Issue Date: February 6, 2012
ACS Revamps Policy Statements
The American Chemical Society has issued its annual slate of official policy statements, which differ only slightly from those released over the past four years.
Most notably, the society has refined its U.S. business climate statement, which was drafted in 2010 to advocate for reforms to promote innovation, create jobs, and help U.S. firms better compete with international rivals.
ACS has also consolidated statements supporting science and technology funding for various federal agencies into one statement that better fits with the current constraints on the federal budget.
In addition, the society issued one new statement, retired one statement, and renewed seven other statements that were due to retire. The current statements, which have extendable three-year lifetimes, are available on the ACS website at www.acs.org/policy.
Changes in policy statements result from reviews of existing statements by ACS committees, whose recommendations are then subject to approval by the Board of Directors’ Public Affairs & Public Relations (PA&PR) Committee.
Representing the interests of the society’s more than 164,000 members, the position statements enable ACS staff and members “to speak on behalf of the society in an informed and detailed way as they communicate to policymakers in federal and state governments,” according to Ray Garant, assistant director of public policy in the ACS Office of Public Affairs (OPA).
Amid a lingering economic downturn, ACS has recently stepped up advocacy efforts in support of chemistry jobs, Garant says. This year, the minor amendments made to the U.S. business climate statement aim to align it with recommendations of the ACS Presidential Task Force on Innovation in the Chemical Enterprise, he says. The task force, organized by Joseph S. Francisco during his term as ACS president in 2010, presented its final report, “Innovation, Chemistry, and Jobs” at the ACS national meeting in Denver in August 2011 (C&EN, Sept. 5, 2011, page 14). In the modified business climate statement, more specific recommendations outlined in the task force report replace the previous patent and tax policy recommendations, Garant explains.
As amended, “the policy statement basically serves as a two-page summary of what’s in the longer task force report,” he adds. “It is now a useful tool for staff members and governance as they talk to policymakers on Capitol Hill and partner with other organizations such as the Council on Competitiveness and the Task Force on American Innovation, which support similar initiatives.”
In another move this year, ACS consolidated seven funding position statements released in 2010 into a single funding statement, says ACS Board Chair William F. Carroll Jr. With federal programs coming under intense pressure, ACS has moved away from drafting funding statements that set specific spending targets or spending growth rates for various agencies, he says. Those agencies, which promote science education, research, and development, are the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards & Technology, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Education.
“We all recognize that the funding-doubling track we were once on now seems obscure and not at all in sync with what is going on in the economy,” says Carroll, referring to previous congressional authorization to double the physical sciences budget in the same way that NIH’s budget had been doubled in the previous decade. “We’re now hoping for predictable, sustained funding in science and technology that leads to innovation. And we know that innovation leads to new jobs and better economic health in the U.S.,” he adds. “Given that the prior agency-specific funding statements were similar to one another in logic and justification, it makes sense to combine them to simplify and clarify our position.”
In addition to revising the business climate and funding statements, the society issued a new statement on charitable donations, which supports tax deductions for such donations and addresses some of the tax changes affecting not-for-profit organizations, Garant says. “Working with other like-minded groups, ACS continues to monitor public policies that impact the way we run as an organization.”
PA&PR has also retired the society’s patent reform statement, which supported comprehensive reform of the U.S. patent system. After passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011, which revises U.S. patent policy, “ACS will wait to see how new legislation is executed before making any new recommendations related to patent reform,” Garant says (C&EN, Oct. 10, 2011, page 36).
In another action, the statement on computer simulations in education has been renamed; it is now called the importance of hands-on laboratory activities statement. The change aims to better highlight ACS’s support of hands-on activities in the teaching of science, Garant says.
ACS has also replaced the retirement security statement, which lapsed in 2010. Drafted by the Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs in 2011, the revised statement pushes for policies that make individual retirement accounts more flexible by adjusting factors such as portability, Garant says.
The statements on scientific insight and integrity, freedom of international scientific exchange, visa restrictions, and the sustainability of the chemical enterprise received only minor updates, Garant says. And the statement on the teaching of evolution was extended for three more years.
With these newly updated policy statements in hand, ACS members are better prepared to participate in a number of growing programs to communicate ACS legislative policy recommendations to policymakers and the public, says Anthony Pitagno, OPA’s assistant director for advocacy. Members can get involved through the Act4chemistry network, a group of 16,000 members who have expressed an interest in ACS advocacy, and the society’s various local and state government affairs committees.
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