there is little need to regard speciation as some type of special phenomenon that requires rules other than those of microevolution. Classical evolutionary models of speciation will be briefly summarized, and recent genetic findings about how reproductive isolation evolves will be discussed. She will conclude her talk by mentioning how results from evolutionary developmental biology may provide mechanisms for large morphological changes during evolution that seem hard to explain with "normal" mutation and natural selection.
Please RSVP by April 17.
Neuroscience and the Law
Monday 24 April 2006
Reception: 6:00 PM; Presentation: 7:00 PM
American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Avenue, NW
While advances in neuroscience continue at a rapid rate, their ethical and legal implications are only beginning to be considered. Ultimately, what neuroscience teaches us about human behavior could inform how we think about some of the core constructs of the law - including free will and responsibility, competency, and witness veracity. Considering how developments in neuroscience might interact with the law led AAAS and the Dana Foundation to convene a meeting with participants drawn from both the legal and neuroscience communities. Drs. Stephen Morse, University of Pennsylvania Law School & School of Medicine, and Mark Frankel, AAAS Scientific Freedom, Responsibility & Law Program, were key contributors to that meeting and to the published proceedings. Among the questions raised by the participants are: How will advances in neuroscientific methods for predicting behavior impact the legal system, and how will our society use these advances? What would neuroscience-based lie detection mean for witnesses testifying in court? How might neuroscientific knowledge put people at risk for discrimination in schools, the workplace, and elsewhere?