Summary of Hearings on Innovation and
Representative Rush Holt (D - NJ)
Dr. Peter Blair, Executive Director, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Catherine Hunt, President-elect, American Chemical Society
Dr. Jon Peha, Professor, Departments of Engineering and Public Policy and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Al Teich, Director, Science and Policy Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science
At the behest of Congressman Rush Holt (D - NJ) and Committee Chairman Sherman Boehlert (R - NY), the House Science Committee convened to discuss the adequacy and shortfalls of the system by which congressional members receive pertinent information about the scientific and technological aspects of current issues. Between 1972 and 1995, Congress funded the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), an in-house body of experts, to prepare reports on science and technology issues at the request of Congress. Opinions differ as to the extent to which the OTA was a useful endeavor: many members, including Chairman Boehlert and Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D - TN) cite its independence from special interests and dedication to the policy needs of Congress as factors that have proven irreplaceable in the past eleven years. Other members, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R - CA) in particular, recall disappointment with the amount of time it took for reports to be compiled and, as Representative Vernon J. Ehlers (R - MI) recalls, a suspicion amongst Republicans that the organization was used primarily to benefit Democrats. The question therefore posed to the panel was whether or not a similar organization is needed to inform Congress today and what are the pros and cons of various options for meeting that need, ranging from recreating the OTA to vesting an existing agency, such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO), with funding and a program mandate to accomplish the same task.
Chairman Boehlert encouraged the committee to get beyond the debate about re-inventing the OTA. Though some scientists "make it sound like OTA was all that stood between Congress and barbarism," the fact is that a majority in Congress does not support funding a revival of the program. In discussing the role that the committee thought a new organization might play, it must be remembered that not all members will make the same policy decisions based on the same information: it should not be the duty of scientific advisors to mandate policy, but rather to analyze the impacts of a variety of policy options to inform the decisions made by members. In a thinly-veiled criticism of Representative Joe Barton (R - TX) and the actions of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which Barton chairs, Chairman Boehlert also mentioned the "willful ignorance" displayed by some members, and cited Barton's attempts to obnubilate the findings of a recent National Academies report on climate change. Ranking member Gordon added that very few members outside of the House Science Committee have any formal training in science or engineering, and thus receive most of their information from interest groups.
Representative Holt urged members to honestly admit to themselves that even those with science training could not possibly become experts on every scientific or technical issue on which they must vote. Although there are a number of institutions willing and able to provide various kinds of information in an unbiased fashion, they generally lack the legislative focus that a dedicated, in-house, permanently-staffed organization could provide.
In response to Representative Rohrabacher's persistent complaints that the OTA had failed to deliver information in a timely fashion and, as a bureaucracy, must be inherently inefficient, Reps. Holt, Boehlert and Gordon pointed out that the program was dramatically under-funded and over-tasked. Their reports were, however, excellent and of pointed relevance. Many of the reports they issued continue to be the standard used by Congress today.
The second panel agreed on a general set of attributes that a science advisory organization must possess to be most useful to Congress. It must be credible, not only to members but to the science community and industry. This would require a combination of knowledgeable permanent staff and the ability to pull in outside experts to address specific topics in their areas of expertise, a model based on the National Academies. The organization must be impartial and non-partisan. To achieve widespread confidence in the organization's impartiality, there must be bipartisan, bicameral oversight and a process for outside review. The organization must be able to release responsive, timely information such that members may debate and vote on issues with the full benefit of the program's scientific assessment. This assessment should include analyses of policy alternatives, but not specific conclusions or recommendations. One attribute that the panel and Representative Al Green (D - TX) focused on was independence: employees of the organization must not fear retribution for releasing unpopular or politically inconvenient assessments. Panelists suggested that employment and funding decisions should be made on a long-term basis, such that the program would not be subjected to annual appropriations battles and the potential for retribution.
Representative Gordon outlined three basic courses of action that Congress could take to create an in-house science advisory board: 1. Re-fund OTA. In 1995, funding was cut off for OTA, effectively shutting it down. The program, however, is still authorized and therefore re-funding would be the easiest legislative option; 2. Create a new OTA-type organization with a new name and mission statement, or 3. Add a new program to an existing organization such as the GAO. Gordon asked the panel to provide pros and cons for these options and recommend which course to take. The panel avoided making specific recommendations, but seemed to favor the idea of refunding the OTA while addressing the issues that had originally caused it to be cut.
Dr. William D. Phillips, Scientist, Physics Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, College Park; Nobel Laureate, Physics, 1997
Dr. Eric Cornell, Senior Scientist, NIST; Fellow, Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA); Professor Adjoint, Physics Department, University of Colorado, Boulder; Nobel Laureate, Physics, 2001
Dr. John L. Hall, Scientist Emeritus, NIST; Fellow, JILA; Nobel Laureate, Physics, 2005
The Environment, Technology and Standards Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science held a hearing on May 24, 2006 in order to learn the science policy views of three Nobel Prize winners from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Subcommittee chair Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), a physicist himself, began the hearing by requesting the three scientists' "opinions about how the U.S. can improve its education and research systems so that we will continue to be at the cutting edge of science and winning Nobel Prizes in the future." Ehlers stressed that it is time "to organize and update our science priorities [in order to] guide the development of long-term science and technology policy for the U.S."
NIST is one of the nation's oldest federal physical science research laboratories (it was founded in 1901 as the National Bureau of Standards) and has been very successful in promoting U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness through the advancement of measurement science, standards and technology. It is one of three agencies (along with the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy's Office of Science) included in President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative, which calls for a doubling of the combined budgets of the agencies over the next 10 years. Dr. John L. Hall, who was jointly awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics for his contributions to laser-based precision spectroscopy, emphasized that "NIST is the world's strongest research institute" and much of its success is due to the fact that it is a place where "diverse opinions are tolerated and encouraged."
Witness testimony focused on three main steps that the Federal government should take to improve the competitiveness of U.S. scientific research. First, long-term funding for basic research in the physical sciences must be sustained and increased. Dr. William D. Phillips, who was jointly awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for developing a "laser trapping and cooling" technique that immobilizes individual atoms, highlighted the importance of doing - and maintaining federal funding for - basic research. "We were sidetracked by basic scientific questions about the nature and interaction of light and matter, and by studying those questions, we learned new and exciting things," he said. "Although we did not know at the outset how important it would be, that knowledge gained through our digression into basic research was what made it possible to achieve our mission goal of making a better [atomic] clock." The laser cooling that Phillips helped develop is now being used for scientific, military and commercial purposes, with many applications that were unanticipated at the outset of his research. He explained that "this is a common feature of the fruits of basic research - the best of those fruits are often evident only well after the inception of the work. I strongly believe that we must, as a nation, regain and maintain a high level of basic research if we are to remain competitive in a world economy."
According to Phillips, the second step the U.S. should take to improve its competitiveness is to maintain the diversity of environments for doing research and the sources of funding for research. "We need to maintain the diversity of research opportunities - university labs, military labs, national labs - because each provides different opportunities to make discoveries." He continued by saying that "it is also important to be able to seek support from various agencies that have different agendas and styles." Phillips believes that it would be a big mistake to have U.S. research centralized under some sort of "ministry of science."
Lastly, Phillips suggested that the U.S. should "improve the educational pipeline supplying American high-tech workers, and find ways compatible with our real national security needs to continue to welcome the best of the foreign scientists as students, visitors, collaborators and immigrants." Hall echoed Phillips' concerns. "Visa problems are causing the U.S. to become isolated scientifically," he complained. It is becoming more difficult for international associations to organize scientific meeting in the U.S. and for foreign postdoctoral students to get visas.
Dr. Eric Cornell, who was jointly awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics for creating a previously unobserved state of matter known as the Bose-Einstein Condensate, remarked that it is in the best interest of the U.S. to draw the best scientific minds from around the world. "When we make it easier for the smartest of the world's young people to come here to study, and easier for them to stay here afterwards and put their skills to work in the American economy, we help no one more than we help ourselves," said Cornell. If scientists from around the world stay in the U.S. and become Americans, "the big winners are American industry and the American people."
When asked by Representative Mark Udall (D-CO) about what might be done to improve K-12 science education in the U.S., the witnesses were at a loss. "Everyone thinks K-12 education is a disaster, but there's something going on there that's right," said Cornell. He believes that the best way to get young students interested in science is by allowing them to be a part of the research process, involved in "learning by doing." Hall added that it is critical to encourage curiosity in young students, in order to create a voting public who have a general understanding of basic science.
In his closing statement, subcommittee chair Ehlers agreed wholeheartedly with Hall, saying that it should be a priority to "educate the voters and consumers of the future about science." He concluded that "because the jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of science, science policy is essential to the future of this nation."
For the full text of witness testimony, click here.
Tom Luce, Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education
Cornelia Ashby, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security, U.S. Government Accountability Office
Bill Archey, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Electronics Association
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce heard testimony on May 3 on the scope and success of existing federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs as part of a series of hearings on innovation and U.S. competitiveness. "We're here today to gain a better understanding of what federal programs already exist to improve math and science education, how effective those programs are, and perhaps, what we can do to improve upon them," said committee chair Howard McKeon (R-CA). "The urge of many in Washington is to blindly throw billions of dollars at a variety of new programs in the name of competitiveness. That, I believe, is not the appropriate course of action In order to determine where to go next, it's best to gain a better understanding of where we already are."
The new Academic Competitiveness Council at the Department of Education (DoEd) is already making significant progress in that task, Tom Luce, the Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the DoEd, told representatives. The Council was established by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-171). It is charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the more than 200 federal STEM education programs and consists of representatives from every federal agency that administers these programs. Luce told the committee that the Council, which began holding meetings in March, will have a final report ready for Congress in January 2007. He also noted that at this point the biggest problem the Council has identified is that while there are a number of successful demonstration and pilot programs, none of those programs are being scaled up to meet national needs. "We need to find the best and bring those to scale," he said.
Cornelia Ashby, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) detailed the results of the October 2005 GAO report "Higher Education: Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Programs and Related Trends." She told the committee that in fiscal year 2004, the federal government spent $2.8 billion on 207 STEM education programs across thirteen federal agencies. Despite these programs, Ashby said, "the proportion of students obtaining degrees in STEM fields has fallen."
Bill Archey, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Electronics Association (AeA) provided an industry perspective to the debate, telling representatives that there are not enough American workers to fill high-tech jobs, and that hiring foreign workers has become increasingly difficult. He added that a significant challenge to improving the nation's technological literacy is getting parents to recognize the importance of STEM education to their children's futures. "Most parents don't understand what that [competitiveness] challenge is, therefore, the urgency of math and science to them is not of great moment," he said. Luce later added, "We've got to convince people that it's the key to a job whether you're 'a mathematician or a scientist.'"
Representative Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-LA) asked Luce to elaborate on what needs to be done at the high school level to increase mathematical and scientific literacy. Luce told him that ideally, every high school student should be required to take at least Algebra 2, but that cultural barriers must be overcome first. In the meantime, he said, getting all students through Algebra 1 is a reasonable goal. He also strongly advocated instituting Advanced Placement (AP) incentive programs to increase the number of students taking high level math and science courses.
Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), a physicist and avid supporter of science education asked Luce how education programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be evaluated by the Academic Competitiveness Council. "We're working closely with the NSF," Luce said. He explained that one of the benefits of the Council is that all involved agencies are participating, including the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as the various agencies that house education programs.
Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences, University of Texas at Austin
Paul Dugan, Superintendent, Washoe County School District
Thomas N. McCausland, President and CEO, Siemans Medical Solutions USA, Inc.
Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director, Museum of Science in Boston
The Technology, Innovation, and Competitiveness Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology met on April 26, 2006 to hear about successful math and science education programs around the country. In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair John Ensign (R-NV) detailed what he called a "four-prong approach" for improving U.S. math and science education: placing math and science programs in agencies with a proven track record of success, compiling a full inventory of programs, creating new programs as necessary, and including metrics for all new and current programs. Senator John Sununu (R-NH) agreed that there may be a role for new programs but emphasized that creating new programs must not "undermine or weaken" current, successful programs. He also expressed strong support for the National Science Foundation and its system of peer-review for education and research projects.
The panel of witnesses discussed a variety of successful science education programs, including the U-Teach program for obtaining teacher certification with a concurrent science degree at the University of Texas (UT), Austin, the recently-implemented rigorous curriculum requiring four years of math and three years of science at all high schools in Washoe County School District, Nevada, the extensive scholarships and science days funded by the Siemens Foundation, and the innovative engineering curriculum developed by the National Center for Technology Literacy. Several key themes emerged throughout the testimony, including the crucial role a teacher can play in inspiring students to continue in math and science, the importance of making math, science, and engineering education seem relevant and interesting to students, and the importance of providing a challenging curriculum for all students, regardless of geographic location, family background, ethnicity, or gender.
Ensign called the array of programs described by the witnesses "common sense but not traditional." He asked witnesses what the federal government could do to ensure the implementation of similarly successful programs nationwide. Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin emphasized the need to fund "very faithful replications of proven programs" rather than pilot projects for new programs. She added that it is important to get teacher training programs like U-Teach started at top research universities, which often attract the best students. Thomas N. McCausland, President and CEO of Siemens Medical Solutions urged senators to focus on public-private partnerships by providing tax incentives for businesses to invest time and money in education.
For the full text of witness testimony, click here.
Dr. Elaine Seymour, Author of Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences
Dr. Carl Wieman, Distinguished Professor of Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder
Dr. John Burris, President, Beloit College
Dr. Daniel Goroff, Vice President and Dean of Faculty, Harvey Mudd College
Margaret Semmer Collins, Assistant Dean of Science, Business, and Computer Technology, Moraine Valley Community College
On March 15, the House Committee on Science Subcommittee on Research held a hearing to discuss science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at the undergraduate level. "One of the challenges of math education and science education is making it interesting," said Subcommittee Chair Bob Inglis (R-SC). Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) contended that "cost and compensation" are also "major factors in this discussion," stating that to attract more students to careers in science and engineering "we need to pay them more money."
Several themes emerged during the witness testimony and subsequent discussion. Witnesses agreed that one of the biggest problems with undergraduate STEM education is the poor teaching quality in these fields, due in large part to a faculty reward structure that values research over teaching. "We have a salary structure in STEM faculty which is disproportionate to teaching effort. We have a reward structure for tenure and promotion such that research achievements outweigh teaching," said Dr. Elaine Seymour, author of Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences. Dr. Carl Wieman, a winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics and a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, added that the problem extends beyond the faculty level to entire universities. "I can assure you that [universities'] financial support, prestige, and the tuition they can charge is quite unrelated to what their students are actually learning in science," Wieman said. Dr. John Burris, President of Beloit College, pointed out that the problem is much less severe at small liberal arts colleges, where the reward structure is based "first and foremost" on teaching.
Seymour noted that an often-overlooked part of the problem is the lack of preparedness of teaching assistants (TAs) for introductory STEM courses. At many large universities, students learn math and science exclusively from TAs who often have no teaching experience or training. Dr. Daniel Goroff, former Associate Director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard, noted that TA training programs at Harvard have been extremely successful, and that federal investments in these types of programs "can make a difference." Margaret Semmer Collins, Assistant Dean at Moraine Valley Community College, pointed out that community colleges are also often forgotten in discussions about improving STEM education. "Community colleges have become and will remain a vital means for students to participate in higher education," she said, adding that federal investments in community colleges can have tremendous impact.
There was consensus among the witnesses that programs for improving undergraduate STEM education should be part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget. Dr. Burris focused his testimony around the recommendation that "as the overall budget of the NSF is doubled in the next ten years, doubled dollars be intentionally targeted for preparing students to be the innovators, the life-long learners and civic leaders, and the participants in the 21st century workplace needed for our country to prosper." Seymour added that NSF has a history of administering successful education programs, including the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program, which she said is "magnificent" and "needs to continue." Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) asked the panel whether undergraduate STEM education programs should be administered through NSF rather than through the Department of Education or the States. All five witnesses answered emphatically that NSF was the most appropriate agency.
This hearing was one of a series of Science Committee hearings to aid in the development of legislation related to U.S. competitiveness. According to the Science Committee website, "The Committee plans to introduce the legislation next month and hopes to move the bills to the House floor by May or June."
To access witness testimony, a majority press release on the hearing, and an archived website of the hearing, click here.
To access a minority press release on the hearing, click here.
Deborah Wince-Smith, President, Council on Competitiveness
Norman Augustine, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Office (Retired), Lockheed Martin Corporation
Dr. Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Board, Intel Corporation
Dr. John E. Kelly, III, Senior Vice President of Technology and Intellectual Property, IBM Corporation
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology held the first in a series of hearings on innovation and competitiveness on March 15. The hearing, which focused on the recent spate of innovation legislation, was chaired by Senator John Ensign (R-NV), one of the original sponsors of the National Innovation Act (NIA) of 2005, rather than Committee Chair Ted Stevens (R-AK). In addition to the official committee members, Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) were invited to contribute to the discussion.
Two major legislative packages have been introduced in the Senate to address innovation and competitiveness issues, the NIA and the Protecting America's Competitive Edge (PACE) Acts. Ensign emphasized the complementary nature of these bills, noting that the two packages have many common cosponsors. Lieberman added, "All of these different bills strive toward the same end - the renewal and reinvigoration of America's historic role as a global leader in innovation that has made our economy the envy of the world." In addition, Baucus announced plans to introduce additional competitiveness legislation later this year.
The witness panel included two business leaders from high-tech industries as well as representatives from the two major reports that have spurred the legislation, the National Academies' "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" and the Council on Competitiveness' "National Innovation Initiative." All four witnesses emphasized the need to take action to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in the global economy. Discussion centered around the importance of employing highly qualified teachers, getting children excited about science at a young age, and targeting women and minorities who are traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering fields.
Ensign also broached the subject of visa reform for highly-skilled workers. Dr. John Kelly of IBM noted that there are huge shortages of Americans in a number of technical fields, and that foreigners are needed to bridge this gap. Dr. Craig Barrett of Intel added that industries and government should want the U.S. "to be the workplace of choice for the best and the brightest," and that this won't happen unless Congress removes some of the current barriers to immigration.
For a video of the hearing and the full text of statements made at the hearing, click here.
Dr, Steven Chu, Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Dr. Catherine Cotell, Vice President for Strategy, University and Early Stage Investment at In-Q-Tel
Dr. Frank Fernandez, President for F.L. Fernandez, Inc.
Ms. Melanie Kenderdine, Vice President of Washington Operations, Gas Technology Institute
Dr. David Mowery, Profess of New Enterprise Development at the Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley
House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) opened the hearing by welcoming the panel to the "first public, balanced discussion of the proposal to establish" an Advanced Research Projects Agency (APRA-E) within the Department of Energy (DOE). He continued by saying that he is an "open-minded skeptic about ARPA-E" but thinks that the committee should act deliberately to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the ARPA-E proposal as well as look at alternative ways to meet the goals outlined in the National Academies' report. Boehlert ended his opening statement by noting that in the current budget climate, there is a key question of whether establishing an ARPA-E is a better use of funds than "granting the President's proposal to increase the DOE Office of Science. Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) provided an overview of the recent congressional action on innovation legislation and said that its time to start putting recommendations into action. House Science Subcommittee on Energy Chair Judy Biggert (R-IL) echoed Boehlert's skepticism about the establishment of an APRA-E. She also noted a concern about what problems ARPA-E would solve and if a new government program would be necessary to solve these problems.
Dr, Steven Chu, who served on the National Academy of Sciences panel that prepared the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, provided background on the Academy's recommendation to establish a federal program to support a diverse portfolio of energy and environmental research. The panel suggested the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) model for the proposal primarily because DARPA is a small, relatively non-hierarchical agency, with flexible hiring practices, that efficiently provided funds for targeted research and development programs. Dr. Chu closed his statement by saying that the establishment of an ARPA-E should not be at the expense of other programs at the Department of Energy Office of Science.
Dr. David Mowery testified that he is skeptical of the ARPA-E proposal because of the question of what problem is being addressed in establishing a new federal program. He also noted that one of the biggest differences between DARPA and ARPA-E is who the end user is. In DARPA, the end user is the defense community and the Department of Defense, but the end user in the ARPA-E case would be primarily non-governmental, which could make private adoption of ARPA-E products difficult.
Melanie Kenderdine, who served as the Director of the Office of Policy in the Department of Energy from 1999 to 2000, talked about the cyclical nature of the price of oil and the need for new technology to replace or supplement the current energy system. DOE research programs are located in many different places within the agency. In addition to this distribution of research projects, which can limit coordination, many of the DOE programs separate basic research from applied research and development. Kenderdine suggested that ARPA-E may be able to remove this structural separation. Dr. Frank Fernandez, who served as Director of DARPA from 1998 to 2001, followed up on Kenderdine comments about structural separation, saying that DARPA was formed to help reduce this situation at the Department of Defense. He noted that ARPA-E should not just be a carbon copy of DARPA but should embrace the idea of a lean agency that has funding flexibility.
The last witness was Dr. Catherine Cotell, who talked about the In-Q-Tel model for ARPA-E. In-Q-Tel, a government funded, non-profits, was established in 1999 by the Central Intelligence Agency to gain access to new technologies being developed by small startup companies. It works with startup, emerging, and established companies, universities, and research labs to identify and develop technology solutions to meet the challenges of the Intelligence Community. Cotell noted that In-Q-Tel is not a substitute for basic research and development but can be used as a model for the transfer of new technologies to the private sector.
The question and answer section focused primarily on funding issues surrounding establishing a new federal program. The witnesses were unanimous that funding for ARPA-E should not come at the expense of other DOE research programs. When asked if they had to choose between funding established DOE programs or a new ARPA-E, the witnesses agreed that it was better to have a well funded Office of Science than to have two programs that do not have enough funding.
Additional information and copies of opening statements and prepared testimony for each of the witnesses are available at: http://www.house.gov/science/hearings/full06/March%209/index.htm
Members present: Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN), Brian Baird (D-WA), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Tom Feeney (R-FL), Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), Ralph Hall (R-TX), Michael Honda (D-HI), Timothy Johnson (R-IL), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Mark Udall (D-CO), and David Wu (D-OR).
Henry Johnson, Assistant Education Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education
Arden Bement, National Science Foundation Director
Thomas W. Rudin, Vice President for Government Relations and Development, College Board
James Hunt, former North Carolina Governor, James Hunt, Jr. Institute for Education Leadership and Policy
Peter O'Donnell, President of the O'Donnell Foundation of Dallas
Joshua Tagore, student at University High School for Science and Engineering
The Education and Early Childhood Development Subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held the second of two hearings to discuss S.2198, Protecting America's Competitive Edge (PACE): Education on March 1, 2006. The hearing dealt specifically with the four student-related provisions in the legislation, namely increasing enrollment in Advanced Placement courses, establishing specialty math and science high schools, providing internship opportunities for middle and high school students, and creating a clearinghouse of effective teaching materials. In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) welcomed the President's commitment of "significant dollars in the budget" for competitiveness programs, but noted that the PACE acts would cost $8 to $9 billion in the first year, and that the sponsors' goal is "to fully fund them."
Much of the hearing was devoted to a discussion with James Hunt, a former governor of North Carolina and an adamant supporter of national K-12 education programs. "We have historically said education is a local issue, it's a state issue," Hunt told senators. "Education is going to have to be a far more national matter It's not Tennessee against North Carolina It's America against China." He suggested that Congress ask the National Academies to develop optional national standards and assessments in science and math, and that Congress provide financial incentives to encourage states to adopt these standards. "We've acted like we can't do this in America. We can do this," he stressed.
As in the first hearing, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) raised concerns about the lack of funding for PACE programs in the President's budget request. Hunt was adamant that Congress provide enough money to fully fund the PACE legislation. "This is as important as waging a war," he said, adding that if necessary Congress should borrow the money.
The two administration witnesses, Dr. Arden Bement, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Henry Johnson, Assistant Secretary of Education, championed the President's recently announced American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). Bement also urged the committee to evaluate existing NSF programs before implementing new ones. In response to questioning from Senator Alexander, he specified that NSF already has two programs that are similar to provisions in PACE: scholarships for math and science undergraduates to receive teaching certification and early career research grants for scientists. Ranking Member Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Bingaman questioned the President's commitment to education in the fiscal year 2007 budget request, citing a $15 billion cut to No Child Left Behind and substantial decreases to NSF's Math and Science Partnership program over the past several years. Bement and Johnson maintained that the budget provided their agencies with adequate funding.
The remainder of the discussion centered on the proposal to increase the number of Advanced Placement (AP) teachers as well as the number of students who take and pass AP exams, components of PACE and the ACI. Thomas Rudin of the College Board noted that while 100,000 students had passed the 2005 AP calculus exam, 500,000 more students had the same background and likelihood of success but did not have the opportunity to take an exam. The statistic piqued the interest of the senators, several of whom asked how the program could be expanded to reach more students. Peter O'Donnell, President of the O'Donnell Foundation that helps fund the Dallas AP Incentive Program, emphasized the success of incentives provided by partnering with private donors. He added that rural districts in Texas often use "circuit riders," AP teachers who travel between four school districts, to reach greater numbers of students. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) noted that distance learning could serve as another means to provide students in rural classrooms with access to highly trained AP teachers.
For the full text of statements made at the hearing, click here.
Members present: Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), John Ensign (R-NV), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Ranking Member Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), James Jeffords (Ind.-VT).
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Tom Luce, Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education
Hailung Dai, Director, Penn Science Teachers Institute
Dolly Rodriquez Flanagan, teacher at Burr Middle School
Veronica Garcia, Secretary of Education, New Mexico Public Education Department
Mary Ann Rankin, Dean, College of Natural Sciences, University of Texas at Austin
Roy Vagelos, Augustine Commission, Retired Chairman and CEO of Merck
The Education and Early Childhood Development Subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held the first of two hearings on February 28, 2006 to discuss S.2198, Protecting America's Competitive Edge (PACE): Education. The hearing focused specifically on teaching provisions within the legislation. Subcommittee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) opened the hearing by praising the overwhelming support in the Senate for the PACE Acts. "There is nothing else in the U.S. Senate today and probably won't be this year that commands such broad bipartisan support," he said, noting that PACE currently has 67 cosponsors, including Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). He also voiced his hope that the full committee will begin their mark-up of the legislation shortly after the two hearings this week.
Tom Luce, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education (DoEd), focused his testimony on the President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). Luce, the sole witness for the first panel, emphasized that the DoEd is "in total agreement" with the PACE sponsors that improving K-12 education is the nation's first priority but that creating new programs is not necessarily the best approach. When asked by Senator Alexander about the value of some of the programs included in PACE but not in the ACI, Luce responded that they are "superb programs," however due to budget constraints the administration wants to concentrate on programs for current rather than future teachers.
The second panel of witnesses included Roy Vagelos, a member of the Augustine Commission whose report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," formed the basis for the PACE legislation. Vagelos stressed that the PACE bills include long- and short-term education programs, and that legislation will have the greatest impact if both types of programs are implemented. The remaining witnesses discussed the successes of a variety of teacher training programs on which the PACE provisions are modeled, including the undergraduate UTeach program at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, the Master of Chemistry Education degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and partnerships with the National Laboratories in New Mexico. A few underlying themes emerged from their testimony, including the importance of financial incentives for teachers to participate in training and development programs, the necessity of connecting educational pedagogy to real-world teaching experiences, the importance of adhering to standards in educational instruction, and the need to actively recruit math and science students and graduates to teaching careers.
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) opened the question and answer period by asking the witnesses whether their programs could be easily replicated at a number of institutions throughout the nation. Hailung Dai, the director of the Penn Science Teachers Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, noted "widespread recognition" among university faculty of the current U.S. "science crisis." Universities are eager to replicate the programs, he said, but financial support is needed. Mary Ann Rankin, the UT Austin Dean responsible for UTeach, agreed, adding that the University of California is piloting a UTeach-style program for the first time this year.
Senator John Ensign (R-NV) asked whether any of the programs included accelerated teaching certifications for graduates and professionals with degrees in science, math, or engineering. Witnesses confirmed that programs of this nature already exist in Connecticut, New Mexico, and as part of the UTeach program in Texas.
For the full text of statements made at the hearing, click here.
Members present: Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), John Ensign (R-NV), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).
Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY), Chair, Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Senator John Ensign (R-NV)
Erick Ajax, Vice President, E.J. Ajax and Sons, Inc.
Bob Bailey, National Science Foundation Grant Project Manager, Central Virginia Community College
Dr. Michael J. Bzdack, Director of Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson, Inc.
Wanda E. Brooks-Crocker, NDE Certification Administrator, Framatome ANP, Inc., an AREVA and Siemens Company
Sandy Day, Magnet School Administrator, Omaha Public Schools
Reygan Freeney, Doctoral Candidate, University of Iowa; former Upward Bound Math/Science participant and teacher
Carrie Langston, Wyoming Writing Project Teacher, Chugwater School
Dr. Tom Layzell, President of the Council on Postsecondary Education
Dr. Mary Morningstar, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Department of Special Education
Dr. Mel Riddile, Principal, JEB Stuart High School, Fairfax County Public Schools
Eric Schwarz, President & CEO of Citizen Schools
Jim Shelton, Executive Director of the Education Division of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Edna Varner, former principal Hamilton County Schools
Robin Willner, Vice President-IBM Global Community Initiatives
On February 16, 2006, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a roundtable to discuss educational strategies and partnerships that can be implemented to improve math and science education in high schools. "We're very concerned about kindergarten to twelfth grade," said Committee Chair Michael Enzi. "Unless more students complete high school, on time, prepared for post secondary education or the workforce we won't have enough people in the pipeline to take the challenging and rigorous coursework that'll produce the mathematicians, the scientists, the engineers, the technicians, or the researchers that we need."
Senator Enzi opened the discussion by asking participants "What are some of the strategies that have been proven effective at helping all students complete high school with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue post-secondary education and enter the twenty-first century workforce?" In response, the participants shared a number of positive experiences from their schools and businesses. Among the most frequently discussed strategies was setting high expectations for students, including those with traditionally low achievement, learning disabilities, and low-income backgrounds. "Struggling students want rigor, too," said Edna Varner, a former principal from Tennessee. She noted that implementing a successful rigorous curriculum requires personalization, flexibility, and understanding what skills students need to succeed in school and in the workplace.
Along with setting high expectations for students, several participants mentioned the importance of helping students set high expectations for themselves. Bob Bailey, a grant project manager for the National Science Foundation, expressed the need to focus on the "transition points" (e.g. middle school to high school or high school to college) where many students become overwhelmed and discouraged. By incorporating activities from the next level into the previous level (e.g. teaching college-level classes to high school students), schools and teachers can show students first-hand that they will be able to succeed.
Many participants focused on the merits of hands-on learning. Eric Schwartz, President & CEO of Citizen Schools, noted that experimental activities are disappearing from the classroom because "school days are already so squeezed." He and others championed after-school and summer programs that engage students in hands-on activities.
A final theme of the discussion was the need to show students the relevance of the math and science skills they are learning in the classroom. Participants offered a number of successful approaches, including magnet schools that focus skills on a particular theme like museums, medicine, or construction; local business people who help students build useful extra-curricular projects for their communities; and summer academies and internships that allow students to apply their skills in a workplace environment.
Senator Enzi's second question for the panel dealt with "strong partnerships among high schools, post-secondary institutions, businesses, and government which are essential in making the high school experience beneficial for all students."
Much of the response centered on using the skills of business and industry to excite and motivate students. Partnerships with businesses can provide a framework for many of the strategies discussed in the first half of the roundtable, including engaging students in hands-on learning, increasing the relevance of curriculum, and making jobs and the workplace accessible. Participants also focused discussion on partnerships between high schools and universities.
Mr. Schwartz pointed out the need to consider three additional partnerships: parents, the philanthropic community, and the students themselves. He noted the importance of engaging parents in the educational experience, stressing the critical role that parents can play in reinforcing what the students are learning. He also mentioned that many philanthropic organizations are interested in participating in educational activities and need information on how to best use their resources. Finally, he emphasized the success of any program or strategy is contingent on student participation. "I don't think we're going to get out of the gap that we have and the challenges that we have if we don't challenge kids to take responsibility for their own education."
To watch the hearing, click here.
Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Director of the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy
Dr. Charles M. Vest, President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Luis M. Proenza, President, the University of Akron
On February 15, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee began a series of hearings to discuss S.2197, "Protecting America's Competitive Edge through Energy" (PACE-Energy). Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM) opened the hearing by citing some of "the troubling signs that the United States is losing its relative advantage in science and high-tech fields." He also applauded the President's leadership in addressing issues of competitiveness through the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), but added that many of the provisions of the PACE legislation are not included in the ACI, and that Congress will need to find additional funding for these elements. Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) emphasized the need to focus attention in the hearing on a provision of PACE-Energy that would create an Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) within the Department of Energy (DOE). Based on the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that funds high-risk research, ARPA-E is likely to be the most contentious issue in the bill.
In his opening testimony, Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, the Director of the DOE Office of Science, noted that the creation of ARPA-E is not a part of the ACI. "We have concerns about the creation of this additional mechanism, the resources that would be required to fund it, and whether there might be alternative and better ways to accomplish its goals," Orbach stated. Nonetheless, he noted that the DOE is open to discussing the idea.
In addition to ARPA-E, Orbach, the sole witness of the first panel, received numerous questions about the feasibility of a proposal in PACE-Energy that would expand teacher training programs at the National Laboratories. Orbach was enthusiastic about funding in the President's fiscal year 2007 budget that would triple the number of teachers involved in National Lab summer institutes, allowing 300 high school science teachers to participate each year. The senators, however, were less enthusiastic. Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) noted that in Colorado alone there are roughly 35,000 teachers, and Senator Bingaman added that reaching 300 teachers a year is "not a realistic solution to the magnitude of the problem." Orbach responded to these concerns by emphasizing that teachers who participate in the summer institutes become mentors for their colleagues, creating a "multiplier effect" that reaches far more than 300 teachers each year.
Questions for the second panel returned to the ARPA-E idea. Noting that many people, including Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, prefer the Central Intelligence Agency's Incutel model to the DARPA model, Senator Bingaman questioned the advantages of a DARPA-style program. "[ARPA-E] is all about people, ideas, and bringing new communities to energy," said Dr. Charles M. Vest, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the National Academies' (NAS) committee that recommended the creation of ARPA-E. He enumerated four specific objectives for the agency, including bringing a "freshness" to energy research, focusing on high-risk research projects that industry cannot or will not support, being capable of deciding which long-term projects to support and which to phase out, and bridging the gaps between basic research, development, and industrial implementation. He also mentioned that an Incutel-like program could potentially exist within ARPA-E, adding that "ARPA-E is not a single model. It can warp and change with time."
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also raised the issue of treating the three PACE acts as a single set of legislation, asking Vest why the NAS committee believed all twenty recommendations were necessary. Vest responded by likening the U.S. innovation sector to an individual business. For a business to grow, it needs both a "short-term strategy and a long-term vision," he said. He stressed that the same is true for the innovation sector, and that the NAS recommendations make up a comprehensive package, each piece of which is necessary.
To view the full text of remarks made at the hearing, click here.
Members present: Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM), Ranking Member Jeff
Bingaman (D-NM), Larry Craig (R-ID), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Lamar Alexander
(R-TN), Jim Talent (R-MO), George Allen (R-VA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI),
Ken Salazar (D-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education
On February 9, 2006, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing to discuss the education components of the President's proposed American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-WY) opened the hearing by emphasizing the critical role of education in maintaining U.S. competitiveness. "We must ensure that America's students are the best in the world, that they speak the language of success, and that as a country we get more than a 'passing grade,'" he said. Ranking Member Edward Kennedy (D-MA) commended the President for his focus on math and science but raised concerns about funding availability for education initiatives. "Frankly, we simply cannot win in the global economy and create the good new jobs of tomorrow on the budget that the President presented this week," he said. He went on to detail the proposed education cuts in the FY2007 budget request, including the elimination of 42 federal education programs and a 27 percent cut for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) program.
The hearing's sole witness was Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, whose testimony expanded on the details of the ACI. She focused particular attention on the math components of the initiative, including the creation of a National Math Panel to evaluate K-12 math curricula and the development of elementary and middle school Math Now programs. "We need to do for math what we've done for reading," Spellings said, comparing Math Now to "the successful and popular Reading First program." She also concentrated on the President's goal to train an additional 70,000 math and science Advanced Placement (AP) teachers over the next five years. Citing statistics that roughly one third of US students attend high schools where no AP courses are offered, she noted "We must make our high schools more rigorous."
In the subsequent question and answer period, the senators touched on a wide range of issues, including which students the ACI targets, how programs will be funded, the role of science programs in the ACI, and the issues that the ACI ignores. Senators Kennedy and Judd Gregg (R-NH) disagreed as to which students should be targeted in education reforms like the ACI. Kennedy argued that programs should be created that benefit all children in order to "move a whole generation forward" in scientific and mathematical literacy. Gregg, on the other hand, felt that reform should target high-end students who already have the ability to succeed by giving them the opportunities they need. Secretary Spellings attempted to reconcile the problem by explaining that the ACI addresses both issues. She cited the need to create "more rigor for more kids." At the general level, this could be achieved by creating a "culture of interest and engagement" in elementary and middle schools using the materials gathered by the National Math Panel. Upper-level students would be given new opportunities via the expansion of the AP program.
Funding and resource concerns for the ACI initiatives were aired by a number of the senators. Referring to statistics mentioned in Spellings' testimony, Enzi spoke of the need to coordinate the 207 education programs currently spread across 13 different government agencies. Democratic senators focused on the successful education programs that were eliminated in the FY2007 budget request. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said he was "disappointed that the Department of Ed is slated for a four percent cut" by what he called a "misguided federal government." Kennedy worried that the budget is "robbing Peter to pay Paul," citing the elimination of a number of successful college access and recruitment programs, including Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), TRIO Educational Talent Search, and Upward Bound. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) was even harsher, accusing the federal government of "a disparate view between rhetoric and funds." She noted budget cuts to teacher training programs like Teach for America and Troops to Teachers, as well as stagnant funding for undergraduate Pell Grants. In response to these concerns, Secretary Spellings emphasized her view that if the programs work effectively, they will be funded at the state and local level.
Additional questioning from both parties centered on a number of issues that had been left out of the ACI. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) noted that the ACI had adopted only one of the six education recommendations from the National Academies' report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm." Spellings responded that most of the other recommendations, which include scholarships and incentives for teachers, residential math and science high schools, and summer internships for teachers and students either fell under the jurisdiction of state governments or didn't reach enough students. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) questioned the lack of science initiatives in the ACI. Spellings explained the President's philosophy of "Math now, science next," noting that including science assessments in No Child Left Behind would serve as an important first step. In response to other concerns, Spellings elaborated on various components of the ACI, explaining that funding for the AP program could include training for pre-AP teachers, that Math Now budgets could be used for teacher training as well as for curricula development, and that the Adjunct Teacher Corps program would include some amount of training in educational methodology.
To view the full text of Secretary Spellings' testimony, click here.
To view the full text of Chairman Enzi's comments as well as a press release on the hearing, click here.
Members Present: Chairman Michael Enzi (R-WY), Ranking Member Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Hillary Clinton (D-NY).
Dr. Peter Agre, Vice Chancellor for Science and Technology, Duke University
Dr. Eric Cornell, Senior Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Dr. James Heath, Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
Dr. Samuel Ting, Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
On November 18, 2005 the Senate Commerce Justice and Science Committee held a hearing to investigate changes to the U.S. scientific research community in the past few years, as well as concerns that the U.S. is losing its competitive edge in research, technology innovation and science education. At the outset of the hearing, only Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) was present, but he pointed out that this was due to the many issues going on in the Senate, and was not an indication of how seriously the committee took this issue. "I hope that this hearing will enable the Committee to take an "actionary" approach, as opposed to "reactionary," to the future of science in this country," he said.
Testimony from the four scientists on the witness panel involved brief descriptions of their own cutting-edge research followed by general advocacy for increased Congressional support in the areas of science research and education. William Agre from Duke University spoke about the importance of federally-funded labs to his own career, and he aired concerns that restrictions on research, widespread scientific ignorance, and a "anti-intellectual" public disposition in the U.S. could hurt the nation's scientific prominence. Eric Cornell of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was more upbeat, spending much of his time talking about the potential national security and economic benefits of quantum computing technology.
James Heath from Caltech said he believed the greatest scientific challenge facing the nation was finding more efficient sources of energy. Heath also spoke of the need to improve science education in the U.S., explaining that in recent decades "the nanotech and biotech industries are on the shoulders of people who came here from elsewhere." Samuel Ting from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology testified about the importance of U.S. participation in international collaborative projects, such as his research on high energy physics conducted on the International Space Station.
Following the testimony Stevens and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) expressed support for significantly increasing the budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is up for reauthorization in 2006. "We're looking at NSF and making sure they have the resources they need," said Hutchison. "It was good to double the NIH budget, and we need to look at NSF for a real upgrade." Hutchison also said she had introduced the idea of designating the space station as a national laboratory so it could receive funding from sources other than the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has said the agency cannot afford to fund physics research at the space station. Dr. Ting did not explicitly endorse Hutchison's idea, but he did say that "not to use the potential of the space station would be a total waste."
Another issue that received attention during the hearing was the decreasing numbers of foreign scientists choosing to study and to stay in the United States. Senator Gordon Smith asked whether making it easier for trained scientists to gain U.S. citizenship would encourage them to stay in the country. Dr. Heath said, "absolutely," while Dr. Agre made the point that even if U.S.-trained scientists returned to their home countries, they would help to improve the worldwide opinion of the United States if they were treated well here. Dr. Cornell emphasized the importance of foreign students and researchers, saying "they are an injection of human capital into this country, we should hold on to them." Senator Smith was impressed by these responses and said that encouraging scientists to stay in the U.S. "ought to be a component of new immigration laws" that would be introduced next year.
For more information on this hearing click
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
House Science Committee
On October 18 and 20, 2005 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Science Committee held hearings to discuss a recent report released by a committee assembled by the National Academies that addressed the United State's global competitiveness. This report, titled "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" outlined how the United States is losing its edge in science and proposes four major recommendations for regaining that edge. The members of both congressional committees were enthusiastic about the ideas promoted in the report. In his opening statement, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) said he welcomed the report, as he was concerned because the United States' "pre-eminence in the physical sciences is no longer there", and worried that this might eventually have major impacts on American society as a whole. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was particularly excited about the subject of the hearing, saying that he hoped President Bush would make this issue the "thrust of this next three years."
Members of the House Science Committee also made it clear that they
were concerned about U.S. competitiveness. In his opening statement
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) said, "The message is this:
complacency will kill us. If the United States rests on its withering
laurels in this competitive world, we will witness the slow erosion
of our pre-eminence, our security and our standard of living."
Many committee members also expressed frustration that they had worked
on these issues for many years with little success. In his opening
statement Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) said, "To a great
extent what you have done is rehash what we already knew. This committee
has passed many of these things already."
During their testimony the witnesses summed up the report, which included indicators that the United States was losing its edge in science and engineering, and solutions to that growing problem. "U.S. hospitals have x-rays and CAT scans read by radiologists in Australia and India. Visitors to an office not far from the White House are greeted by a receptionist on a flat screen display who controls access to the building and arranges contacts-she is in Pakistan," said Norm Augustine, the chair of the National Academies' committee and the former CEO of Lockheed Martin. Augustine said it was good that other countries were prospering, but that in the new global economy there were "likely to be winners and losers." "Our goal is to see that Americans are winners," he said. Of the many solutions in the "Gathering Storm" report, much of the testimony focused on improving K-12 education. P. Roy Vagelos, a committee member and the former CEO of Merck, placed emphasis on scholarships designed to recruit 10,000 new math and science teachers. "Over their careers, each of these teachers would educate 1,000 students, so that each annual cadre of teachers educated in this program would impact 10 million minds."
Predictably, given tight budget constraints, funding for the report's proposals was a major issue during the hearings. Representative Bart Gordon proposed a fee on businesses that would be directed strictly towards education and research funding. "There is enough money sloshing around, but if that's the answer we aren't going to get there," Gordon said in response to the idea that money could be reallocated from other government spending. All three witnesses at the House Science Committee hearing hesitantly endorsed such a directed tax, although they made it clear that they were speaking as individuals. "More than one CEO has said to me that they can't invest in research personally because it would lose money for their stockholders. If they were taxed the same amount and the money was guaranteed to go into research, they would be happy," said William Wulf, the President of the National Academy of Engineering. In the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, however, such a tax was not mentioned, and instead Senator Alexander suggested that Medicare funding could be restrained in order to enact the reports proposals. "We have a budget of over $10 trillion. We should put the most important things in first," he said.
Another aspect of the report that received attention was the proposal to create an agency within the Department of Energy that would fund high-risk, high-benefit research in energy. This agency would be similar to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which funds research that eventually leads to advanced military technology, and would be called ARPA-E. Augustine claimed that such an agency was necessary because currently neither the private sector nor the government were willing to invest in risky research. "Our society has become failure intolerant," he said. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL), however, pointed out that the transfer of technologies to practical uses is a bigger problem in the energy sector than a lack of basic research. Augustine assured her that ARPA-E would work to transfer basic research to commercial uses, although its primary focus would be on awarding competitive grants for groundbreaking research.
The education recommendations in the report were also the focus of many questions during the hearings. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), referring to a goal of tripling the number of students who pass Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate examinations by 2010, asked if the report was not being realistic. Augustine responded by saying, "I believe this is achievable. An ambitious goal was our intent." He also pointed to a program in Texas that significantly increased the number of students taking those tests in the state. Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO) asked whether or not doubling teacher salaries wouldn't be an important first step in improving K-12 education. Augustine and Vagelos said that this was a matter for states to decide, but that personally they would support increasing teacher salaries if those increases were based on performance.
To view an online copy of the National Academies report click here. A similar report produced by the Business Roundtable and other business organizations entitled "Tapping America's Potential" is also available online.
Nicholas Donofrio, Executive Vice President for Innovation and Technology, IBM Corporation
John Morgridge, Chairman of Cisco Systems, Incorporated
William Brody, President of the Johns Hopkins University
On July 21, 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science met to address "U.S. Competitiveness: The Innovation Challenge." Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) told the witnesses in his opening statement, "The reason for this hearing should be clear; we want to send a message; if we don't invest today in science, technology, and education then our economy simply will not continue to thrive." Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL) gave an opening statement in place of the ranking member. "It is also clear we have entered a new era of international competition," said Costello, "in which our economic competitors are producing increasing numbers of well trained scientists and engineers and that U.S. companies are going off-shore to avail themselves of this low-cost technical talent." Costello also said that the issue could not be solved by increased appropriations or legislative means due to the complex challenge of studying and influencing the career choices of students. He asked the witnesses to help by addressing "the underlying factors" impacting the outsourcing trend.
Three witnesses were present to offer testimony.
Nicholas Donofrio, Executive Vice President for Innovation and Technology
for the IBM Corporation, identified innovation as the driving force
behind the competitiveness of the United States. Donofrio identified
the diversity of the nation as a benefit of innovation and said, "Innovation
does not happen in isolation." Donofrio recommended that the
government reevaluate the choice between innovation and commoditization,
and chose innovation instead as a national priority and core strategy
John Morgridge, Chairman of Cisco Systems, Inc. testified that education "is the foundation to all innovation and the engine to economic growth." Morgridge suggested that technology in schools could encourage science and technology interest. Cisco has several programs that provide technology for K-12 schools, including the Cisco Network Academy Program used in an underprivileged area of East Palo Alto, California.
William Brody, President of Johns Hopkins University, reported that "about one-third of all jobs in the United States require science or technology competency, but currently only 17 percent of Americans graduate with science or technology majors." Pointing to "the K-12 education pipeline" as the source of the problem, Brody recommended improving the scientific and technological skills of elementary and secondary school teachers. "I applaud this effort to bring the excitement and challenge of scientific research into our elementary and high school classrooms to help stimulate a new generation of future scientists and engineers," he said.
After the witnesses testified, Chairman Boehlert called the hearing a "love-in." While answering questions, the witnesses would nod and smile at each other, often giving very similar comments to the members. In one such instance, Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL) asked the witnesses to suggest steps that the committee could take to improve U.S. competitiveness. The primary suggestion, which was raised by Mr. Brody and agreed to by the other witnesses, called for an increase in NSF funding for basic science research. Boehlert had invited two members from the House Appropriations Committee to attend the hearing and submit their own statements on federal science research funding, but they remained silent during questioning.
Most of the subcommittee members in attendance chose to spend their five minutes of questioning time to voice their own opinions about why Americans lag in scientific achievement. Chairman Boehlert noted that half of all K-12 students in America take math and science courses from teachers that did not receive math or science degrees. Representative Al Green (D-TX) suggested that a lack of interest in science might start at home, where athletics may be encouraged over academics. Green also noted that teachers are underpaid while athletes have million-dollar salaries. "If we truly want to leave no child behind, we need to leave no teacher behind," he said, referring to the No Child Left Behind Act. Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) recommended that the scientific community also try to actively change the "cultural attitude that says women are no good at science and math." On yet another note, Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) asked rhetorically if the government should be using science and technology to deal with real world challenges such as energy. Most importantly, Chairman Boehlert added his own rhetorical question: "how do we get the other Congressmen to support [science education] programs?"
Members Present: Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Al Green (D-TX), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Lincoln Davis (D-TN).
Norm Augustine, Lockheed Martin Corporation Board of Directors
Dr. Thomas Magnanti, Dean of the School of Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education
Dr. Nancy Songer, Professor of Science Education and Learning Technologies at the University of Michigan
The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness held a hearing on the quality of math and science education in the United States. In his opening remarks, subcommittee Chairman Howard McKeon (R-CA) acknowledged that the United States still leads the world in science and technological innovation but emphasized our urgent need to continue to be adaptive and flexible to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Calling for increased incentives to attract math and science graduates, McKeon identified the problem as a pipeline issue stating, there are simply not enough students going through the K-12 system and the higher education system that are really interested in science. Ranking Member Dale Kildee (D-MI) posed a similar question: do we need another Sputnik to make us realize the impact that math and science education will have on our future competitiveness as a nation?
Norm Augustine of Lockheed's Board of Directors (former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin) testified that American businesses are relying too heavily on foreign graduates to fill upper-level science positions. Echoing McKeons earlier remarks, Augustine suggested government funded scholarship incentives for top-performing students. Augustine also called for increased teaching incentives to combat the temptation of teachers leaving schools to join the private sector, where salaries are generally higher and the environment may be less challenging.
Dr. Nancy Songer from the University of Michigan testified that, because of the increasing emphasis placed on standardized tests, American students have little opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of math and science subjects. Recalling a visit to Japan where students study only 3 to 4 ecology concepts per year, Dr. Songer expressed concern over the complexity of the American K-12 science curriculum.
Representative Tom Osborne (R-NE) asked the panelists for their opinion on the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable on Education, carefully responded that in Maryland, state assessments are valued for direction and standards. Dr. Songer was also timid on the issue, calling NCLB a wonderful way to get conversations going about the need for high standards and accountability while noting the difficulties of implementing the plan.
Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) spoke about the ability of American students to compete in the global market place. Referring to the national debate over the outsourcing of American jobs, Kind said instead that it is not so much a race to the bottom but rather a race to the top as countries like India and China invest more money into the development of science technologies.
Kind also asked the panel to give the United States education system a letter grade for performance. Augustine gave the system a near-failing grade of D+, while Songer and Streckfus rated our system a bit lower with D grades. Dr. Thomas Magnanti, Dean of the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, avoided a direct answer, saying that as a professor, he would be hesitant to give a grade without a real test to judge our system fairly and comprehensively.
Members Present: Howard McKeon (R-CA), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Tom Osborne (R-NE), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen, Jr. (D-MD), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Ron Kind (D-WI), Tom Price (R-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Danny Davis (D-IL).
Sources: Hearing testimony, House Science Committee, and Environment & Energy Daily.
Contributed by Katie Ackerly and Margaret Anne Baker, Government Affairs Staff, Anne Smart, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Peter Douglas, 2005 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern, Jenny Fisher, 2006 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern; Jessica Rowland, AGI/AIPG 2006 Summer Intern; and Carrie Donnelly, AGI/AIPG 2006 Summer Intern.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on July 28, 2006.