Public Affairs Report

NAS Report on R&D Funding Allocation

In November, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences released a study recommending a new process of budgeting for science and technology programs at a time of deficit reduction and funding cutbacks. The study, requested by the Senate Appropriations Committee in October, 1994, recommends that a new Federal Science and Technology Budget (FS&T) be established. The FS&T budget would aggregate federal funding for basic and applied research, but would exclude funds for such projects as testing and evaluation of weapons that do not result in new knowledge and technologies. Presently, federal investments in science and technology are estimated at $70 billion, but the NAS panel says a more accurate calculation of the real number is between $35 and 40 billion. The NAS study recommends that the President develop one integrated FS&T budget, instead of considering funding for the various science and technology agencies and programs separately. The FS&T budget process would reallocate resources from projects of insufficient quality or obsolete missions to more effective or higher priority programs and make funds available for new opportunities. The FS&T would provide a comprehensive view of research and technology priorities that would look at areas of increased and reduced emphasis.

The NAS recommends that the congressional budget, authorization and appropriations committees examine the FS&T budget as a whole at the beginning of the congressional budget process before it is disaggregated among committees in Congress. The NAS panel noted that a more coherent distribution of funds can accomplish more than establishing a new Department of Science. The ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board submitted comments and examples from microbiology in response to a request from Frank Press, NAS Study Chair of the Committee on Criteria for Federal Support of Research , in March at the beginning of the study.

Cassell Presents ASM Survey to NSF Workshop

On December 12, Gail Cassell, Chair of ASM's Public and Scientific Affairs Board , presented information and preliminary findings from the ASM's 1995 survey of the employment outlook in the microbiological sciences at a Professional Society Workshop, sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Division of Science Resource Studies (SRS). The Workshop was held to share information on data collection and analysis activities of mutual interest to the SRS and professional societies and to strengthen ties between SRS and the professional societies. The ASM survey on the employment outlook in the microbiological sciences will be completed in early 1996.

ASM Comments on Senate Safe Drinking Water Amendments Act of 1995

On 7 November 1995, a bill (S. 1316) to reauthorize and amend the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kempthorne (R-ID). The bill was introduced with bipartisan support, and passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee two weeks after introduction. The full Senate overwhelming adopted the bill by a vote of 99-0 on 29 November. The Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB) Committee on Environmental Microbiology, chaired by Ronald Atlas, Ph.D., and the Subcommittee on Safe Drinking Water, chaired by Joan Rose, Ph.D., provided detailed comments to the Senate regarding S. 1316. The PSAB encouraged the Senate to assure that microbial contaminants were put in proper prospective for the future development of safe drinking water. In the reauthorization of the SDWA, the PSAB urged the Senate to recognize the danger posed by microbial contaminants that cause waterborne infectious disease. The PSAB also noted that S. 1316 did not address the safety of water distribution systems. The legislation addressed the safety of source water; however, it failed to adequately address the importance of monitoring distribution systems for microbial contaminants such as Legionella, Cryptosporidium and Mycobacterium. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the House very soon. For a complete copy of the PSAB's comments, please contact the Public and Scientific Affairs Office at (202) 942-9209.

ASM Congressional Fellow Joins Representative Jim McDermott's Staff

The American Society for Microbiology's 1995/96 Congressional Fellow, Martha Soto has joined the staff of Washington Congressman Jim McDermott (D-7th). Rep. McDermott is a member of the Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics) and Ways and Means Committees and is in his fourth term. Soto is currently working on issues dealing with human genetics and is working on legislative language for a bill protecting the privacy of patient's genetic information. She organized a briefing titled "Briefing on the Use of Genetic Information and the Possible Need for Legislation" that was held on December 6, 1995. Lori Andrews, Esq., Chair of the Ethical Legal and Social Implications Program of the Human Genome Project and a Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent Law School spoke of the existence of genetic discrimination and the need for federal legislation. Staffers from both the Senate and House were in attendance and the group will continue to meet and try to work together for the passage of legislation to protect people's genetic information. The Congressional Fellowship is sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the Martin Frobisher Fund. If you need further information or an application for the Congressional Fellowship, please contact the Office of Public Affairs. The deadline for application is March 22, 1996.

Office of Public Affairs Legislative Alerts

The Office of Public Affairs is currently compiling a database of ASM members who want to receive Legislative Alerts electronically. If you would like to receive legislative alerts relating to research issues send your e-mail address and member number to .

Board on Agriculture and Science Education

On November 17-18, 1995 at the Beckman Center in Irvine, California the National Research Council Board of Agriculture convened a forum on the National Science Education Standards and Agriculture's Role in kindergarden through 12th grade education. Participants were from professional societies relating to agriculture. The purpose of the forum was to provide an opportunity for exploration of approaches that agriculture could utilize to provide programs and activities for inquiry-based science, science education, and advhievement of science literacy. Information about "Agi in the Classroom", CoFARM, Project Food, Land and People; and the Coalition for Education about the Environment, Food Agriculture, and Renewable Resources (CEEFAR) was provided. Drs. Kenneth Anderson from California State University in Los Angeles and Teresa Thomas from Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista, California represented ASM at this forum. Anderson is currently a member of the Committee on Precollege Education of the Board of Education and Training.