If you bookmark only one government website, this should be it. Launched in September 2000 (originally as www.firstgov.gov), www.usa.gov is the official U.S. government "web portal" to the millions of pages of government information and services. The site allows you to search across every U.S. government web document and also contains a topical index and provides links to state and local governments.
Originally launched in 2002, Science.gov is a search engine for government science information and research results. Science.gov provides search of more than 50 million pages of science information with just one query, and is a gateway to over 1,800 scientific Web sites. Use science.gov to locate government information on topics such as science education, earth & ocean sciences and environmental quality.
Executive branch websites: agencies, funding and the federal register
The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance lists grant programs funded by the federal government. If you were interested in finding out what grants programs were available for water quality, you would select "Environmental Quality" from the list of topics and the site would return a list of agencies offering grants.
NOTE: You can not apply for federal assistance through this site. It is for the purposes of locating programs only.
Reading the Federal Register is a daily ritual for policy professionals because if an agency wants to implement a new law, change a regulation or announce a grant competition, the agency must publish a Federal Register notice. You can view the federal register online, as well as search for Federal Register notices by agency. For example, if you want to find out how to submit comments on EPA's nutrient criteria guidelines, you can search the Federal Register for the announcement.
If you are looking for Federal Register notices on a particular issue, you may find regulations.gov to be an easier website to use. You can find, view, and comment on regulations and other actions for all Federal agencies. Using regulations.gov, you can search by agency or keyword.
Index: catalog.gpo.gov/F: This link takes you directly to the index of databases operated by the Government Printing Office. If the government printed it, you should be able to find it here.
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: www.ostp.gov
The OSTP's mission, as stated in the authorizing legislation, is: "[To] serve as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government."
Legislative branch: tracking Congress and legislation
Through these official websites you can navigate your way to each member and committee's webpage. Many of the committees provide webcasts to hearings, so you can watch the action from your desk. Committee's also archive the transcripts and testimony from hearings, bill summaries and press releases. Member websites often provide copies of official communications from the office on particular issues, such as a letter to the White House regarding climate change or fisheries management.
Thomas is the official legislative information center and is probably the most widely used source of full text of legislation and the Congressional Record (the "transcripts" of Congress). If possible, always try to find the bill number before searching for the full text. At a minimum, know who has introduced or co-sponsored a bill. For example, if you want to look at the climate change bill everyone is talking about, but don't know who introduced it or the bill number, you'll find yourself looking at 42 bills! (If you need assistance pinning down a bill, contact the ASLO Policy Representative (email@example.com)).
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), part of the Library of Congress, prepares reports for the U.S. Congress. CRS products undergo review for accuracy and objectivity and contain non-technical information that can be very useful to people interested in environmental policy. CRS does not provide these documents to the general public. Although CRS documents are prepared specifically for Congress and not widely distributed, their distribution is not protected by law or copyright. The National Council for Science and the Environment maintains an online library of CRS reports, making them available and searchable for the public. To assist the novice policywonks, NCSE has organized CRS reports by topics such as "marine", "climate change", "water" and "wetlands". (Experts can search by title.)
Now defunct, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (1972-1995) provided Congressional members and committees with authoritative analysis of complex scientific and technical issues. It was a leader in practicing and encouraging delivery of public services in innovative and inexpensive ways, including distribution of government documents through electronic publishing. This site makes available in electronic form the complete collection of OTA publications.
Non-government Websites providing information on science policy
(focus: general science and policy information across all disciplines)
The objectives of the AAAS Science and Public Policy Directorate include: furthering the work of scientists, improving the effectiveness of science in the promotion of human welfare, and fostering scientific freedom and responsibility. The Directorate conducts its work through four units: the fellowship programs, the R&D Budget and Policy Program, the Center for Science, Technology and Congress, and the Research Competitiveness Program. Further information on each of these programs can be found at their website above.
(focus: earth science (geology))
The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 44 geo-scientific and professional associations that represent more than 120,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. The American Geological Institute has an active policy office in Washington, D.C. which has posted a wealth of science policy information, including background pieces and regular updates on status of legislation, on the Government Affairs section of their website.
(focus: earth (oceanography, hydrology) and space science)
American Geophysical Union is an international scientific society with more than 38,000 members in over 115 countries. For over 75 years, AGU researchers, teachers, and science administrators have dedicated themselves to advancing the understanding of Earth and its environment in space and making the results available to the public. AGU has an active policy office in D.C., which tracks, in addition to other things, oceans and hydrology policy issues. Their Science Policy website contains AGU position papers, policy updates and background information.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit organization representing both individuals and organizations with interest in the biological sciences. The combined individual membership of AIBS member societies exceeds 250,000. The AIBS Public Policy Office website contains biweekly public policy reports, a monthly "Washington Watch" column from the AIBS journal, Bioscience, Federal Register notices of interest to AIBS members, and information about the AIBS public policy program.
(focus: cross-cutting scientific issues)
The Council of Scientific Society Presidents is a Washington, DC based organization whose membership consists of presidents of scientific societies (including ASLO). One function of CSSP is to provide a united voice for scientific societies in Washington from the scientific leadership from over 60 professional scientific societies. Policy statements and further information on CSSP can be viewed on their website.
The Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) is an alliance of organizations united by a concern for every aspect of the biology of the natural world, from agricultural systems to zoology. BESC supports the goal of increasing the nation's investment in the non-medical biological sciences across all federal agencies including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Click on the links below for more information about Public Policy.