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Public Affairs Update

  • Bush nominates Bement as National Science Foundation director . . . President Bush nominated Arden Bement, Jr., who has been serving as interim director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) since the winter of 2004, to lead the agency for a six-year term. The mid-September announcement came just three days before his 210-day term as interim director was to expire, as per the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act. As of the end of September, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions has approved the President’s nomination. Approval by the full Senate could happen before Congress’ adjournment in October. The nomination allows Bement to stay on as acting director, pending Senate confirmation. Bement, who is director of the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, has been heading up both agencies since former NSF Director Rita Colwell left to become chair of Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc. In a memo to his NSF staff, Bement said he looks forward to continuing NSF’s tradition of “strong and independent directors.” The House Science Committee chairs, Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Bart Gordon (D-TN), were quick to second the nomination. Boehlert said, “Arden knows the agency well and brings a wealth of experience in industry, government and academia to the job.” Bement is not new to NSF, as he served (1989 to 1995) as a member of the National Science Board, NSF’s governing body, and on the first Advisory Panel for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences in the mid 1990s and chaired its Science Resources Statistics subcommittee.

  • NIH grants for studies of ethical, legal, and social aspects of genomics . . . . Four universities will be awarded five-year grants totaling about $20-million from the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to support interdisciplinary centers devoted to studying the ethical, legal, and social issues raised by genetic and genomic research. The grants will support the work of scholars in fields outside the disciplines of genetics and genomics, such as the behavioral and social sciences, public policy, and law. The four grant recipients and projects are: Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law will study ethical issues in the design and conduct of genetic research on human beings; Duke University’s Center for the Study of Public Genomics will study the flow of information in genomic research; Stanford University’s Center for Integration of Research on Genetics and Ethics will study the ethical, legal, and social consequences of uncovering genomic factors that may contribute to behavioral and neurological conditions; and the University of Washington’s Center for Genomic Health Care and the Medically Underserved will study the ethical, legal, and social factors that influence the translation of genetic information to improved human health.

  • American Community Survey ramp-up is delayed . . . . . The U.S. Census Bureau will delay temporarily the ramp-up to full implementation of the American Community Survey (ACS), which was scheduled to begin in July 2004, due to current uncertainties in the appropriations process for FY 2005. Nevertheless, the Census Bureau is still planning to conduct the fully expanded ACS for housing units in 2005. The start of ACS group quarters data collection will be delayed until 2006. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, State, Justice, Judiciary and Related Agencies approved $146 million for ACS, which is $81.2 million above the current year, but $19 million less than the President’s request. The Census Bureau will continue to monitor closely the appropriations process while considering the best options proceed with the ramp-up and continues mailing the survey to approximately 67,000 households per month. This temporary delay will not have an impact on the ACS estimates for 2004.

    Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) [left] is introduced by ASA Executive Officer Sally Hillsman to Princeton University sociologists Bruce Western [right] and Devah Pager [next to Western] at the 10th Annual Capitol Hill Exhibition of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) recently. Ehlers, a long-time supporter of the National Science Foundation (NSF), learns about Western’s and Pager’s racial discrimination research, which is funded by NSF . . . .

    . . . The researchers also informed other public policy types at the CNSF event. Nearly 400 people attended including NSF Acting Director Arden Bement [next to Hillsman]; NSF Deputy Director Joseph Bordogna [right of Western]; NSF Acting Director for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Wanda Ward [far right]; and Division of Social and Economic Sciences Director Rick Lempert [not shown]. In addition, White House Science Advisor John Marburger and several of his staff in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy attended. Besides Representative Ehlers, Representatives Ralph Regula (R-OH), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Howard Coble (R-NC), Bob Etheridge (D-NC), and David Hobson (R-OH) visited the exhibitors. ASA was publicly recognized for its efforts in helping plan the event.