Conservation

  • Obama & Trudeau designate Arctic and Atlantic coastal regions as unavailable for future off-shore drilling (NPR, Whitehouse press release).
  • The Central Texas Water Conservation Symposium will be held Thursday, Feb 2, 2017 from 8am-3:30pm at the Canyon View Event Center. More details here.

National Science Policy

  • Who owns CRISPR/Cas? US Berkeley first filed a patent, but the Broad Institute has filed multiple. Hearings with the US Patent and Trademark Office began Dec. 6 (Scientific American).
  • Newt Gingrich poised as an influential Trump advisor: Gingrich has traditionally been in favor of increased NIH funding. There are a number of open positions in a science advisory capacity (STAT News).

Committee(s) on Science, Space, and Technology

  • A new independent study from UC Berkeley has confirmed the accuracy of a 2015 NOAA paper whose findings debunk a theory favored by climate deniers that global warming is in hiatus. Rep. Lamar Smith had previously subpoenaed NOAA scientists to obtain any communication related to their analysis.

Higher Education 

  • TFN monitors bills related to public education at the Texas Legislature. HB 428 by state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, would allow student organizations at public universities to claim, based on religious beliefs, an exemption to nondiscrimination policies.
  • SB 242 by state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, would require public school educators to out LGBT students who may be at risk of abuse.

Funding

  • NSF being asked to fund female entrepreneurs in STEM fields (Countable with links to House bill). Conflicted; funding for such an initiative does not seem to be earmarked to go with the request.
  • Good news with the House passing of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act. This bipartisan bill gives the NSF more control over how it partitions money and reauthorizes a program to provide funding to states with low research funds. Lamar Smith’s language to give “national interest” as an example of broader impacts remains. More info here.
  • The House Senate Appropriations committee, which allocates money to federal science agencies, has some new members (AIBS)

Climate Change

  • The US Global Change Research Program released a draft climate-change report. 13 Fed agencies collaborated on this congressionally-mandated report. The 4th edition of the National Climate Assessment is slated for 2018. ACTION: this report is open for public comment (USGCRP), Deadline Feb. 3, 2017 .
  • Texas Freedom Network (TFN) monitors bills related to public education at the Texas Legislature. HB 420 by state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, would prohibit the use of evidence relating to climate change from being used against a criminal defendant accused of fraud or of providing false or misleading information.
  • The Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy (CRCCS) was released by the National Park Service (NPS), outlining a vision for managing impacts to cultural resources under climate change. It highlights 21 ways in which climate change have or will affect cultural resources (e.g. increasing wildfires, permafrost thawing). Communication goals outlined in the CRCCS include incorporating climate stories into NPS outreach and educational materials to push back against climate denial.
  • Rick Perry (R-TX) and Ryan Zinke (R-MT) have been appointed head of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of the Interior, respectively. Both are climate skeptics, though Zinke has wavered on the issue and has been a champion for preservation of public lands. (AIBS)
  • DOE refuses to provide Trump’s transition team with names of employees who have worked on climate change initiatives (AIBS)

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • “The end of bystander science” by a TED fellow describes ways to get involved politically in the name of science, basically everything we are doing (link).
  • Bioscience article on President Obama’s scientific impact.
  • Civil liberties issues in Texas that you may also be interested in: Senate Bill 6, a “bathroom bill” put forward by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst R-Brenham, would bar transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity. You can follow along with the #StopSB6 hashtag on twitter. Also, you may have heard about HB 201 by state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, that would require fetal tissue from a miscarriage or abortion to be cremated or buried. In addition, SB 406 by state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, would require fetal remains from miscarriages or abortions to be buried or cremated and for a fetal death certificate to be issued in such cases.

 

See upcoming Texas Tribune events here: https://www.texastribune.org/events/2017/jan/

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