NASA: Earth and space sciences at risk

06/06/05

AGU issues position statement

WASHINGTON - On 27 May 2005, the AGU Council adopted the position statement, "NASA: Earth and Space Sciences at Risk." The statement describes the impact of NASA's strategic plan, "A New Age of Exploration: NASA's Direction for 2005 and Beyond," on Earth and space science research at the agency. The cuts proposed to science programs at NASA in the Administration's Fiscal Year 2006 budget will severely affect our ability to understand natural hazards, map changes in Earth's surface, forecast space weather, understand Earth-Sun connections, and explore the solar system.

Following is the full text of the AGU statement, which is also available at http://www.agu.org/sci_pol/policy/positions/earthspace_risk.shtml

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    NASA: Earth and Space Sciences at Risk
    Adopted by Council May 2005

    AGU calls for the U.S. Administration, Congress, and NASA to continue their commitment to innovative Earth and space science programs. This commitment has placed the U.S. in an international leadership position. It enables environmental stewardship, promotes economic vitality, engages the next generation of scientists and engineers, protects life and property, and fosters exploration. It is, however, threatened by new financial demands placed on NASA by the return to human space flight using the space shuttle, finishing the space station, and launching the Moon-Mars initiative.

    For over a quarter century, NASA and its international partners have pioneered extraordinary scientific advances in understanding the Earth, the solar system, and the universe. NASA's science programs and observations from space have greatly expanded our knowledge of the chemistry, biology, and physics of the ocean, the land, and the atmosphere. Scientific exploration by NASA has transformed our understanding of the universe.

    There are indications that Earth and space sciences have become a lower priority at NASA. NASA's proposed 2006 budget reduces science research by $1.2 billion over the next five years, a dramatic change. These cuts are almost equally distributed between the Earth and space sciences. They will decimate effective programs designed to promote innovation, research and development, and frequent, flexible access to space. For example, several inexpensive Earth System Pathfinder missions and Explorer class satellites for the space sciences have been eliminated or subjected to prolonged delays. These losses will degrade our weather forecasting, search and rescue, and life and property protection capabilities. They affect our ability to understand natural hazards, map changes in Earth's surface, forecast space weather, understand Earth-Sun connections, and explore the solar system.

    NASA is being asked to do more than it can with the resources provided. Shifting financial resources from science threatens vital investments and capabilities that have taken decades and tens of billions of tax dollars to build. AGU believes that the nation must capitalize on the extraordinary scientific advances of the last few decades and asks the U.S. Administration, Congress, and NASA to renew their commitment to Earth and space science research.

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About AGU

For over three quarters of a century, AGU has supplied an organizational framework within which geophysicists have created the programs and products needed to advance their science. From its beginnings as the representative of American geophysicists in the international scientific community, AGU has evolved beyond parochial boundaries of nation and discipline into an active community of over 43,000 scientists from 130 countries. AGU now stands as a leader in the increasingly interdisciplinary global endeavor that encompasses the Earth and space sciences.

AGU, a nonprofit scientific organization, was established in 1919 by the National Research Council and for more than 50 years operated as an unincorporated affiliate of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1972 AGU was incorporated in the District of Columbia and membership was opened to scientists and students worldwide.

AGU's mission is:

  • to promote the scientific study of Earth and its environment in space and to disseminate the results to the public,
  • to promote cooperation among scientific organizations involved in geophysics and related disciplines,
  • to initiate and participate in geophysical research programs,
  • to advance the various geophysical disciplines through scientific discussion, publication, and dissemination of information.

    For further information: http://www.agu.org

      Policy on AGU's Role in Advocacy on Public Issues
      Adopted by Council May 1982

      The American Geophysical Union is an association of scientists, scholars, and interested lay public for the purpose of advancing geophysical science. The Union shares a collateral sense of responsibility to assure that the results of geophysical research are made available to benefit all mankind. The Union encourages its members to exercise their individual sense of responsibility in addressing political and social issues. Should they choose to act collectively on such issues, other organizations exist for such purposes. The American Geophysical Union, as a society, should preserve its unique position as an objective source of analysis and commentary for the full spectrum of geophysical science. Accordingly, the following policies should guide the AGU's role as an advocate.

    • The American Geophysical Union has a responsibility to its members to adopt a position of advocacy on geophysical science issues based on their intrinsic merits and needs.

    • To the extent that the understanding and application of geophysical science is relevant to public policy, AGU as a responsible scientific association should make relevant information available to all parties interested in the issue.

    • As a scientific society, AGU should not take or advocate public positions on judgmental issues that extend beyond the range of available geophysical data or recognized norms of legitimate scientific debate. Public positions adopted by AGU and statements issued on its behalf must be based on sound scientific issues and should reflect the interests of the Union as a whole.

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    Procedures for Developing Union Positions
    Adopted by Council May 1982
    Most Recently Revised May 1998

    Position statements will be restricted to those issues that fall within the guidelines above which have been approved by the Council. Proposals for position statements can originate from any member or from any Union or Section committee.

    Requests for position statements are referred immediately to the Committee on Public Affairs (COPA).

    If a request seems to fall within Union guidelines, COPA will recommend that the President of the Union appoint an independent panel charged with drafting a statement. The panel will include at least one member of COPA, the originator of the request, and one Council member.

    The Council and the membership will be informed that the panel is working on the issue and that comments are welcome.

    The panel will prepare a statement for circulation to the Council of the Union, with an information copy to COPA.

    Members of the Council (or Executive Committee when timeliness is critical) will be asked to vote or to comment on the proposed statement. This vote is to be taken at regularly scheduled meetings except where timeliness is critical. Concurrence of two-thirds is required for adoption.

    All adopted position statements will be published in Eos as soon as possible.

    Once a statement has been approved, the Committee on Public Affairs will endeavor to apply its expertise to making advocacy of its contents as effective as possible.

    Public policy statements have a lifetime of no more than four years but can be reaffirmed and thereby extended for an additional four years. Individual statements may be adopted with an earlier expiration date. Additionally, a new statement may be adopted that supersedes and therefore replaces one or more previous statements. The Council may also withdraw a statement at any time by a simple majority vote.

    Source: Eurekalert & others

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