Issue Date: February 18, 2013
ACS Updates Policy Statements
The American Chemical Society has significantly revised its energy policy statement to provide lawmakers with a clearer framework for developing a comprehensive energy science and technology policy.
The energy statement is one of seven policy statements that were renewed for 2013. Two other statements—one on science and technology funding and another on innovation and entrepreneurship—received minor revisions.
ACS’s issue-specific policy statements serve to inform its members, the general public, and policymakers about the society’s Public Policy Priorities. The statements also promote federal legislation that supports these policies, says Glenn S. Ruskin, director of the ACS Office of Public Affairs (OPA).
Various ACS committees, representing the society’s more than 163,000 members, draft the policy statements, and the Board of Directors’ Public Affairs & Public Relations (PA&PR) Committee reviews and approves any requests for renewal or revision; PA&PR can also retire statements and add new statements. Each statement is active for three years before it’s up for renewal.
The statements form the backbone of ACS’s Public Policy Priorities, which set the society’s policy directions and focus on the following four areas: fostering innovation through research and technology, strengthening science education and the scientific workforce, advancing science through openness, and promoting science and sustainability in public policy. Every two years, the ACS Board of Directors adopts a new Public Policy Priorities document.
Last December, the board agreed with the current direction and messages of ACS’s advocacy program and made only small modifications in establishing a priorities document for 2013–14.
Of the seven policy statements that PA&PR renewed this year, the energy policy received the most significant modification. The previous version gave legislators a broad call to action to develop a comprehensive energy science and technology policy. The revised statement offers policymakers specific recommendations on legislative actions they could take in four sectors of the U.S.’s energy system: transportation, power generation, manufacturing/industrial, and residential/commercial. For example, the statement urges policymakers to expand research on biofuels.
“We’re trying to explain where the science and technology is in each of these sectors and provide recommendations on how the government might move forward effectively,” says Ray Garant, OPA assistant director for public policy. “If you’re going to design a comprehensive national energy strategy, these are the key components that you really need to look at.’”
The science and technology funding statement also received a revision, although a minor one. In 2012, ACS modified the statement to support predictable and sustained investments in the funding of scientific research and education rather than pushing for a doubling of the research budget as in previous years.
“We’re facing an uncertain budget future in this country,” Ruskin says. “While we realize that it might not be possible to have a doubling track, we need to ensure that support will remain predictable and sustained” so that research efforts can continue without disruption.
In this latest revision, ACS raises its funding recommendations for specific agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, to more closely align with President Barack Obama’s proposed increase of science funding as part of a long-term innovation and jobs agenda.
The minor revision to the innovation and entrepreneurship statement brought it up-to-date with related policy statements—such as the U.S. business climate statement—that had undergone a major revision in 2012.
The other four policy statements that PA&PR acted on—health care, endocrine disruption, inherently safer technologies, and regulation of laboratory waste—were renewed for another three years without any policy changes.
ACS’s policy statements have had an impact, making their way into federal legislation, Garant says.
Ruskin encourages ACS members to get involved in effecting change by familiarizing themselves with the policy statements. “These statements are our license to engage with policymakers,” he says.
What’s more, members “can get involved not only in delivering the message but in developing the message,” says Garant. “They should make their expertise and interests available in recommending subjects that our committee should be working on, and they should attend open meetings of the committees that are working on the subjects they’re interested in.”
ACS has numerous channels to deliver the messages in ACS’s policy statements to policymakers, from the Act4Chemistry network, to congressional visits, to local section and state government affairs committees. Members can use the policy statements as talking points when meeting with their congressional representatives.
“A lot of people are concerned that one person’s voice can’t make a difference in Washington, D.C.,” says Garant. “By working with the society, they can multiply their impact with the voices of all 163,000 of our members to have a greater influence in the public policy world.”
The current policy statements are available on the ACS website at www.acs.org/policy.
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