American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Update on House Science Committee Study of Science Policy (12-9-98)

Final Action
House Science Committee Vice-Chair and former physics professor Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) released a science policy report that was endorsed by the House of Representatives in October. Information on the final report is available on the AGI website.

On October 23, 1997, the House Science Committee held a roundtable discussion with 30 scientific community leaders. The purpose of the discussion was to determine what questions need to be addressed by a science policy study being undertaken by Science Committee Vice-Chair and former physics professor Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI). The year-long study has finally gotten underway after nearly a year of delay in obtaining funding for a staffer from the House Rules Committee. Mike Champness, who previously worked for Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), and Njema Frazier, who recently received her Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Michigan State University, have been named as the staffers. Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who tasked Ehlers with the study, has stated that he expects the effort to produce legislation on federal R&D sometime next summer.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) attended the roundtable and, according to Science magazine, challenged the gathered scientists to develop "a mission large enough to mobilize a nation...and then make it my problem to go out and figure out how to find the money."

Ehlers has already held several hearings on the state of science and math education as part of a separate effort he is spearheading on that issue. He will hold additional hearings on science policy after the winter recess.

In an editorial in the January 16, 1998 edition of Science, Ehlers wrote, "The federal government cannot fund every worthwhile scientific project; thus, a policy for determining priorities is essential....This policy must be comprehensive enough to encompass government, universities and industry, and their relationships to science, technology, and engineering, and to each other."

In Science, Ehlers encouraged members of the scientific community to share their thoughts about the future of science and technology policy. Although feedback on all aspects of science policy is encouraged, seven questions have been provided to help focus comments. The questions are:

1. On what broad national goals should federal science policy be based?

2.(a) What is the government's role in supporting basic and applied research?
(b) How can the government best encourage an effective level of industry investment in pre-competitive research?

3. How can the nation enhance and make the most effective use of government/university/industry research partnerships?

4. What is the most effective role for the states in supporting university research, and how can the federal government best support that role?

5. (a) Given the increasingly international nature of science, how can the nation best benefit from and contribute to international cooperation in research?
(b) What types of multilateral science agreements are needed to facilitate international collaboration?

6. How can the federal government best help meet national needs for science and math education at all levels?

7. How can the nation most effectively leverage federally funded R & D in the face of increasingly constrained resources?

Please keep your responses concise, preferably several pages or less. Answers can either be submitted by mail to the Science Policy Study, Attn: Mike Champness; House Committee on Science; 2320 Rayburn House Office Building; Washington DC 20515 or by email to .Please visit the Science Policy Study website for more information.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey White, AGI Government Affairs.

Last updated January 29, 1998; Revised December 9, 1998

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