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Innovation and US Competitiveness (2-4-09)

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Maintaining U.S. competitiveness in the global economy through scientific and technological innovation has become a significant concern in the 110th Congress. Following the release of recommendation reports by the National Academies and the Council on Competitiveness, a myriad of legislation has been introduced in the House and the Senate. This legislation involves many issues of interest to the geoscience community, including an increased federal investment in basic scientific research, new grants for early career researchers, additional funds for undergraduate and graduate scholars and support for math and science teacher training.

Recent Action

On December 21, 2008, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The study assesses the math and science skills of 4th and 8th grade students. Average fourth and eighth grade U.S. math scores ranked in the top third of participating nations, while average fourth and eighth grade U.S. science scores ranked in the top quarter of participating nations.

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an international organization of national research institutions and governmental research agencies develops and helps administer the tests. In 2007, 36 countries participated at grade four and 48 participated at grade eight. (02/09)

Previous Action

Senator Bingaman Outlines Energy Priorities for 111th Congress
In a speech given at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on November 17, 2008, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) outlined his priorities for the 111th Congress as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Bingaman hopes that a combination of President-elect Obama’s leadership and bipartisan congressional engagement will make possible “real progress” on comprehensive energy policy.

Bingaman believes climate change legislation needs to be “more streamlined than what we have been considering to date” and referred to 10 general principles he has developed. He emphasized the need to focus on preliminary legislation that will “reduce both the complexity and the cost of any eventual cap-and-trade bill.” For example, Bingaman advocated for Congress to move immediately to fund energy technology advances, not to wait for revenues from possible cap-and-trade legislation. Other next steps include creating a national renewable electricity standard, investing in the creation of a “smart and robust national transmission grid,” and pursuing carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

Additional priorities mentioned in the speech include promoting increased efficiency standards in buildings and possibly appliances as well. Bingaman called federal investment in innovation and STEM education “totally inadequate.” He referred to the American COMPETES Act as evidence of bipartisan support in this area and requested a renewed effort by the new Congress. In regards to drilling on the continental outer shelf, Bingaman suggested that the best next step is a comprehensive inventory of offshore resources. The call for such an inventory was included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 but was not sufficiently funded.

A copy of Bingaman’s speech, including the 10 principles, is available at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Website. (11/08)

Public Universities Call for Science and Math Teachers
About 79 colleges and universities in 32 states have signed onto a science and mathematics teacher imperative. The imperative calls for a large increase in the number and diversity of high quality science and math teachers in middle and high schools and requests the building of partnerships between universities, school systems, state governments and other entities to address the needs for teachers on a sustained basis.

The imperative was launched at the 121st annual meeting of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC). More details about the imperative are available from the NASULGC web page, www.nasulgc.org (11/08)

Cost of Higher Education Analyzed in Two New Reports
The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) released a discussion paper on “University Tuition, Consumer Choice and College Affordability, Strategies for Addressing a Higher Education Affordability Challenge. The paper provides useful data about the costs, how the passage of the Higher Education Act of 2008 will affect costs and how higher education institutions can help to control costs.

On December 3, 2008, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education released a report on college costs, entitled “Measuring Up 2008”. The report looks at net cost, that is tuition, fees, room and board, minus financial aid relative to family income. The report notes that net costs are increasing and making college unaffordable for many more potential students. (11/08)

Scientists Discuss Complex Systems and Seed Grants for New Research
More than 160 participants gathered in mid-November for the sixth annual National Academies Keck Futures Initiative conference. This year's topic, "Complex Systems," drew scientists, engineers, medical researchers, economists, and philosophers to discuss new interdisciplinary approaches to researching complex systems such as ecosystems, financial markets, communication networks, and biology.  

To encourage further interdisciplinary work, the National Academies announced the availability of $1 million in seed grants – up to $100,000 each – to speed new lines of research identified at the conference.  Recipients of the competitive grants will be announced in April 2009.

At the same conference, the Academies announced their 2008 Communication Awards. Two of the four awards went to geoscience-related communications. Reporters from The Times-Picayune, New Orleans were honored for their newspaper coverage of efforts to save Louisiana’s wetlands and filmmakers were honored for their chronicle of the science and engineering behind the Mars rovers in the documentary, Roving Mars, produced in cooperation with NASA and Lockheed Martin.

Launched in 2003 by the National Academies and the W.M. Keck Foundation, the Futures Initiative is a 15-year effort to stimulate interdisciplinary inquiry and to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public.  The initiative builds on three pillars of vital and sustained research: interdisciplinary encounters that counterbalance specialization and isolation; exploration of new questions; and bridging languages, cultures, habits of thought, and institutions through communication. (11/08)

 

SETDA Releases Report on STEM Education
As part of the Class of 2020: Action Plan for Education, the State Educational Technology Directors Association SETDA released its "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)" report on September 23, 2008. The report emphasizes the need to provide all children with a strong foundation in STEM areas. Such preparation is critical to any individual’s success in the 21st century. A shortage of new graduates in STEM fields will make it difficult for the United States to fulfill its workforce needs and to stay competitive in the global market.

Key recommendations of the STEM report include obtaining societal support for STEM education, exposing students to STEM careers, providing on-going and sustainable STEM professional development, providing STEM pre-service teacher training, and recruiting and retaining STEM teachers. The report provides many examples of broad-based initiatives that have been successful at national, state, and district levels. States and school districts are encouraged to draw on these models to strengthen STEM education programs. (10/08)

Report on Advancing Research in Science and Engineering from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
In its newly released white paper Advancing Research in Science and Engineering (ARISE), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences focuses on two issues that the Academy sees as critical to the preservation of America’s leadership in scientific and technological innovation. The issues that preoccupy the report are the obstacles facing early-career faculty researchers and the de-emphasis among grant-funding agencies on high-risk, potentially high-reward research. ARISE recommends increased support for early-career faculty and research with the potential to transform scientific disciplines.

To study how the current federal funding mechanisms will meet the needs of the American scientific enterprise, an Academy-assembled committee analyzed data from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy (DOE); conducted interviews with leaders of federal and nonprofit research-funding agencies; and considered personal anecdotes provided by early-career science faculty.

Before making its recommendations concerning early-career faculty, the committee considered data on the average age of first-time grant awardees, the proportion of primary research grants awarded to first-time investigators, and the number of times new investigators must submit grant proposals. The average age for first-time recipients of NIH primary research grants has risen from 37.2 in 1980 to 42.4 in 2006. NSF funding for new investigators decreased from 22% to 15% between 2000 and 2006. Also, increasingly, new investigators must submit research proposals numerous times before receiving funding for their research projects. In 1980, 86% of new investigators received an NIH grant upon their first grant proposal submission; in 2007, however, only 28% did so. Indeed, at the press conference heralding the release of ARISE, Thomas Cech, chair of the committee that produced the ARISE report and President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, remarked that early-career faculty are “squirreled away in their offices serving as serial grant writers” because their attempts to get grants repeatedly fail.

ARISE makes recommendations concerning early-career faculty scientists to federal agencies, universities, and private foundations. For the federal agencies, ARISE recommends the creation of new grant programs dedicated to funding only early-career faculty. The federal agencies, the report says, should also pay special attention to early-career faculty in the merit review of regular grants and remain sensitive to the fact that early-career investigators cannot bolster their grant applications with previous successes and may not be skilled in writing grant proposals. Universities should, among other things, mentor early-career scientists and revisit promotion and tenure policies. Federal agencies and universities should address the needs of early-career investigators who are primary caregivers, namely women. ARISE encourages private grant-awarding foundations to distribute first awards to a greater number of early-career scientists.

Researchers believe that grant-awarding agencies prioritize traditionalist, paradigm-extending rather than creative, paradigm-breaking research projects, according to the ARISE report. The Academy bemoans the pervasive concern among scientists that only research known to be fruitful should be included in the grant proposal. To support and foster potentially transformative research, the ARISE report recommends that the grant review process “place a premium on innovation.”

ARISE devotes itself to consideration of present and possible future modes of funding for scientific research. While the report is, as Thomas Cech said, “silent on the level of funding,” it notes that the current tight funding environment produces conservative funding decisions that adversely impact early-career faculty and risk-taking in research.

AGI submitted a statement of support for the ARISE report. Nineteen other organizations and companies also submitted statements of support for the white paper. AGI’s executive director, Dr. P. Patrick Leahy, attended the June 3rd ARISE press conference and panel discussion.

The full ARISE report can be downloaded from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences website at www.amacad.org/ARISE(06/08)

Report Recommends Establishment of National Innovation Foundation
The Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation released a report entitled “Boosting Productivity, Innovation, and Growth through a National Innovation Foundation.”  The report recommends the establishment of the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), “with the sole mission of promoting innovation” to help keep America competitive in a technology-driven and knowledge-based global marketplace.

The report details the loss of innovation leadership experienced by the U.S. citing declines in the percent of U.S. gross domestic product devoted to research and development, the number of new patent applications by Americans, the number of scientific publications authored by Americans, and the number of college degrees in science and engineering awarded in the U.S. since the mid-1980s. It also highlights the limitations of existing federal policy to spur innovation at the scale needed for the U.S. to regain leadership stating that “federal innovation programs that do exist operate in an ad hoc manner” and “treat innovation as a byproduct of other goals.”

The report suggests three different organizational options for the NIF, proposing an annual budget of $1 billion for the agency. According to the authors NIF would: 1) catalyze industry-university research partnerships; 2) expand regional innovation-promotion; 3) encourage technology adoption; 4) support regional industry cluster; 5) emphasize performance and accountability; and 6) champion innovation. (04/08)

The full report can be accessed at: http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2008/04_federal_role_atkinson_wial.aspx

International Science Tests: American Students Rank Low
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and is an internationally standardized assessment that was jointly developed by participating countries and administered to15-year-olds in schools. The survey was implemented in 43 countries in 2000, 41 countries in 2003, 57 countries in 2006 and 62 countries have signed up for the test in 2009. In each country between 4,500 and 10,000 students take the tests.

PISA is one of the few mechanisms for regularly and directly comparing the quality of educational outcomes in the countries that make up almost 90 percent of the world's economy. PISA measures the capacity of fifteen-year-old students in OECD countries to apply what they've learned in the classroom in order to analyze, reason, and communicate effectively.

On December 4, 2007, PISA announced the results of the 2006 tests in press conferences throughout the world, including one in Washington DC. The 2006 tests focused on science, while also testing math and reading. U.S. students achieved a mean score of 489 points in science, below the OECD average of 500 points. Finland scored the highest at 563 points, six participants scored between 530 and 542 points (Canada, Japan and New Zealand and the non-OECD countries/economies Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei and Estonia) and thirteen participants scored above the 500 point average (Australia, the Netherlands, Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Ireland and the non-OECD countries/economies Liechtenstein, Slovenia, and Macao-China). The U.S. ranked 21st in science among the 30 OECD countries.

Results were similar for the PISA math tests. The U.S. achieved a mean score of 474 points below the average of 498 points for OECD countries and the U.S. ranked 25th among 30 OECD countries in math. Due to an error in printing of the tests the reading results for U.S. students are not available.

PISA provides a much more detailed analysis of their tests and their results on their web page. For more information about the testing and the possible reasons for the scores, please visit their site here. (12/07)

President Bush Signs America COMPETES Act with Caveats
On August 9, 2007, President Bush signed the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act" (H.R. 2272). The law authorizes a doubling of the research budget of the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science at the Energy Department over 7 years as well as $33.6 billion over fiscal years 2008 to 2010 for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs across the federal government.

In a press release, the President praised the measure saying, "This legislation shares many of the goals of my American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). ACI is one of my most important domestic priorities because it provides a comprehensive strategy to help keep America the most innovative Nation in the world by strengthening our scientific education and research, improving our technological enterprise, and providing 21st century job training."

The President also offered some criticism in his written statement, saying "I am, however, disappointed that Congress failed to authorize my Adjunct Teacher Corps program to encourage math and science professionals to teach in our schools. I am also disappointed that the legislation includes excessive authorizations and expansion of government. In total, the bill creates over 30 new programs that are mostly duplicative or counterproductive -- including a new Department of Energy agency to fund late-stage technology development more appropriately left to the private sector -- and also provides excessive authorizations for existing programs. These new programs, additional requirements and reports, and excessive authorizations will divert resources and focus from priority activities aimed at strengthening the basic research that has given our Nation such a competitive advantage in the world economy. Accordingly, I will request funding in my 2009 Budget for those authorizations that support the focused priorities of the ACI, but will not propose excessive or duplicative funding based on authorizations in this bill."

In conclusion the President called on Congress to "… complete work on the remaining components of ACI, including modernizing and making permanent the research and development tax credit, authorizing the Adjunct Teacher Corps program, and increasing our ability to attract and retain the best and brightest high-skilled workers from around the world."(08/07)

House Passes Competitiveness Bills
On May 21, 2007, the House approved a massive competitiveness bill that combines 5 separate House bills that had already been approved. The 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007 (H.R. 2272) includes the National Science Foundation re-authorization bill (H.R. 1867), the National Institute of Standards and Technology re-authorization bill (H.R. 1868), the 10,000 Teachers bill (H.R. 362), the Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research bill (H.R. 363) and the High Performance Computing Act re-authorization (H.R. 1068). The legislation can now proceed to a conference committee with the Senate, which passed a similar massive measure, the America COMPETES Act (S.761) last month.

H.R. 2272 includes many of the policy recommendations of a 2005 National Academies report entitled "Rising Above the Gathering Storm". The report encouraged policymakers to consider these recommendations to keep America competitive in the global marketplace through innovation and technological advances. The legislation includes a doubling of the NSF budget, funding for training of new and current science teachers, support for undergraduate education for science and engineering students to meet future workforce needs, expansion of early career grants for young investigators and better coordination of research and information technology between federal agencies. (06-18-07)

Senators Introduce Competitiveness Legislation
The Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced the America COMPETES Act. Also known as "America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act," or S. 761, the bill calls for greater investments in education and innovation. The bill is similar to last year's Frist-Reid National Competitiveness Investment Act. The bill, which currently has 44 co-sponsors, will not be referred to committee, but has been placed directly on the Senate's legislative calendar. This means that leadership could take action on this bill, including considering amendments and a full Senate vote in the near future. (04-09-07)

House Approves Legislation Strengthening Science Education
The House is also working on competitiveness legislation that would provide more funding for science and math education. The House Committee on Science and Technology passed H.R. 362 with overwhelming support this month. Also known as the "10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds" Science and Math Scholarship Act, H.R. 362 is designed to better prepare U.S. math and science teachers to teach these subjects. The measure, sponsored by Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), was created in response to the National Academies' 2005 "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report, which concluded that "America's footing as a global leader is slipping," according to Chairman Gordon. The report showed that the majority of U.S. grade school students receive math and science instruction from teachers without degrees or certifications in these areas.

H.R. 362 addresses these issues by increasing scholarships for undergraduate students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, who are also committed to pursuing a teaching career. The measure establishes a teacher education program at the National Science Foundation to encourage education faculty to work with STEM faculty on ways to improve education for math and science teachers; provides in-service training to math and science teachers to improve content knowledge and teaching skills; and authorizes the development of master's degree programs for in-service math and science teachers. (04-09-07)

European Union Closing the Innovation Gap with the U.S.
In February, the European Union (EU) announced that the "innovation gap" between Europe and the United States continues to narrow for the fourth year in a row. For the past several years, Congress has considered the growing concern that the U.S. is losing its innovative and competitive edge in the global market. Government and non-government reports, as well as coalitions from industry, government and academic sectors, have called upon Congress to increase funding for physical science research and development (R&D) to ensure the nation's competitive edge in an increasingly technology-driven global economy. The EU and countries like China and India are committing record amounts of funding to R&D, while the U.S. has been decreasing funding for non-defense physical science R&D for many years.

As noted in the January 2007 Monthly Review, the Department of Energy has seen significant decreases in energy R&D at a time when the nation needs R&D to solve critical energy supply and demand issues. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on "Key Challenges Remain for Developing and Deploying Advanced Energy Technologies to Meet Future Needs" notes that "DOE's total budget authority for energy R&D dropped by over 85 percent (in real terms) from 1978 to 2005…"

The European Innovation Scoreboard 2006 (EIS), published in late February, reinforces concerns about U.S. competitiveness. According to the report, the innovation performance of a country's economy is based on a range of indicators, including education levels, expenditures in the information and communication technologies sector, investment in R&D, and the number of patents filed. America's innovation edge is primarily due to more early-stage venture capital, a larger fraction of the population with a tertiary education and a larger number of U.S. patents. According to the report, which presents a comparative analysis of the innovation performance of the EU, the U.S. and Japan, the innovation "leaders" are Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Japan. The innovation "followers" are the United Kingdom, Iceland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland, and the United States.

To see the full report, visit http://www.proinno-europe.eu/inno-metrics.html

More information about what Congress is considering related to innovation and competitiveness is available at AGI's Government Affairs web page. (03-06-07)

House Science and Technology Committee Approves Four Research Bills
On February 28, the House Science and Technology Committee passed four bills that would help the U.S. maintain a competitive advantage in science and technology. The "Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act", (H.R. 363) would require the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Office of Science within the Department of Energy (DOE) to award grants to scientists and engineers at the early stage of their careers at institutions of higher education and certain research organizations, such as museums, observatories, or research laboratories. NSF would be required to allocate 3.5% of its Research and Related Activities per year for the early career awards and 1.5% of its Research and Related Activities per year for graduate education and research traineeship awards. DOE would be authorized to receive as much as $25 million per year to pay for its early career grants. The programs would run for a 5 year period from 2008 to 2012. The measure also authorizes a National Coordination Office for Research Infrastructure to be organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to report on deficiencies and priorities in research facilities and major instrumentation at academic and national laboratories. The original bill had contained authorization for billions of dollars over 5 years for basic research in science, mathematics, computing and engineering at federal agencies, however, that language was removed from the bill to help ensure its passage through the committee and hopefully ease its passage through the full House and then the Senate.

The Energy Technology Transfer Act (H.R. 85) would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to direct the Secretary of Energy to award grants for a five-year period to nonprofit institutions, state and local governments, cooperative extension services, or universities (or consortia thereof) to establish a geographically dispersed network of Advanced Energy Technology Transfer Centers, located in areas the Secretary determines have the greatest need of their services. The centers would encourage demonstration and commercial application of advanced energy methods and technologies.

House bill, H.R. 1068 would revise the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-194) and require the Office of Science and Technology Policy to "draw a road map" for developing and deploying high-powered computing systems for the nation's research community.

House bill, H.R. 1126, would reauthorize the Steel and Aluminum Energy Conservation and Technology Competitiveness Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-680). The measure would authorize $12 million per year for five years to support advanced metals research. The federal funds, along with funds from the steel industry, would support metals research at U.S. universities. (03-06-07)

Background

Maintaining U.S. competitiveness in the global economy through scientific and technological innovations has been of growing concern in Congress. Throughout the course of 2006 and 2007, a multitude of legislation addressing American innovation was introduced in the House and the Senate. A number of bills support basic research funding, or provide early career support, some target education reform, and others provide career incentives for students who become math, science, or engineering professions or teachers.  The bills mostly aim to implement the 20 recommendations detailed in the National Academies' 2005 report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."  

In his 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). Although the specifics of the initiative differ from the various congressional bills, it covers a number of the same issues.  To ensure economic strength and global leadership, the President’s comprehensive strategy includes: doubling the funding for basic research within the physical science based federal agencies; encouraging private sector investment in innovation through tax breaks; improving K-12 science and math education; supporting world-class research and education at universities; providing job training that improves workers’ skills so they can better compete; and attracting new people to the discipline to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, thus creating more American jobs.

This ambitious strategy will increase Federal investment in critical research, ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in opportunity and innovation, and provide American children with a strong foundation in math and science.The ACI commits $5.9 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2007, and more than $136 billion over the next 10 years, to increase investments in research and development (R&D), strengthen education, and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. The President recommends $380 million to go towards K-12 education alone, and to double the funding over the next 10 years to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE Science), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The resulting appropriation bills over the last couple of years have fallen short of these marks. The FY 2008 appropriations fell almost $1 billion short of what the ACI outlined. In his 2008 State of the Union address, President Bush reaffirmed his support for bolstering American competitiveness and blamed Congress for failing to follow through with funding for the initiative. Congress responded by pointing out the passage of the America COMPETES Act and argued that the President himself cut K-12 science education funding from the budget. For the FY 2009 budget, the President has requested significant increases in funding for NSF, DOE Science, and NIST.  It still remains to be seen, how much funding will actually be appropriated to the sciences for FY 2009 and beyond.

America COMPETES Act
The America COMPETES Act (H.R. 2272), or “America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act”, was introduced in the House in May 2007 and signed into law by President Bush in August 2007. This landmark piece of legislation promotes the physical sciences in accordance with the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI).  The legislation makes specific recommendations for all the key federal science agencies, including: the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE Science), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).  It also makes recommendations to the Department of Education (ED) to help improve science education funding and teaching. The recommendation highlights for each department or organization listed in the bill follow.

For OSTP the legislation directs the President to convene a National Science and Technology Summit to examine the health and direction of the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education enterprises, and to establish a President’s Council on Innovation and Competitiveness (akin to the President’s Council on Science and Technology).  It directs the OSTP director to commission a National Academy of Sciences study on barriers to innovation; prioritize planning for major research facilities and instrumentation nationwide through the National Science and Technology Council; and facilitate the open exchange of data and results between agencies and policymakers.  Finally, it expresses Congress’ sense that each federal research agency should support and promote innovation through funding for high-risk, high-reward research.

NASA is affirmed as a full participant in all interagency activities, including its own aeronautics program, to promote competitiveness and innovation and to enhance STEM education.  The legislation urges NASA to implement a program to address aging workforce issues at the agency and to utilize NASA’s existing Undergraduate Student Research program to support basic research on subjects of relevance to NASA.  Finally, the legislation expresses the sense of Congress that the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory offers unique opportunities for educational activities and provides a unique resource for research and development in science, technology, and engineering which can enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S.

NIST is authorized for $2.65 billion over FY 2008-2010. This includes funds for NIST labs, lab construction, the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program. This funding level keeps the NIST labs on a path to doubling in ten years.  The goal of the new initiative, TIP, is to assist U.S. businesses, institutions of higher education, or other organizations--such as national laboratories and nonprofit research institutions—in the support, promotion, and acceleration of innovation in the U.S. through high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical need.  It specifies that large companies may not receive TIP funding and that TIP will bridge the funding gap between the research lab and the marketplace.

NOAA is directed to establish a coordinated ocean, Great Lakes, coastal and atmospheric research and development program in consultation with NSF, NASA, academic institutions, and other nongovernmental entities.  In addition, NOAA is required to build upon existing educational programs and activities to enhance public awareness and understanding of the ocean, Great Lakes, and atmospheric science.  NOAA will also be recognized as a full participant in interagency efforts, as well as a historic contributor, in promoting innovation and competitiveness.

DOE is the largest supporter of the physical sciences, and the DOE Office of Science funds basic research and world-class facilities that play an integral role in maintaining technological competitiveness.  DOE Office of Science is authorized at nearly $17 billion over FY 2008-2010.  The legislation establishes the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) to quickly address long-term and high-risk technological barriers in energy through collaborative research and development that private industry or DOE are not likely to undertake alone, and provides separate funding so as not to inhibit other DOE programs.  For K-12 STEM education programs, the legislation allocates $150 million, including: a pilot grant program to help establish or expand statewide specialty high schools in STEM education; a program to provide internship opportunities for middle and high-school students at the national labs; a program at each national lab to help establish a Center of Excellence in STEM education in at least one high-need public secondary school in each lab region; and a program to establish or expand summer institutes at the national labs and partner universities in order to improve the STEM content knowledge of K-12 teachers. All of these programs would be coordinated by a newly appointed Director for STEM Education at the Department, who would also serve as an interagency liaison for K-12 STEM education.  In addition, the legislation highlights the critical role of young investigators working in areas relevant to the mission of DOE by establishing an early career grant program for scientists at both universities and the national labs; and a graduate research fellowship program for outstanding graduate students in these fields.

NSF is authorized $22 billion for FY 2008-2010, putting it on a path to double in approximately 7 years.  STEM education programs to prepare current and future STEM teachers are the particular focus of this money.  In addition, the legislation will help create thousands of new STEM college graduates, including 2-year college graduates, through increased support for the STEM talent expansion (STEP) program and the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.  For those STEM graduates who continue on the path towards academic careers, the conference agreement provides critical support for young, innovative researchers by expanding the graduate research fellowships (GRF) and integrative graduate education and research traineeship (IGERT) programs, strengthening the early career grants (CAREER) program, and creating a new pilot program of seed grants for outstanding new investigators.  Such programs have an additional benefit of helping to stimulate high-risk, high-reward research by identifying and taking a chance on the best and brightest young minds.  Finally, there are several programs for outreach and mentoring women and minorities, including a request for a National Academy of Sciences report to identify barriers to and opportunities for increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

ED will have new programs to enhance teacher education in the STEM fields.  The “Teachers for Competitive Tomorrow” program will specifically help undergraduates get a bachelor degree with concurrent teacher certification and, at the graduate level, help scientists get a masters in education and current teachers get a masters of science.  The legislation authorizes competitive grants to increase the number of qualified teachers serving high-need schools and expand access to honors classes.  Lastly, it authorize the Secretary of Education to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to convene a national panel to identify promising practices in the teaching of STEM courses in elementary and secondary schools.

_________________________________________________

Sources: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, CNET News, House Committee on Science, House Committee on Science Democratic Caucus, Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America, National Academy of Sciences, Council on Competitiveness, Senate and House Press Releases.

Contributed by Corina Cerovski-Darriau, 2008 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Laura Bochner, 2008 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Erin Gleeson, 2007 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, and David McCormick, 2007 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern.

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

Last updated on September 18, 2008.


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