Energy and the Environment

  • A US District Court in California struck down a delay on a rule, instated by the Department of the Interior (DOI), to limit methane production by oil and gas companies on public lands (Washington Post). Opponents see the rule as an unnecessary burden on industry, costing tens of thousands of dollars per well to instate (Reuters). Action: write the DOI or register a comment on their website before November 6.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt is prioritizing cleaning up superfund sites, i.e., land that is contaminated by hazardous waste. The Trump administration’s budget proposal reduces the money for the program by 30%, but the agency hopes to fight a lack of money with improved bureaucratic efficiency (NPR).

Congressional Committees

  • Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has called for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office into the Trump Administration’s interference with scientific integrity in federal agencies (AIBS).

Higher Education

  • Recent studies support that international collaborative science tends to have higher impact than non-collaborative or strictly domestic research teams (Science Insider, Nature).
  • Representative Bill Foster (D-IL), the only physicist in Congress, proposed a bill (H.R.3763) to change how NSF determines whether a state is eligible for the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The proposed formula would allow states to participate in the program if they fall below a per-capita ($16.92/person) rather than per-state (0.75% of NSF budget) federal funding level. Critics argue the change would deprive small states of research money, while continuing to help large states that already receive a lot of support (Science Insider).

Federal Agencies

  • The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology will be reconstituted, however, the funding has not been promised and no director to the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been nominated who usually assembles the council (Recode).
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF) invites research groups to submit white papers on scientific topics that could benefit from increased network collaboration. The NSF Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) then uses these white papers to create future funding programs or reallocate funding emphasis. Action: submit a White Paper (topic description; max 2000 words) identifying research areas in need of greater collaboration by November 30 (NSF).
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is requesting comments on how researcher access to genomic data can best be balanced with personal privacy (NIH). Action: submit your comments or ideas about privacy and genomic data to the NIH before October 20.
  • Donald Trump has nominated Andrew Wheeler to be the deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Wheeler was a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry (such as Murray Energy, one of the nation’s leading coal companies) and is praised by supporters for having the legislative knowledge to dismantle Obama-era fossil fuel regulations.  He has repeatedly opposed efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Wheeler will need to be confirmed by the Senate (New York Times). Action: write your senators to oppose the confirmation of Andrew Wheeler as Deputy EPA Director.
  • The EPA report published regarding post-Harvey superfund site cleanup made no mention of climate change, despite a 2014 EPA report that detailed options for preparing for increased flooding and damage to superfund sites caused by climate change. The 2014 report was deleted from the EPA website on the day of the inauguration (WBUR). Moreover, the Trump Administration will close a regional EPA lab in Houston, which has been testing samples from superfund sites that were flooded during Hurricane Harvey (San Antonio Express News).

Public Health

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a campaign to eliminate cholera outbreaks by 2030 (Nature News).
  • Livestock were fed more than 130,000 tons of antibiotics in 2013 alone. Scientists propose curbing the use of antibiotics in livestock to avoid producing antibiotic-resistant microbes by 1) proposing world-wide caps on their use, 2) reducing world-wide meat consumption, and 3) implement a user fee for antibiotics (Forbes).
  • Two drug companies have agreed to greatly reduce their prices for 16 common chemotherapy drugs to help treat cancer in a half-dozen countries in Africa. The agreement also aims to help combat the shortage of oncologists by posting streamlined guidelines written by top American cancer hospitals (New York Times).

City of Austin

  • The registration deadline to vote in the November 7 local elections is Tuesday, October 10. Action: Register here. Ballots include a $91.5 million bond to improve Austin parks and open spaces, a $1.05 billion bond to modernize Austin ISD’s schools, and elections for municipal utility board members (Ballotopedia).

Climate Change

  • The US Department of State is requesting nominations for scientists to serve as authors and editors on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for their 6th assessment report. Action: nominate a US scientist to serve on the IPCC (Global Change Research Program).
  • Miami is beginning to see the effects of rising seas through more frequent flooding (Miami New Times). Tokyo is also making preparations for rising seas (New York Times).
  • Scientists are worried about North Atlantic Right whales, which prefer colder waters and have been dying off at a rate faster than when they were being whaled in the 1700s, and humpback whales, which have been undergoing an “unusual mortality event” (New York Times). Curated photographs of specific whales are helping to engage the public in recognizing that these animals are in peril.
  • A recent report by the Food Climate Research Network shows that raising grass-fed rather than soy-fed livestock does not help reduce their carbon footprint. Proponents of grazing say the report has oversimplified the services grasslands provide (Science Insider).

Science Communication

  • Tweeting has been found to benefit scientists in at least one case: for studies in ecology, the number of retweets predicts citation rate better than impact factor of the journal (American Scientist).
  • How can science support human rights? Young scientists responded to an American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) survey. They cite how plant genomics and climate science support our right to food; precision medicine, immunology, and social sciences support our right to health; and renewable energy research and urban ecology support our right to a healthy environment. Follow the link for more examples (Science Insider).
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