CENDI PRINCIPALS AND ALTERNATES MEETING

National Agricultural Library
Beltsville , MD
October 25, 2004

 

Abbreviated Minutes

The Value of Science: Politics and Perceptions
Science Meets Politics: Highlights from the AAAS Candidates Forum
Opinion Polling and Science: Public Support for Research
NAL Showcase: What’s New at NAL?
Nutrition.gov
Agriculture-Based Technology to Support Conservation of Library Materials
Results of Interagency Committee on Government Information (ICGI) Discussions

 

Welcome

Dr. Peter Young, Principal for the National Agricultural Library, chaired the morning part of the meeting in the absence of the Chair and Deputy Chair. He opened the meeting at 9:15 am and welcomed everyone to NAL.

 

THE VALUE OF SCIENCE: POLITICS AND PERCEPTIONS

 

“Science Meets Politics: Highlights from the AAAS Candidates Forum,” Joanne Padrón Carney, Director, Center for Science, Technology and Congress, American Association for the Advancement of Science

The Candidates Forum was organized by the Washington Science Policy Alliance (WSPA), a coalition of seven science policy institutions, which includes academic institutions with policy programs, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the National Academies of Science (NAS). The first forum was held four years ago and was quite successful. It complements the official Question and Answer (Q&A) sessions with the candidates subsequently published in the AAAS publications, Science and Nature.

The campaigns designated their spokespersons. The George W. Bush Campaign’s spokesperson was Bob Walker, former Chairman of the House Science Committee. The John Kerry Campaign was represented by Dr. Henry Kelly, formerly with the Office of Scientific and Technical Policy (OSTP) under the Clinton Administration. He is a PhD in Physics and heads the Federation of American Scientists. Ms. Carney noted that campaigns have many people who provide advice on science as part of the larger issues such as economics and defense. Even though the statements of the representatives during the Forum should reflect the campaigns, sometimes their own perspectives are expressed as well. The campaigns decide who will be sent, but this depends largely on individual schedules.

Mary Wooley of Research! America moderated the session. The format, agreed upon by the campaigns in advance, involved opening remarks, time for rebuttal, and then Q&As in writing from the media, the floor, and via webcast. This approach allowed the moderator to combine similar questions and to restate those not in the form of questions.

The forum highlights included discussions of budget priorities, the role of politics in science, the bipartisan support enjoyed by research and development (R&D), and the need to get the physical and life science funding in balance again, following the large increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over the last several years.

The only part of the discussion that was somewhat bipartisan was the R&D budget dialogue. Both speaker’s comments on the budget drew heavily from the AAAS analysis of the Administration’s budget for R&D. However, the emphasis and focus result in different outcomes.

With regard to energy policy, both platforms are supportive of reducing reliance on foreign oil, but they differ on how to do it. The Bush Administration is emphasizing the use of hydrogen fuels, particularly for vehicles. Kerry’s stance is that this is one of the technologies that should be included, but not to the exclusion of others, including conservation.

Both approve of continued exploration of space, human and robotic. Kerry’s stance is that space exploration is important but that there may be other, higher priorities for the funding, particularly with regard to human exploration. He emphasizes short-term successes in aeronautics because of the budget constraints.

In terms of Global Climate Change, Bush emphasizes the fact that his Administration requested the AAAS study which shows some uncertainties and gaps in knowledge. There is a need to focus on the research into hydrogen energy and clean coal. There was no response on the cap and trade aspects of greenhouse gases and no mention of support for the Kyoto Agreement (specifically, the Kyoto Protocol to the. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The Kerry Campaign questioned the need to be “absolutely certain” about the reasons for climate change, when scientific consensus agrees that there is global climate change. The Kerry stance is that cap and trade is a good approach, and is supportive of the McCain- Lieberman Bill ( Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act). In terms of Kyoto, Kerry would go back and renegotiate.

Stem cell research is the most visible and contentious science issue, serving as a wedge to separate the campaigns. The Bush policy would allow only certain cell lines. The Bush Administration thinks this reflects a reasonable compromise since it does not stop private companies from investing in other stem cell research projects. However, Bush emphasizes the fact that he was the first President to fund embryonic stem cell research ($25 million) and to create a stem cell bank. The Kerry Campaign considers the 20+ lines approved in 2001 to be a virtual ban, since many of these lines are now tainted. The current policy is too restrictive and ties the hands of all those involved – particularly researchers. Kerry would expand federal funds and access to more lines, but he does not say by how much. Kerry supports research cloning but supports a ban on reproductive cloning.

The politicization of science policy was discussed. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has accused the Bush Administration of stacking advisory committees and asking such discriminatory questions as who potential members voted for or supported before assigning membership. A “527” Political Action Committee produced a report and got more than 40 signatures from noted scientists. They also signed up scientists to be Kerry campaign speakers in critical states. Bob Walker countered that ear marks, priorities, budgets, and grant making are never devoid of politics. He said that the UCS report and letter would not pass peer review and that many scientists who signed the letter had not read the report. Walker pointed out that during the 2000 Presidential Campaign, Gore had more than 50 scientists including Nobel laureates supporting him but that it did not garner him success in his bid for Presidency. Dr. Kelly said that Kerry supports the UCS Report and the scientific community should have a growing role in shaping administrative policy. Bob Walker’s comment during the Forum that scientists may experience a “push back” if they become involved in politics caused this issue to be picked up by the media.

There are some areas of concurrence. Both Campaigns are against increases in DoD, EPA, and DOE ear marks. The post 9/11 restrictions on foreign student visas still include some barriers but both recognize that scientific openness and foreign students are important to elevate our own science and technology capabilities. While open access was not addressed directly, support for the peer review process was mentioned by both campaigns. The issue of religion in science, specifically teaching evolution versus creationism, was not addressed during the Forum though it was mentioned in the Q&A.

The NIH budget decrease was raised under the auspices of bringing the life sciences and the physical sciences funding back into balance. The AAAS website has information on the anticipated impacts of the NIH decreases. If the flue vaccine issue had been in the media before the forum, it would have been a hot topic of discussion.

The future of OSTP or the Science Advisor was not specifically discussed. However, Kelly would say that lowering the position of the Advisor shows the lack of concern on the part of the Bush Administration for science in decision making. However, the current Science Advisor, who is a Democrat, would say that he has access to the President.

AAAS’s new CEO would like AAAS to have more of a voice in determining science policy, but there are differences of opinion across this membership body. (AAAS has 130,000 individual members and other science societies are affiliate members.) Right now, AAAS advocacy is in the form of Board Statements and letters to the United Nations and the Administration on specific topics, such as stem cell research. Also, AAAS has dealt with specific instances of the politicization of science, such as the purported changes to the health status of minorities and the poor in the State of the Health Report.

The actual party platforms do not focus on science issues. Some science societies submit their own platforms to the campaigns. However, Ms. Carney believes that it will continue to be a personal relationship between the people in the administration and key science groups that will succeed in getting the issues across. She doubts that this will change significantly because of the diffuse nature of science across the government. The public doesn’t understand the role of government and academia in the scientific process. It is our responsibility to educate the public about the importance of science.

“Opinion Polling and Science: Public Support for Research ” Dr. Stacie Propst, Director for Science Policy, Research! America

Research! America has a 15-year history of putting research on the public agenda. It was founded by citizens interested in biomedical research. Since that time, its scope has expanded to include the physical sciences. The mission is to “make medical, scientific and health research including research to prevent disease and disability, a much higher national priority.” There are more than 475 members including academic institutions, trade organizations, state and local agencies, and professional societies. There is a distinguished Board of Directors, including Dr. Eugene Garfield, who also funds an award for economic impact through Research! America.

Originally, Research! America was set up around disease groups, but this approach didn’t work because it divided the focus. In the early 1990s discussion started about how to increase the overall budget of the NIH and let the NIH Director and institute directors determine how best to use the budget. Two congressmen and others who would be influential were enlisted. Research! America decided to stay focused on advocacy and education and to work with partners.

Research!America tries to bring research home through media/science forums, leadership forums, advocacy workshops, visits to editorial boards and by conducting public opinion polls. Generally science is very remote to the public. Scientists tend to use jargon and you lose people immediately. Engaging the public involves identifying knowledge gaps, optimizing the use of terminology, measuring support for research, identifying arguments for increased support, developing compelling messages, overcoming barriers and monitoring research policy.

Research! America seeks to identify arguments for increased support, such as person health and economic impact. They seek to utilize the best messengers, who are often scientists, if they can be articulate. Research! America tries to train scientists and academics to communicate with the public and cares more about people appreciating science than understanding science. The younger generation is more science savvy.

Research! America has polled almost every state since 1992. Telephone calls have been used in the past but are less successful with caller ID and the increase in cell phone usage. Online polls are coming along. Research! America commissions the polls and develops the questions, which are actually conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc. The response rate is approximately 60 percent. The polls are generally advocacy driven, and they connect the surveys with state interests while maintaining some standard questions.

Dr. Propst cautioned that poll data can’t tell you what people think. Polling provides a starting point and some surface perceptions. The results help to guide message development, test assumptions, and make a case. On the other hand, negative results can help you to adjust your message. Most importantly, polling data is influential to politicians. Once the polling data is available, it finds its way through several channels. These include newspaper articles, op-eds and letters, speeches, and Congressional testimony.

When you ask the public about the importance of science and technology, more than 60 percent respond favorably. When you add health to the question, the results increase significantly. Therefore, Research! America often envelops science issues in health language.

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press polled the population about the greatest 20 th century American achievement. Forty-seven percent cited science and technology, including medical science. Military achievements, the second most popular category, were mentioned by only seven percent of the respondents. A Harris Interactive poll shows that “scientist” ranks at the top of the most prestigious professions.

However, there is no clear understanding of where research is done, even by citizens of states that have large academic research institutions. (It is important for the business and academic communities to understand this.) In addition, ten years of polling show that few people recognize federal science agencies. For example, NIH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were recognized by only four percent of the respondents. It is time to develop new champions among our public officials.

When asked about government R&D spending, the support is clear. Fifty percent of the respondents indicated that more money should be spent on medical and health research. There is strong support for basic research (80 percent), even if it brings no immediate benefits. Support is strong (64 percent) for doubling the federal scientific research budget.

In terms of the economic impact of scientific and technical research, 90 percent believe research is important to the US economy. Seventy percent believe it is important for the US to educate and train individuals in science and technology. Sixty percent think that it is important for the US to maintain its role as a world leader in medical and health research.

The public sees government regulation as a major barrier to research. Congress should encourage more medical research. The public is unaware of partnerships in research but think that research institutions should work together.

Many of our stereotypical beliefs about what the public thinks about controversial science issues are unsupported by the polls. The majority of the respondents believe that animal research is necessary. The majority are supportive of therapeutic cloning but not reproductive cloning. The majority responded that stem cell research should be supported. Most would be willing to provide private health information in certain circumstances, such as to allow medical personnel to provide better services, to contribute DNA for science research, and to support genetic testing for the improvement of medicines.

Research! America has partnered with Parade Magazine for many years. Over 75 million people read Parade every week. It has proven to be a good platform for the science message. The results of polls are presented often with follow up articles around topics such as women’s health. In March 2004, six scientists were highlighted on the cover of Parade. This resulted in an increase in the number of Parade articles on health. Research! America recently started an initiative in Parade on global health. Americans tend to think that foreign aid is a large sum of money when, in fact, it isn’t, and they focus on funding for the developing world only.

The public’s opinion is influenced by the media. However, when asked where they get most of their health information, respondents indicate friends. Nonetheless, the Internet is a powerful force.

A recent Charlton poll found that 90 percent of the respondents would vote for a candidate based on his or her support for research to cure and prevent diseases. However, research interests are generally high except around election time, when it appears that stances on research may not actually influence the public’s voting decisions.

Dr. Probst noted that the American public is more positive about science than much of the rest of the world, including Western Europe.

Dr. Propst does not believe that only stem cell research will be in the limelight over the next few years. Science issues will continue to be in the public eye as the nation’s population ages and as science advances. However, there is a disparity between the culture of politics and the culture of science. It is our community’s responsibility to bridge this language barrier, and to make politicians and the public less fearful of science knowledge.

“NAL Showcase: What’s New at NAL?” Dr. Peter Young, Director, National Agricultural Library

Nutrition.gov

Yvette Alonso, head of NAL’s Food Safety Information Center, demonstrated the revitalized Nutrition.gov website. This is a significant event for NAL since it is stepping out to serve the public in its role as a national library.

Nutrition.gov is based on resources collected by the Nutrition Service at the NAL, as part of an interagency effort in this area. The Center partnered with NIH, Health and Human Services (HHS), and other areas of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create the site. Coordination is provided by the Human Nutrition Coordinating Committee, which includes researchers, home economists, and dietitians from across the government. The work has also involved a cross-section of staff from within the library. There are several teams, similar to Science.gov. The content team includes reference experts from the NAL. The indexing team identified the controlled vocabulary for searching and the 10 browse topics. There are also technical and promotions teams.

The site serves several mission areas and multiple target audiences. The revitalization effort came out of a summit on obesity held earlier this year, so obesity is the major focus of the site at this time. Other nutrition-related topics will be added in the future. Right now it is just ‘.gov’ links, but they hope to add selected ‘.edu’ links, since many of the extension-produced resources will be ‘.edu’ sites. Most of the links are from the original web site developed two to three years ago, so there is some need for updating.

The site was developed with a very tight timeline. Work began on the records in August, the audience analysis and informal usability training took place in October. There are approximately 949 metadata records (based on a modified Dublin Core record) with links to the full text. The information in the metadata records supports searching and the placement of information in the portal.

Ms. Alonso described the technical specifications. The web site follows the USDA website style guidelines. The browse structure includes 10 food and nutrition topics with subtopics. Seven audience types can also be browsed. Features include a search tool (using MySQL/PHP), In the News, Spotlights. a frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) page, and Site Help. She also demonstrated the metadata input form.

The primary focus is on getting the information out to the public. The selected sites have undergone several levels of review, and NAL collaborates with science-based groups from within the contributing agencies to identify the best content. It would be desirable to provide more information about where the information came from.

UserWorks, Inc., conducted the testing, similar to that which it performed for Science.gov. The testing was paid for by contributed funds.

The soft launch of the site is planned for a conference on obesity at NIH on October 25, 2004. After the soft launch, a public relations campaign and formal usability testing will occur.

Discussion

Dr. Siegel indicated that NLM has been involved with Native American Tribes and health issues. There are issues of USDA sending fatty food. Dr. Siegel offered to work with Nutrition.gov on this concern.

Agriculture-Based Technology to Support Conservation of Library Materials

Kate Hayes, director of the Technology Transfer Information Center, described and demonstrated the results of a research project conceived and supported by NAL to use “SuperSlurper, a super absorbent polymer based on corn, to reclaim library materials from water damage. The need for a faster, more effective means of reclamation is evident in the loss of library materials at the Pentagon during 9/11 and in Florida and Hawaii from recent hurricanes and floods.

The original technology was developed in 1976 by Agricultural Research Service scientists. It has been used in such diverse products as diapers and gas filters. The SuperSlurper absorbs 2000 times its weight in water as it becomes a gel-like substance. The substance is encased in “blotter” packets that are interleaved into the damaged book, much as blotter paper. After the absorption process is completed, the gel dries and can be reused. The SuperSlurper dries materials in 1.5 hours, rather than three days. The paper may actually end up cleaner than it was before. Chemists have determined that there is no residue left on the pages. The SuperSlurper is reusable and is not expected to be expensive. It is an environmentally friendly product and production process.

Given the technology, the challenge was to find a delivery system for the SuperSlurper technology. The work was performed under a grant to Nicholas Yeager of Artifacts, Inc., a conservator and bookbinder. The Material Transfer Agreement/CRADA (Cooperative Research and Development Agreement) has been in place since August 2003. In February 2004, Mr. Yeager was awarded an SBIR, Small Business Innovative Research grant. The work will be moving into a Phase 2 SBIR shortly. A provisional patent application has been filed, and the company is considering a business plan and identifying investors. There are multiple agreements in place with libraries and archives throughout the country to test the SuperSlurper under a variety of climatic conditions. It appears that the technology will be available soon and NAL is pleased to have been a part of this.

Discussion Topics

Results of Interagency Committee on Government Information (ICGI) Discussions

Dr. Warnick reported on the ICGI meeting he attended in the morning ( October 25, 2004). The meeting was chaired by Eliot Christian and was attended by Richard Huffine, Jim Erwin, and three contractors. Dr. Warnick had been invited to speak as a result of the comments from DOE on the draft recommendations. Dr. Warnick, speaking for DOE, believes that “we should be taking a different path” particularly with regard to metadata and searching. There are large sets of information that are inherently searchable, such as full text databases and text-based web pages. These don’t require metadata to the level anticipated by the committee. However, other types of information, such as images and videos, are not text searchable and will, for the time being, require text-based metadata in order to allow them to be accessed with the current search technologies.

There was a discussion of what “searchable identifier” means. The Committee decided what was meant was “persistent identifier” rather than “searchable” and they have based their work on this decision.

The view of the committee seems to be that they are defining a standard but not an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) course of action. They are not specifically factoring in the cost for an agency to be fully compliant. Dr. Warnick expressed the opinion that it may not be cost beneficial for all agencies to populate all metadata fields. A full-text search engine is part of the ICGI vision.

Dr. Warnick indicated that it is not likely that the group will fully endorse his point of view but there is not full agreement within the group itself.

The ICGI report will be released for comment by November 1, 2004. This is a period in which the agencies can make additional comments. The comment period ends on December 1 and the final draft from the subgroups is scheduled for December 6, 2004. Recommendations are due to OMB on December 17, 2004. The recommendation on E-Records is out for comment now and will have a limited timeline between the end of the comment period and the submission deadline.

Dr. Warnick offered to provide his comments, if requested. Mr. Erwin said that minutes may be prepared from the meeting.

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