Weekly Digest — April 10-16

Higher Education

  • Action: Registration to testify at the Texas SBOE’s final hearing on the proposed science standards ends today at 5 pm. Oral testimony will be limited to two minutes per person.  The final hearing is Tuesday, April 18 (TFN).

Congressional Committees

  • Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and lead sponsors of the AICA, sent a letterto the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting an increase in 2018 federal funding for NSF and NIST, in contrast to the Trump administration proposal to cut funding to both institutes for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 (American Institute of Physics).  

Federal Agencies

  • NASA announced that Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, shows signs of a salty ocean and air jets that contain hydrogen gas. This is promising for the possibility of microbial life there (Sciencemag).
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report on scientific misconduct and practices detrimental to the research process. The report includes discussion on authorship practices, transparency on negative results, openness and behaviors such as sexual harassment (American Institute of Physics).

Public Health

  • The Texas Legislature Public Health Committee is debating TX HB 2249 (“Parent’s right to know”).  The legislation will improve transparency into non-medical exemptions for immunizations and will require DSHS to conduct bi-annual studies on vaccine preventable outbreaks. Action: Email members of the committee today to urge for passage.

City of Austin

  • The Save Our Springs Alliance is attempting to stall construction of SH-45 SW in southwest Austin, arguing that a proper environmental impact statement was not prepared (Austin Monthly).

Climate Change

  • Opponents of climate change policies aimed at regulating carbon dioxide emissions are frustrated that Scott Pruitt will not go after the “Endangerment Finding,” which concludes CO2 emissions endanger public health. Without overturning this finding, the EPA will continue to have a legal obligation to regulate. Pruitt has signaled he is not interested in trying to undo the finding because of the immense legal challenges he would face and probably lose (NYT).
  • NASA’s long-term climate monitoring satellites are aging and will need to be replaced soon. However, the climate science missions that would update these capabilities are among those proposed to be eliminated in the Trump administration’s budget blueprint, while NOAA’s weather gathering satellites would have full funding.  Given the minor cost of NASA’s earth science programs, Congress may not eliminate them (NYT).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • Organizers of the March for Science look ahead to how the organization can become a political force for science advocacy beyond April 22.  This long-term goal has been present throughout the planning process and has factored into decisions such as chosen speakers and other community events.  Challenges ahead include acquiring sustainable funding and revisiting controversies surrounding diversity issues and the level of entanglement into partisan politics (ScienceInsider).
  • The perception of science is much more complicated than is often presented. People given the “anti-science” label often deny not the correctness of facts but rather their relevance; people tend to disagree with the solutions to climate issues, not the consensus on facts; people generally respect science and the scientific process (Scientific American).