Issue Date: March 10, 2014
ACS Amends Policy Positions
The American Chemical Society has issued two new official policy statements that call for increasing federal support of forensic science reform and enhancing the scientific peer review process at federal agencies.
In addition, the society has updated its existing policy statements on science education and on chemical risk assessment and regulatory decision making to reflect new knowledge and to incorporate recent developments in those areas.
Four other existing statements—on biomonitoring, employment nondiscrimination, climate change, and ensuring access to high-quality science—have been renewed without revision.
Representing the interest of ACS’s more than 161,000 members, the public policy statements serve to inform members, the general public, and policymakers on issues of interest to the society. They also offer recommendations to help promote federal legislation that is aligned with these policies.
“Policy statements provide the foundation for all our advocacy efforts,” says Glenn S. Ruskin, director of the ACS Office of Public Affairs (OPA). “To be effective, they need to be up-to-date and reflect the latest developments taking place on the federal level as well as in states where we have members actively engaged.”
ACS currently has 24 public policy statements, grouped into four broad areas that make up ACS’s Public Policy Priorities (www.acs.org/policy). These priorities include 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.
Each policy statement is drafted by an ACS governance committee or a division, with input from ACS members, and then presented to the board of directors’ Public Affairs & Public Relations (PA&PR) Committee for review. In addition to approving statements, PA&PR can also renew, revise, or retire a statement. Each statement is active for three years before it’s up for review.
ACS’s new policy statement on forensic science is an effort to recognize a growing need for reforms in forensic science, an area in which chemists can play a significant role. “Certainly, our bringing the more than 161,000 members of ACS to the community that’s working on reforming forensic science helps to add momentum and credibility to the effort,” says Ray Garant, OPA assistant director for public policy.
Among ACS’s recommendations: strengthen scientific rigor within the forensics culture, improve the accuracy of forensic analytical methods, and monitor and ensure the quality of forensic science education and practice.
The recommendations are largely based on the 2009 National Academies report “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward,” which highlights the problems of the forensic science community.
ACS has also issued a new statement on peer review at federal agencies. It supports scientific peer review processes that evaluate research proposals based on both intellectual merit and broader impacts, that provide reviewers with freedom from interference in their scientific merit assessments, and that draw on the collective expertise of the scientific community.
“The definition of what good science is is an open area of dialogue in Congress right now, and the society really wanted its thoughts represented as to what are the definitions of good science that should be used by policymakers when they’re writing policy for science,” Garant says.
Of the six policy statements that PA&PR renewed this year, the statement on chemical risk assessment and regulatory decision making (formerly titled “Chemicals Management and Regulation”) received the most significant overhaul.
“It’s been six years since this statement had a serious rewrite, and since then, questions about chemicals testing without the use of animals or with much more limited use of animals have really increased,” Garant says.
The new statement tries to be “responsive to the changing trends in the chemical regulatory space, with particular attention to chemicals testing and the way that information about chemicals makes its way into the regulatory decision-making process,” Garant notes.
The policy statement on science education was also updated to take into account new national standards that have come out since 2010, when the statement was last renewed. These include the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards.
“We went from being generically in favor of standards to being on the record about these particular standards,” says Garant. “Before, we were saying, ‘People should adopt standards.’ Now, we’re saying, ‘You should adopt the Next Generation Science Standards and the science aspects of the common core.’ ”
ACS committees are continuing to review and update the policy statements as needed. Meanwhile, Ruskin says he hopes the current statements will serve “as policy education materials that provide background on important issues, and ultimately as road maps leading to enactment of public policy that reflects sound and credible scientific input.”
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