NAS and NSTA Deny Copyright Permission for Kansas Standards

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UPDATE: 10-28-05: The Kansas BOE issued a news release later yesterday saying that they were immediately addressing the copyright issue, and that they still intended to have the science standards on the November agenda. I have posted the news release in Comment 3 below. End update

From the National Academy of Sciences today:

Kansas Denied Use of National Science Education Standards National Science Education Standards.

October 26 – The National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association have refused to grant copyright permission to the Kansas State Board of Education to make use of publications by the two organizations in the state’s science education standards. According to a statement from the two groups, the new Kansas standards are improved, but as currently written, they overemphasize controversy in the theory of evolution and distort the definition of science.

These two organizations issued a joint statement, sent letters to the state BOE officially notifying them of this refusal to grant copyright permission, and released a lengthy response to those parts of the Kansas standards to which they object. All three of these documents can be downloaded from the NAS News Today webpage. These are strong and well-written statements, and, as a member of the writing committee, I appreciate this support from these national organizations very much .

Here are some excerpts, and a few comments.

From the joint letter:

While there is much in the Kansas Science Education Standards that is outstanding and could serve as a model for other states, our primary concern is that the draft KSES inappropriately singles out evolution as a controversial theory despite the strength of the scientific evidence supporting evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth and its acceptance by an overwhelming majority of scientists. The use of the word controversial to suggest that there are flaws in evolution is confusing to students and the public and is entirely misleading. … In addition, the members of the Kansas State Board of Education who produced Draft 2-d of the KSES have deleted text defining science as a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena, blurring the line between scientific and other ways of understanding. Emphasizing controversy in the theory of evolution – when in fact all modern theories of science are continually tested and verified – and distorting the definition of science are inconsistent with our Standards and a disservice to the students of Kansas. Regretfully, many of the statements made in the KSES related to the nature of science and evolution also violate the document’s mission and vision. Kansas students will not be well-prepared for the rigors of higher education or the demands of an increasingly complex and technologically-driven world if their science education is based on these standards. Instead, they will put the students of Kansas at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world. …

For these reasons and others that we detail in our individual responses, we must again dissociate our organizations and our publications from version 2-d of the KSES by denying copyright permission to the Kansas State Board of Education. Ralph J. Cicerone, Ph.D. President, National Academy of Sciences, and Chair, National Research Council Michael J. Padilla, Ph.D. President, National Science Teachers Association

Now what are some of the practical considerations of this?

1. It will take a lot of time for someone to make changes to all the copyrighted material. We estimate that there is copyrighted material on almost every page of the 100+ page document. These changes will need to be made by someone who understands the science well enough to rewrite the material so that it clearly retains its meaning and content. In addition, the changes needs to be sufficiently different enough to satisfy the copyright restrictions, which will probably require lawyers talking to lawyers. Given that much of the copyrighted material is well-written, such a wholesale revision of the language will most likely result in an even more inferior product.

Therefore, this will delay when the standards will be adopted. We have been expecting the Board to consider the standards for adoption at their monthly meeting on November 8 or 9, but the this may now be as late as the early part of next year.

2. This delay will have educational and political consequences. Any revisions in state tests based on the standards are now delayed until the 2006-2007 school year at the earliest. School districts are in a sort of “lame-duck” limbo with the old standards (which are quite good themselves), but no solid idea of when new standards will become effective.

Politically, this issue will be one of several main issues in next year’s elections for the BOE. Four of the six conservative Board members are up for re-election, and almost certainly all will have a pro-science challenger in the Republican primary. That means that we may know by next August if the Board will have a pro-science majority at the start of 2007: if so, we can be sure that the bad science standards will promptly be replaced and therefore will never really become effectively in place.

Of course, if the conservatives retain the majority (or even lose a seat to create a split 5-5 Board), we will be stuck with the bad standards for at least two more years (and probably with a court case over the issue.)

3. In 1999, the same major science organizations also refused copyright permission, but in 1999 this was after the Board adopted the creationists standards. This time the NAS and NSTA have been pro-active, serving notice of the copyright denial before the Board vote. This means that if the Board would choose to ignore them and pass the standards as they are now, NAS and NSTA would probably have recourse to some type of restraining injunction. (Disclaimer: I’m no lawyer.) In addition, if the Board changes some copyrighted material, but does not do so thoroughly, they will hear about it: I am sure both NAS and NSTA and our leadership on the writing committee are quite familiar with the full extent of the copyrighted material as it is scattered throughout the document.

4. In addition to denying copyright permission, the NAS and NSTA have written a critique of most of the material inserted by the creationist Board (material based almost exclusively on the “Minority Report” written by the Intelligent Design network’s John Calvert and the creationists / IDists on the writing committee.) This Review of the Kansas Science Standards is a valuable document by itself, systematically discussing why the additions of the creationists are bad science and don’t belong in the standards.

So thanks again to NAS and NSTA. My impression is that increased publicity about the activities of Intelligent Design/creationist movement during the last six months or so has raised the level of concern among the major science organizations. This is a much needed development, I think. They have resources and prestige that we grass-roots activists don’t have, so their support is most welcome.

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Protecting the meaning from Adventures in Ethics and Science on October 30, 2005 12:13 AM

Hat tip to Jack Krebs at Panda's Thumb, whose post brought this matter to my attention. Read More


Jack Krebs reports: School districts are in a sort of “lame-duck” limbo with the old standards (which are quite good themselves)

For once walking and talking like a duck is a good thing, at least for now.

There will of course be complaints of undue outside pressure on local school districts.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

So the NAS and NSTA are playing hardball and making the Kansas Kreationist Kooks’ lives even more difficult.

It’s about time.  Perhaps some well-placed letters or editorials talking about the collosal waste of money would help get fiscal conservatives who don’t necessarily care about science are to vote against the wingnuts.

Press release from the Kansas BOE:

October 27, 2005 For immediate release

Contact: Valerie Jennings (913) 220-7694

KSDE Revises Science Standard Language to Accommodate National Academy of Sciences

Copyright is said to be a concern

TOPEKA — With less than a month before the Kansas Board of Education votes on the state’s science standards, a representative from National Academy of Sciences contacted KSDE late Wednesday afternoon, stating that they would not grant the State Board the right to use material in the proposed Kansas science curricular standards due to copyright issues.

State Board of Education Chairman Steve Abrams said he was disappointed by the decision from the National Academy of Sciences, but still believed the changes made to the proposed standards are in the best interests of Kansas students.

“Knowledge never expands without questioning and to the extent that we limit the exposure of our students to legitimate controversies in science or any other subject, we have done them a disservice,” Abrams said. “It is unfortunate that we will now have to dedicate additional time and effort to revising portions of the standards to avoid copyright infringement, but I respect the opinions of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, even if I cannot agree with them.”

A 26-member committee of science educators and other professionals from the field of science has been working for more than a year on revising the state’s science curricular standards.

In denying copyright permission for the proposed Kansas science curricular standards, Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences and chairman of the National Research Council, cited both the treatment of evolution in the proposed Kansas standards as well as the definition of science used in the standards. The scope of copyright protection asserted by the Academy, however, extends to mutually agreed upon terminology for science topics that range well beyond these limited issues.

KSDE staff began immediately the process of determining how much of the proposed standards will be affected by the loss of the copyright permission. The State Board is scheduled to address the science standards again at its regular meeting Nov. 8 in Topeka. The decision by the National Academy of Sciences is not expected to delay the Board’s vote on the standards at that time.

What they fail to point out is that the standards written by the 26-member committee are the not the problem, but rather the additions made by the Board itself. The committee has voted to have our names removed from the document - this is their baby, not ours.

I’m impressed that NAS and NSTA are making sure that the information they have put out is not twisted or misused. It would add tremendously to workload and all, but I would really enjoy a world in which scientists loudly and publicly called shenanigans every time some quote-miner made it look like the science was saying something it was not.

So the NAS and NSTA are playing hardball…

I think this is a misreading of the real situation. The NAS and NSTA have every reason to ensure their names and good reputations are not abused by being co-opted into anti-evolution schemes, which is what the new Kansas standards are.

This is not hardball, this is simply good practice.

Dr. Free-Ride (I sure would like to know what THAT means!) said it succinctly:

…NAS and NSTA are making sure that the information they have put out is not twisted or misused.

is it likely that the NAS and NSTA will apply this type of enforcement in other states in the future? i’m all for it, but it’s not clear to me if kansas is a special case (ie ‘twisting’ and ‘misusing’ have not been a problem til now), if the NAS has made a decision to crack down (as it were) from here on out, or if this is in fact a common event and i’m mis- or underinformed (this being the most likely expl). what’s the history on the NAS and NSTA re this?

Actually, the Kansas BOE itself has had a consistent history of attempting to insert creationism friendly language and of twisting scientific information for this goal. In 1999, the KS BOE did the exact same thing and the NAS and NSTA used the same tactic. There is nothing new going on here. It is the same battle that has been raging in Kansas now for six years. In 2000, the conservative radical Taliban Kansas school board was unseated in the election and the standards adopted by the ensuing board brought Kansas back into the 20th century again. The 2004 election brought back the radical conservatives and the fight began anew.

To dre: Actually, Kansas is the first state where large parts of the content area of state standards have been changed by creationists. Other situations have been local Board policies (Dover, Cobb County, Darby) or the inclusion of just a few statements at most in state standards (Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico.) Kansas is the biggest victory at the state level, by far, for the creationists, and therefore the most important and likely place for the science organization to want to protect their copyright interests.

Skip Wrote:

This is not hardball, this is simply good practice.

Good practice always involves playing hardball.

Shame it’s not possible to deny them the other benefits of science viz: modern medicine, transportation; TV and firearms - their voters might at least sit up and take notice. At least the Taliban are intellectually rigorous enough to be consistent in this (except perhaps when it comes to firearms).

I’m very unhappy about this. The Kansas BOE is out of hand, but it’s because of bad science. Using copyright to fight this is a terrible tactic, and a terrible precedent. We should be shooting down the Kansas science standards because they are wrong, not because they violate some arbitrary right.

Cory Doctorow said it better than I can:[…]dnt_use.html

We are fighting the Kansas science standards because they are wrong - because they are bad science. We - various people in various ways, are also fighting them because they represent an abuse of political power, because they are an attack on the public school system, and because they are a disguise for a narrow sectarian theology that rejects the beliefs of millions of religious people.

It seems reasonable to me that one of the many ways to fight all this is for the NAS and the NSTA to deny the state BOE the right to use their (the NAS et al) copyrighted language, which stand as part of a comprehensive whole supporting good science. If the state Board wants a set of standards that subverts good science, then let them write their own words.

This is just one tactic, and merely a delaying one at that, but it is also the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint. The NAS et al have a legal and ethical claim on their creative product, and therefore the right to protect their interests and reputation.

P.S, and FWIW, there are also quite a few words of mine in that document - words that I and others spent hours over the last year working on writing to bring clarity and specificity to the standards. I have no copyright claim, of course, but I am one of the many committee members who voted to remove our names from the document as well. The Board gets the product of my work if they want, but I, like the NAS, don’t want my name associated with their product as it now stands.

It’s a dangerous tactic to use, and I don’t think it’s the right thing to do from an ehtical standpoint.

What happens when the next Pons and Fleishman use intellectual property arguments (either patents, or copyrights for “derivative” experiments) to prevent others from performing experiments that would confirm or deny their results?

What happens when the family of Tycho prevents Kepler from using his data to figure out Kepler’s laws?

Once something scientific is published, it should be out there for the entire community to use. It should stand or fall based on further confirming evidence, not on the exercise of exclusive rights. When we move toward using exclusive rights to fight for science, then we’re using the “argument from authority” tactic that we so like to decry.

Science isn’t like writing a novel. Sure, there’s a creative product, but the important thing is the knowledge about the natural world– that objective reality that we go on about. Science prospers when ideas can be exchanged and built upon. Science thrives when more is learned, when knowledge is more widely spread. Science suffers when knowledge fails to spread. We should stick to that.

Evolution stands because it’s extremely well confirmed. That is the basis for why it should be in science standards. Once we start trying to use exclusive rights to promote good science, we weaken our position when people will use exlusive rights to try to promote anit-science or to hamper science.

Indeed, if I didn’t know as much about science and evolution as I did, I might take this move as an admission by the science organizations that evolution can’t stand on its own– if they have to resort to exclusive rights in order to protect science, the perhaps it can’t be defended on the basis of its own merits as they say, yes? Well, obviously that’s not true, but to an “outside” observer (of which there are too many, because science education simply doesn’t seem to “take” on people in this country) it might look that way. This is another reason why I don’t think using exclusive rights is a good tactic in this battle.


Hi Rob. I think I understand what you are saying, but I think you are confusing two points.

The science itself is not copyrighteable, and I agree with you that it should be as freely available as possible.

But what NAS has copyrighted is an educational document in which they have distilled and organized key concepts from that science into a framework appropriate for a K-12 science curriculum. This written work is their intellectual property - not the science which it summarizes, and it is this document whose integrity they are preserving.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 60, byte 60 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/mach/5.18/XML/ line 187.

It is very proper and ethical they ( NAS and NSTA) rescind copyright on their hard work to keep it from being used in a manner inconsistent with their standards and beliefs.

As a layman, I read their initial letter as “the KBOE is using our materials in a manner inconsistent with our standards and taking it out of context. We disallow that. Therefore they can’t use any of our work.”

I applaud the stand they (NAS and NSTA) have taken.

Beleifs is the wrong word. There is no edit function It’s “standards and mission statement”.

I think Cory Doctorow misunderstood what was going on. Nobody’s trying to withold the science. I support what the NAS and NSTA are doing. The Kansas board wants to benefit from those organizations’ work, while deforming the work to undermine the organizations. I would also revoke copyright.

Denying permission to use copyrighted educational materials on evolutionary theory inspired another idea: Many of the latest pharmaceuticals (for example Gleevec, used to treat Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia) are being designed using structural genomic analysis of the proteins that they act upon. These methods rely heavily on evolutionary comparisons of common ancestral protein sequences (ie. orthology). Perhaps the intelligent ID community should be made aware that drugs developed using evolutionary principals are saving and improving (their) lives. If they won’t accept these facts, they should reject these treatments. Perhaps the Intelligent Designer will heal them.

Yeah, that’s not going to get anywhere Peter. If they could be persuaded by the evidence, they wouldn’t be creationists in the first place. I hereby reproduce for you a recent letter to the local paper. Decide for yourself if this person is capable of reason:

Published: Oct 21, 2005 Modified: Oct 21, 2005 8:12 AM Merely mutation

Regarding the Oct. 20 People’s Forum letter captioned “Flu’s evolution”:

Intelligent Design recognizes that God allowed for changes within a species over time – that’s why we have so many varieties of dogs, orchids and finches. However, ID does not agree that one species can, given enough time, change into another species altogether.

Students of ID, even if never taught evolutionary theory, would certainly understand changes in a species, which the letter-writer called evolution. This process is actually called mutation. Evolution is defined by Webster as “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state” and “a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other pre-existing types.”

And since a virus can’t reproduce without a host cell, it’s not really capable of the type of change the letter-writer mentions. A virus is designed to latch onto the cell wall of a host species, then use that cell’s material to produce more copies of the virus, destroying the host. When a virus changes, it doesn’t increase in complexity but merely changes its ability to withstand host defenses. That may require only a slight change of the protein coat, a minor mutation.

ID supporters are not suggesting we throw out Darwin’s theories – only that they be presented as the theories they are, not as fact. There is no need for the scientific community to be threatened by this evolution in education.

Jennifer Y. Baker


Considering the content of the Wedge Document, I would say that the writer of that letter either has a problem understanding the simple meaning of English words, or, if she DOES understand them, she has a problem with telling the truth about their meanings.

ID, as the leading edge of the “Wedge” is nothing more, or less, than an outright attack on the scientific method. If they can knock out evolution, I would guess that either research into abiogenesis or teaching the Big Bang would be their next target. The eventual goal is to create a world in which “Answers in Genesis” can be treated as a legitimate source for scientific scholarship.

Since creationists are claiming that God (translation for quoteminers-: “ID’ers”/”Person unknown); has copyright on,well…,everything;(and they own the patentbook: couldn’t the IDiots at least threaten to withdraw copyright on ‘Pandas’ in retaliation? - thus depriving the world of Prof Steve Fuller’s “affirmative action for fringe ideas” program???

“Would you miss it? “Really???” (from Austin Powers II)

-isn’t the problam with the Jennifer Y. Baker letter is that to a lay person it may seem quite plausible and the conclusion eminently reasonable. We might be able see the flaws in logic and fact, - but how would you put together a snappy reponse to this letter? - and who even bothers? Any offers?

Since creationists are claiming that God (translation for quoteminers-: “ID’ers”/”Person unknown); has copyright on,well…,everything;(and they own the patentbook: couldn’t the IDiots at least threaten to withdraw copyright on ‘Pandas’ in retaliation? - thus depriving the world of Prof Steve Fuller’s “affirmative action for fringe ideas” program???

Wouldn’t the copyright on ‘everything’ have run out and returned to the public on, oh…

October 23, 3934 B.C. around 9ish in the morning?

Or would it have been 70 years after 30ish A.D.?

Since creationists are claiming that God (translation for quoteminers-: “ID’ers”/”Person unknown); has copyright on,well…,everything;(and they own the patentbook: couldn’t the IDiots at least threaten to withdraw copyright on ‘Pandas’ in retaliation? - thus depriving the world of Prof Steve Fuller’s “affirmative action for fringe ideas” program???

Wouldn’t the copyright on ‘everything’ have run out and returned to the public on, oh…

October 23, 3934 B.C. around 9ish in the morning?

Or would it have been 70 years after 30ish A.D.?

God is public domain. It can’t have a copyright

“God is public domain” - unfortunately true.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Krebs published on October 27, 2005 10:38 PM.

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