Education

  • Great news! The Texas State Board of Education voted this week to remove language from the high school science standards that required students to question evolutionary science (Texas Tribune).
  • During this Texas legislative session, both parties have filed bills to restore an oversight coordinating board for Texas’s universities. Since 2003, when lawmakers gave schools full control of tuition, and 2013 when the power of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board was removed, lawmakers have been alarmed by decisions by schools to expand and approve capital projects (Texas Tribune).

Federal Agencies

  • The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) submitted a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations encouraging Congress to set funding levels for NSF at $8 billion for FY 2018. In their letter, they highlight NSF’s contribution to combating emerging diseases, enabling synthetic biology, controlling invasive species, and mobilizing big data (AIBS).
  • Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that the National Parks Service contributed $39.4 billion to the US economy in 2016, with 331 million visitors, supporting 318,000 jobs, most of them local to the park areas (Dept. of the Interior).
  • EPA Open Data Web service is scheduled to be discontinued on April 28, 2017 due to funding cuts. (https://opendata.epa.gov/)

Public Health

  • Action: The Public Health Committee on TX HB 1124 is being heard on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. Call Members of the Committee and ask them to vote AGAINST HB 1124. The bill creates a lenient vaccine exemption process for parents wishing to exempt their children from vaccines required to attend school.

City of Austin

  • About 10,000 people attended the Austin March for Science on Saturday. The message from UT psychology professor Art Markman’s speech was for scientists to frame the importance of science as a values issue (My Statesman).

Climate Change

  • The first Earth Optimism Summit, organized by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, was held in D.C. April 21-23rd. The event, which was organized before the notion of the science march materialized, featured speakers and discussion on what is working and how to scale it up.
  • 11 Republican state attorney generals filed a brief in support of a lawsuit by ExxonMobil to a halt a probe by the attorney generals of New York and Massachusetts, on the grounds that it violates free speech and is an abuse of power.  Over 100 scientists from New York State are urging New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to continue with his investigation. The letter emphasizes the effects of climate change most likely to impact New Yorkers (UCS).
  • Action: Until May 15, the EPA is soliciting public comment on repealing EPA regulations. Visit: Regulations.gov – click the dark blue “Comment Now!” button, upper right.  Share why you support protections for clean air, soil, and water.

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • The methods scientists typically use to communicate – repeating facts or refuting misconceptions with evidence-based reasoning – are not usually effective. Instead, scientists should try to understand what their audience values, and subsequently address how their research fits into those values (Slate).
  • Is science political? Jacquelyn Gill’s answer is yes (Washington Post).
  • Tips for communicating science via social media (From the Lab Bench).
  • Despite organizers of the March for Science attempts to frame it as nonpartisan, Republican members of Congress saw it as an anti-Trump rally, perhaps preventing even those who support the principles of open inquiry and evidence-based policy from answering media questions or participating in local marches. Nine Democratic members of the House science committee were expected to march, including Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) (ScienceInsider).  
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