Summary of Hearings on Innovation and
U.S. Competitiveness (8-7-08)

  • July 30, 2008: House Science and Technology Committee hearing on “NASA at 50: Past Accomplishments and Future Opportunities and Challenges”
  • July 15, 2008: House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Science Research and Education hearing on “The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations and Universities in International Science and Technology Cooperation”
  • March 12, 2008: House Science and Technology Committee Hearing on Competitiveness and Innovation on the Committee’s 50th Anniversary
  • Februray 14, 2008: House Science and Technology Committee Hearing on Funding for the America COMPETES Act in the FY2009 Administration Budget Request
  • October 10, 2007: House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education
    Hearing on Assessment of the National Science Board's Action Plan for STEM Education
  • July 26, 2007: House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education hearing on "The Globalization of R&D and Innovation, Pt. II: The University Response"
  • June 14, 2007: Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing on "The Impact of Rising Gas Prices on America's Small Businesses"
  • June 12, 2007: House Committee on Science and Technology hearing on "The Globalization of R&D and Innovation"
  • June 6, 2007: House Science and Technology Committee Research and Design subcommittee hearing on "Federal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education Programs."
  • May 24, 2007: House Natural Resources Subcommittees on National Parks, Forests and Public Landsand Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans joint hearing on "No Child Left Inside: Reconnecting Kids with the Outdoors"
  • May 15, 2007: House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education Hearing on "Federal STEM Education Programs: Educators' Perspectives"

House Science and Technology Committee hearing on “NASA at 50: Past Accomplishments and Future Opportunities and Challenges”
July 30, 2008

Honorable John Glenn, Retired Senator, Ohio
Mr. Norman Augustine, Retired CEO, Lockheed Martin
Dr. Maria Zuber, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Head, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Stephen Hawking, Theoretical Physicist and Mathematician, Cambridge University (prerecorded audio message)

Members Present:

Bart Gordon, Chairman (D-TN)

Ralph Hall, Ranking Member (R-TX)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)

Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)

David Wu (D-OR)

Bob Inglis (R-SC)

Brian Baird (D-WA)

Adrian Smith (R-NE)

Brad Miller (D-NC)


Dan Lipinski (D-IL)


Nicholas Lampson (D-TX)


Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)


Gerald McNerney (D-CA)


Laura Richardson (D-CA)


Donna Edwards (D-MD)


Steven Rothman (D-NJ)


Charlie Melancon (D-LA)


Charlie Wilson (D-OH)


André Carson (D-IN)


July 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the House Committee on Science and Technology, formerly the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, and the subsequent creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on July 29, 1958.  The full committee hearing was held to highlight the significant accomplishments of NASA over the past 50 years as well as to discuss what steps are needed to maintain U.S. leadership in space over the next 50 years.  Looking to the future, the committee members asked what role NASA should play in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and research.

The Committee wanted to re-examine NASA funding in light of President Bush’s “Vision for Space Exploration (VSE),” that aims to send humans back to the Moon and to Mars, and the fact that NASA’s budget has not increased significantly over the past ten years.  As Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) put it, “The future challenges are no less daunting or inspiring.”  Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) reflected on the many influential accomplishments of NASA and its positive reflection on the U.S.  He continued by expressing the need to give positive guidance to the next administration.  The House passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2008, H.R. 6063, which provides an increase in funding for NASA in fiscal year 2009.  Gordon hopes the Senate will pass the bill soon to demonstrate the need to invest in the nation’s space programs, especially “investing at a level that is equal to the tasks we have asked the agency to undertake.”

The witnesses supported the chairman’s objectives in their testimony.  They celebrated the past achievements of NASA and urged continued support for key NASA programs.  Former Ohio senator and astronaut John Glenn talked about the long line of space missions in just 50 years saying, “It has been a wondrous half-century.”  He commended NASA’s abilities to do “macro and micro” exploration, macro being the exploration of outer space and micro being onboard scientific research to maximize returns on the missions.  Norman Augustine talked about how the Cold War era space race improved public school education and attracted young people to science and engineering fields.  Dr. Maria Zuber emphasized the broad range of scientific studies and discoveries of which NASA has been a part.  The studies of other terrestrial planets and the moon have improved understanding of the solar system as well as the planet Earth.  She named some key Earth science contributions from NASA, including understanding atmospheric composition, finding the hole in the ozone, mapping ocean circulation patterns, and measuring the motions of the tectonic plates.  Dr. Stephen Hawking also testified by video and cited the ability of NASA to look back at Earth to help provide data on environmental problems and climate change. 

The witnesses had many concerns for the future of NASA and more broadly science and humanity.  The concerns ranged from mild to dire.  As Hawking said, “[Space exploration] could completely change the future of the human race and could determine if we have a future at all.”  He related space exploration to the exploration of Columbus by pointing out that “many may have thought it was a waste of money to send Columbus on that wild goose chase, yet the discovery of the new world made a profound difference to the old.  Just think we wouldn’t have KFC or the Big Mac.” 

The other witnesses focused on the decline of U.S. presence in manned space operations, lack of funding, and lack of inspiration.  Glenn was concerned about U.S. reliance on the Russians if the space shuttle is decommissioned as planned in Bush’s space vision, leaving the U.S. without shuttle capabilities for at least 5 years.  He was also concerned with Bush’s space vision itself, wondering “just who advised the President on some of the VSE proposals” since this new costly mission is not in addition to, but replaces the existing NASA missions without increased funding.  Despite the problems, Glenn saw the VSE as a means of inspiring young people about science in the future like the Apollo missions did in the past.  Zuber and Augustine were also concerned about the current lack of inspiration.  Augustine stressed the declining number of graduates in science and the positive role NASA could have for science education.  He summed it up by saying, “In my own experience, nothing excites kids more than space and dinosaurs…and we’re short on the later.”  

Recommendations from the witnesses all followed a common theme: excite people about science.  They wanted increased and stable funding for NASA and a focus on research and science education in the future to maintain U.S. competitiveness and innovation.  Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) asked the witnesses how to achieve these goals.  Augustine and Zuber advocated that science teachers should major in a science subject to better educate students.  Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) suggested summer programs to bring teachers up to speed and to improve their ability to speak on science issues.  She also wanted to increase public expectations for students and teachers in order to stop students from just taking the easiest courses.  “It pains me every time someone tells me they have a degree in political science if they aren’t going to get a PhD or sociology if they are not going to get a PhD,” she said.  Zuber, harking back to inspiration, explained that students need to see something that makes taking the harder math classes worthwhile.  Tangible programs that can be seen and get people excited are “goals young people can believe in,” according to Augustine.  Zuber told Gordon in response to his question about the needs of STEM programs that the U.S. should have creative programs that do not require measured success to promote innovation and new ideas.  As Glenn explained, “Whoever leads in [education and research] leads in the world.”

Glenn said to achieve manned space flight goals research spending needs to be viewed as beneficial instead of wasteful.  He cited past research in fertilizers that at first had no clear goal, but led to the unintended consequence of increased food production and quality.  In his testimony, Glenn requested about $3 billion a year for NASA to keep the shuttle operational, the research projects functioning, and the launch personnel trained as well as to maintain credibility in the worldview.  NASA’s goal has been “to improve life here, to extend life to there, and to find life beyond,” he said, however “a great plan without resources remains a dream.”

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) asked the witnesses, “What would you cut to get a few billion dollars to focus on launch capability?”  Glenn retorted that the budget is $3 trillion dollars and that a couple billion dollars can be found somewhere in that.  Zuber and Augustine answered more proactively, though cautiously, by suggesting that new initiatives should not be started without appropriate funding.  As Augustine put it, “We are measured by what we finish not what we start.” 
In their recommendations for the future, the witnesses concluded that in order to remain competitive in space and science in general the U.S. needs to invest in science education and research.  “Will the U.S. be viewed as the greatest nation on Earth if China is walking on the moon and not us?” Zuber asked.  She recommended stable funding to move science research forward that is essential to both the space and Earth sciences.  Glenn asserted, “I don’t want us just going up to space and coming back waving a Styrofoam finger saying ‘We’re #1!’  We need longer term goals.”  Hawking called for the long-term aim of getting a human colony in space with a station on the Moon by 2020 and a mission to Mars by 2030.  The long-term goals of the other witnesses centered on inspiration for young people.  The witnesses all concluded that, if adequately funded, NASA could accomplish its goals.  As Augustine concluded in his testimony, “I believe that America can take enormous pride in what NASA has accomplished these past fifty years—all of which, to America’s great credit, has been done in the glare of the public spotlight.  NASA, like any other organization populated with humans, is not perfect—but if it sets perfection as a goal I am confident that we will have much to look forward to in the next fifty years.”

Links to witness testimony are found here.


House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Science Research and Education hearing on “The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations and Universities in International Science and Technology Cooperation”
July 15, 2008

Dr. Alan Leshner, Chief Executive Officer, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Dr. Michael Clegg, Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
Dr. William Wulf, Member of the Board of Directors, Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF)
Dr. James Calvin, Interim Vice President for Research, Texas A&M University

Members Present:
Brian Baird, Chairman (D-WA)
Vernon Ehlers, Ranking Member (R-MI)
Brian Bilbray (R-CA)
Gerald McNerney (D-CA)
Russ Carnahan (D-MO)

This hearing was one in a series of hearings to discuss the state of international science and technology cooperation.  The focus of this hearing was on the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities in facilitating cooperation now and in the future.  In their opening remarks, Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) and Ranking Member Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) stressed the need for global scientific research which utilizes governments, NGOs, and universities to unite the sciences.  "The major challenges faced by our nation are the major challenges faced by the entire globe, and the U.S. cannot effectively pursue solutions on its own," Baird said. Ehlers pointed out the unique role of science in diplomacy highlighting its part in the breakdown of the Iron Curtain.  “What really made major contributions [to the breakdown] was the interchange of scientists…Both American scientists and Russian scientists were very anxious to work together, they did not regard this as a political activity.”  The witnesses elaborated on these sentiments and explained the roles of their organizations, the reasons to promote international cooperation, and means by which it can be done.

All four witnesses presented case studies for projects or workshops they have led to foster scientific developments in other countries.  Dr. Alan Leshner described AAAS’ recent work on a “Women in Science and Engineering Conference” in Kuwait to connect women scientists from the U.S. and 22 Arab nations, and a “Research Integrity Workshop” in China.  Dr. Michael Clegg described the NAS arms control and non-proliferation work, the collaborative water project report “Water for the Future: The West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel, and Jordan,” and development of science academies with a focus on health in Africa.  Dr. William Wulf highlighted CRDF’s success in the former Soviet Union, and their plans to expand research, institutions, and nonproliferation work through the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.  Dr. James Calvin cited cases in Mexico/South America, China, and the Middle East where Texas A&M has international partnerships.   

The witnesses all agreed that science is a powerful diplomatic tool, especially in countries where government relations are strained.  “The over-arching goal of science diplomacy is to use international scientific cooperation to foster communication and cooperation among the peoples of diverse nations and to promote greater global peace, prosperity and stability,” explained Leshner.  The unique ability of science to transcend boundaries makes it vital to the promotion of a “global scientific enterprise,” as Leshner called it.  It is needed now, especially with a declining world opinion of the U.S.  Despite wavering approval in other areas the U.S. science and technology communities are still well-respected in conflicted regions.  “International polling reveals that attitudes towards U.S. science are more positive than towards any other aspect of U.S. society,” Clegg pointed out.

Ehlers expressed how pleased he was by the work being done to breakdown barriers and wanted to offer federal help to continue the organizations’ efforts.  In response to the committee’s request for recommendations from the witnesses, Leshner clearly outlined what he felt needs to be done.  He advocated for a strong national focus on science policy, which in his opinion requires a presidential science advisor and a clear directive for the associate director of the Office of Science Technology Policy.  His recommendations also included: improving the scope and research ability of federal science agencies, developing funding mechanisms for international projects the reinforce science policy, and working jointly with the foreign affairs committee and the state department.  Clegg feels that in order to get the most benefits from the federal science agencies, more explicit instructions from Congress are needed.  The witnesses agreed that the Federal government needs to fully utilize science academies, and engage the public and policymakers. 

Baird asked the witnesses if it makes sense to have National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research in foreign countries.  He recounted a gloomy story of the three water sanitation officials from a country in Africa.  They were the only three with sanitation expertise in the country.  One died of AIDS and the other two died in a car crash coming from the funeral.  In light of that story, research and training in developing countries is necessary.  However, he wondered if U.S. generosity would be recognized.  Wulf assured him that the generosity is recognized and reflects well upon the U.S.  Still, as Leshner put it, “the neutrality of the motivation is clear” when research is directed by an NGO rather than a governmental agency.  Representative Gerald McNerney (D-CA) asked about the role of multinational corporations as compared to NGOs or the government.  Wulf and Clegg responded that corporations can offer financial support for research and education, especially in the energy and hi-tech fields, but corporate interests are not focused on the long-term goals their organizations wish to achieve. 

Another recommendation from Clegg was to bring more people from developing countries to the U.S. for their graduate studies.  This led into Calvin’s suggestion of reworking the visa process to better facilitate “international intellectual exchange.”  Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA) concurred that a better visa system that extends beyond just the border is necessary.  It could alleviate many of the problems associated with obtaining a student visa, increasing the number of applicants and therefore the “goodwill engendered overseas” Wulf said is created by foreign students.

“Many of the organizations before us today are uniquely positioned to leverage their own strengths at building relationships in science and technology cooperation that transcends literal and figurative borders even in times of governmental conflict, relations built on trust and mutual respect will outlast current frictions,” Ehlers remarked.  In order to forward research and diplomatic relations, Ehlers and the witnesses want to see increased international scientific collaboration as part of national policy, collaboration that will include NGOs, universities, and governments.  Calvin’s view was that “no country can monopolize science,” and as Clegg put it, “science was a global activity long before the invention of the term ‘globalization’.”

Links to witness testimony are found here.


House Science and Technology Committee Hearing on Competitiveness and Innovation on the Committee’s 50th Anniversary
March 12, 2008


 Mr. Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft

Committee Members Present

Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN)                                    Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX)
Mr. Brian Baird (D-WA)                                             Mr. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Ms. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)                                     Mr. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)
Mr. Gerald McNerney (D-CA)                                    Mr. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)
Ms. Laura Richardson (D-CA)                                     Ms. Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Mr. Steven Rothman (D-NJ)                                        Mr. Dave Reuchert (R-WA)
Mr. Russ Carnahan (D-MO)                                        Mr. Michael McCaul (R-TX)
                                                                                    Mr. Phil Gingrey (R-GA)

The House Science Committee commemorated their 50th anniversary with a hearing on American competitiveness and innovation.  The sole witness was Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft. Gates was asked to discuss achievements in technology that have occurred over the last 50 years, the current state of American competitiveness and our future challenges.

Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and ranking member Ralph Hall (R-TX), both mentioned in their opening statements how the launch of Sputnik by the Russians in 1957 and the sight of the blinking red light was a call to action to re-establish the U.S. as the world’s technology leader.  This event resulted in the formation of the Committee and the creation of NASA in 1958. 

Gordon stated, “I fear we are now on the cusp of another Sputnik moment. I fear that our country has “coasted” on the investments we made 50 years ago. Now is the time to act and I believe this Committee has an important role to play in helping bring our country back as the technological leader in the world.”

“Science informs good policy,” said Hall.  He went on to discuss the numerous reports indicating the U.S. may be falling behind once again and the lag our students have in math and science education compared to the rest of the developed world. 

Mr. Gates addressed this potential threat in American competitiveness in his testimony citing two areas that standout, severe shortfalls in science and technology expertise and the lack of federal investment in basic research to drive innovation.  “Only government has the resources to affect change on a broad scale,” said Gates.  Gates went on to discuss the role of science and math education and how this a solid science and math education is  where it all begins; he discussed the need for metrics to assess science and math education and the role of effective teachers in helping young people succeed. 

Immigration reform was the last topic discussed in Gate’s testimony. He highlighted the challenges U.S. firms have in attracting and retaining highly skilled immigrants.  He discussed the fact that a large number of foreign students attend our universities and colleges for their engineering and science degrees, but then are unable to remain in the U.S. to work for U.S. companies because of the limit on H-1B visas (65,000 issued annually). For example in fiscal year 2008, the supply of H-1B visas ran out the first day the petitions could be filed and almost half of the individuals seeking visas were denied.

Committee members asked questions regarding science and math education, the recruitment of young people into science and engineering fields, the impact of limited H-1B visas on American competitiveness, encouraging private investment in research and development, and where federal investment in science and technology should be targeted. Chairman Gordon, stated that the committee will continue to address the issue of competitiveness and innovation by not only pushing the priorities set out in the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 2272, P.L. 110-69), but by finding other policy solutions to address the growing concern. (3-12-08)

The text of the America COMPETES Act can be accessed at

House Science and Technology Committee Hearing on Funding for the America COMPETES Act in the FY2009 Administration Budget Request
February 14, 2008


Dr. John H. Marburger, III, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Committee Members Present

Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
Lynn C. Woolsey (D-CA)
David Wu (D-OR)
Brian Baird (D-WA)
Laura Richardson (D-CA)
Jim Matheson (D-UT)
Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX)
Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD)
Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI)
Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Bob Inglis (R-SC)
Phil Gingrey (R-GA)
Paul Broun (R-GA)

On February 14, 2008 the House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing to examine the President's fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget request and its relation to the programs authorized by the America COMPETES Act (COMPETES, P.L. 110-69). Dr. John H. Marburger, III, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was the only witness before the committee.

The overwhelming passage of COMPETES by Congress as well as the similarity of the legislation to the President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) reflect the broad support and commitment the federal government has to maintaining and increasing U.S. competitiveness in the physical sciences and engineering.

COMPETES calls for the doubling of research funding within three primary agencies- the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The President's proposed FY09 budget calls for increases in basic research that are 3% above FY08 enacted levels for a total of $147 billion, but according to Dr. Marburger "prioritizing within the constraints of budget realities necessarily means that some of the programs and activities authorized in America COMPETES could not be requested in this Budget."

Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) expressed his concern over the lack of funding requested for math and science education in the President's FY09 budget. Mr. Gordon said, "the bad news is that our students are far from measuring up compared to other industrialized countries. According to the latest OECD Program for International Students Assessment, or PISA, students in the U.S. ranked 25th out of 30 developed countries in math.

In science, the news is just as bad - U.S. students ranked 21st in science - down from 19th in 2003 and 14th in 2000. In fact, 25 percent of U.S. students failed to reach even a basic level where they could identify scientific concepts or apply data to a personal decision.

Knowing this, I am deeply disappointed that, yet again, the President's budget does not make K-12 education programs at NSF a priority."

Various committee members, including Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), echoed concern over shortfalls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education funding. Specifically, in the President's FY09 budget, NSF's Robert Noyce scholarship program would receive only 10% of the funding authorized in COMPETES for FY09. The goal of the program is to encourage talented STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers.

The program was restructured in COMPETES based on a top line recommendation of the National Academy of Science report, "Rising Above The Gathering Storm," to recruit 10,000 science and math teachers annually by offering 4-year scholarships. The President's FY09 request of $11.6 million would allow for 13-18 institutional grants and the recruitment of approximately 500 students.

In addition to stating concerns over STEM education shortfalls, committee members expressed frustration with the elimination of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Technology Innovation Programs (TIP) in the Administration's proposal. According to a committee press release, "COMPETES also seeks to ensure that U.S. companies and small businesses lead the world in innovation, creating jobs in the process. COMPETES seeks to reverse this trend with robust funding for MEP and TIP - both of which have proven track records for return on investment and job creation."

While the President's FY09 budget would provide increases for research and development (R&D) in some programs, these increases may not be realized in the final budget agreements. The outcome of the appropriations process for FY09 may be similar to the outcome in FY08. The FY08 omnibus appropriations bill funded only about a third of the President's requested increase for the ACI. In December, a veto threat forced Congress to cut R&D within the omnibus in order to stay within reach of the President's numbers.

According to Kei Koizumi, the director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the President's FY09 budget request is "setting up the same situation that's happened in the past two years."

"It's going to be a big challenge, because overall the President once again is requesting a flat, if not declining, total domestic budget, and that is the bottom line under which all of these ACI-related R&D proposals have to fit," Koizumi said. "So once again ... these are enormous requested increases for the Office of Science and NSF and NIST at the same time as many domestic programs would be cut dramatically or eliminated."

Witness testimony can be viewed here.


House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education
Hearing on Assessment of the National Science Board's Action Plan for STEM Education
October 10, 2007


Panel I
Dr. Steven Beering, Chairman, National Science Board
Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell, President, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and
Professor of Education, McDaniel College
Ms. Judy A. Jeffrey, Director, Iowa Department of Education and Representing the Council of Chief State School Officers
Dr. Robert Semper, Executive Associate Director, The Exploratorium and Representing the Association of Science-Technology Centers
Ms. Chrisanne Gayl, Director of Federal Programs, National School Boards Association
Ms. Susan L. Traiman, Director, Education and Workforce Policy Business Roundtable

Committee Members Present

Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA)
Gerald McNerney (D-CA)
Dan Lipinski (D-IL)
Ranking Member Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)
Ralph M. Hall (R-TX)

The purpose of this hearing is to hear testimony regarding the proposal from the National Science Board's (NSB) report on "A National Action Plan for Addressing the Critical Needs of the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education System". The committee wants to learn if the STEM education proposal addresses the key issues to improve education and to increase the number of well-qualified STEM educators.

Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) said U.S. students need STEM education to be competitive in the workforce. More consistent content between grade levels and between states will help students build on previous knowledge as they progress through school, even if they move. More highly-qualified STEM teachers are needed, which Baird noted was a major point from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) "Rising Above the Gathering Storm…" report. A major national strategy is needed to change schools throughout the U.S. and Baird hopes the National Science Foundation (NSF) will create this "roadmap" for STEM education.

Ranking Member Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) stated that the two necessities for better STEM education are more coordination of efforts and better teachers. He also said parents are often not convinced that their children need to be educated in science and math to compete in the future. Although many schools and parents do not want mandatory education guidelines, Ehlers has written legislation to begin voluntary curriculum standards to help address these issues.

Dr. Steven Beering spoke for the NSB. He cited the poor performance of U.S. students on international standardized STEM tests. The U.S. will not be able to compete globally without STEM competitiveness. The national action plan in the report was created in 2005 with the help of over 90 scientists. To improve, the U.S. needs a more coherent STEM education, and high numbers of well prepared, highly effective teachers.

Ms. Judy A. Jeffrey, Director of the Iowa Department of Education, represented the Council of Chief State School Officers. She said states have a responsibility for molding schools, and that the NSB or any other organization should not create national content standards. Instead, they should set basic, cross-cutting themes for schools to cover as each state sees fit. She did agree that more STEM teachers are needed, and added that teachers need ongoing professional development to remain effective. Ms. Jeffrey also said techniques for teaching struggling students should be a larger focus of STEM education research.

Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell, President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and Professor of Education at McDaniel College, asserted that a quality teacher is the most important aspect in student learning. He also stressed the need for parents to value the importance of STEM subjects. He cited the "significant" lack of curriculum coherence, saying it was too often "a mile wide and an inch deep". He suggested materials such as the NCTM report "Curriculum focal points for pre-kindergarten through grade 8 mathematics" to help schools determine the most important topics to master for each grade level.

Ms. Chrisanne Gayl, Director of Federal Programs at the National School Boards Association, approved of the action plan. She asserted that people need the content, knowledge, and skills obtained from STEM education no matter what career path they follow. But she did note that to improve STEM education, schools need hands-on, up to date lab equipment, which is not mentioned in the report. She also believes each state needs flexibility to create its own curricula.

Dr. Robert Semper represented the Association of Science-Technology Centers at the hearing. He recalled the effect that Sputnik had on increasing STEM education in the U.S. about 50 years ago. Many science centers are a product of that increased STEM funding, and these centers are still contributing to education today. Semper stressed using not only school time but after school programs, science centers, and peer interactions as possible ways to integrate science and math into students' lives. He said "we must look at the whole system to ensure your time is high-impact." Semper hopes to see coordination between educators, the media, and researchers to make STEM education an exciting and immersive part of students' everyday lives.

Ms. Susan L. Traiman of the Education and Workforce Policy Business Roundtable said that paying STEM educators better will lead to increased quality of teacher preparation. She believes that having 50 different state education standards will not help strengthen U.S. STEM competitiveness. In the past modest proposals to create standards have not worked.

Chairman Baird said he was concerned that so many witnesses were against a national curriculum when countries that do better on STEM assessment tests have one. He asked the panel "why can't we or why shouldn't we have this?" Dr. Fennell agreed that the U.S. does need a comprehensive plan to be competitive. Ms. Gayl said that in a nation of over 50 million school children the U.S. needs flexibility and innovation in a program. Ms. Jeffrey replied there may be a time and place to create national standards. Congressman Ehlers believes that creating national STEM education sequence and concepts will fix over 80% of the current problems.

Congressman McNerney asked the panel how to find what excited students about science and use that on a national level. Dr. Semper replied that in his region they have a public forum to discuss education needs. This can be done at a national level with educators, parents, school board members, and scientists. These types of local talks could be a starting point for a national movement.

Congressman Lipinski inquired about how to identify and encourage students that will continue with STEM education. Dr. Fennell replied that this was a "critical" question because highly qualified educators come from this group of students, and that higher-level classes need to be available earlier. Ms. Jeffrey said that links between high schools, junior colleges and colleges help students continue with STEM education when they might not otherwise. She also supported creating academies or similar organizations to help with extra education and training. Ms. Traiman added that students often get excited about engineering or science, but often do not perform well in early math classes and lose opportunities to continue in those fields. Addressing this issue earlier on may keep many more students interested in STEM fields.

Chairman Baird asked the panel what alternate approach would work if they disagree with the action plan. Ms. Traiman believes that a voluntary organization of states should establish what a high school graduate should know to be ready for college or the workforce and use those standards to establish K-12 curriculum. The panel should be composed of educators and business leaders, which would be "better" than a federal panel.

Ehlers stressed that "the public doesn't understand the urgency of this problem." China and India began a push for better STEM education about 20 years ago and are way ahead of the U.S. now. Ehlers cited that last year, China graduated more English-speaking engineers than the U.S. He said junior colleges are "saving us" by making up for deficiencies in schools and moving students into universities. Ehlers asserted the need for a "cohesive mechanism" for STEM education.

Chairman Baird concluded the hearing saying "this is not by any means the end to this" discussion. He believes their job as legislators is to help make sure all students get a good education, and will continue hearings to get diverse witness opinions. All of the committee members who were present agree that STEM education is important to the future of the U.S. and that the current system needs improvement. Witnesses agree on the need for an improved curriculum, but disagree on how to achieve it. Some feel that a standardized curriculum, or at least standardized learning concepts, will be the most beneficial to students. Others believe that local communities need to create their own curricula based on what is important to them. All agree that parents need to support the importance of STEM education. The national action plan has a great deal of support, but many local districts will resist following national guidelines. It may take a lot of effort by Congress to persuade many communities to follow any type of standards they set.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

A link to the NSB "A National Action Plan for Addressing the Critical Needs of the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education System" can be found here.

A link to the NAS report Rising Above the Gathering Storm can be found here.

A link to Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten through Grade 8 Mathematics can be found here.


House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education hearing on
"The Globalization of R&D and Innovation, Pt. II: The University Response"
July 26, 2007

Dr. David Skorton, President of Cornell University
Dr. Gary Schuster, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs of Georgia Institute of Technology
Mr. Mark Wessel, Dean of the Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Phillip Altbach, Monan Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College

On July 26, 2007 the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education convened to examine the effect of university globalization on the United States competitiveness in so-called STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). The hearing built upon a June 12 hearing that addressed exportation of technical jobs out of the United States. Four members of the university community came to testify before the committee on their estimation of the benefits and drawbacks of the increased globalization of tertiary education.

Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) opened the hearing by recapping the assets the United States possesses in STEM education. Based on a recent report, the United States is home to seventeen of the world's top twenty research universities, he said. In addition, 30 percent of the world's science and engineering articles are published by Americans. But, he cautioned, as outsourcing makes more technical jobs available in other countries, such as China and India, foreign students may have less incentive to study and stay in the United States. Full Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) echoed similar concerns about competition from scientists and engineers in other countries. "Universities," he said, "are our first line of defense in ensuring our leadership in the global economy."

Dr. David Skorton, President of Cornell University, opened the panel's comments by summarizing Cornell's international efforts. Cornell has established a medical school in Qatar,to improve health care in that region and for cross-cultural exchange. For American students, the school acts as a base for the development of critical language skills. For Qatar, the medical school represents the only coeducational school in the country.

The Provost for the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Gary Schuster, described the school's involvement overseas. He referenced a program in Metz, France called Georgia Tech-Lorraine, which serves as a technological partnership between the U.S. and France. Having a technologically focused school in France allows Americans to have early access to breakthrough developments there, namely in network security where France excels. Additionally, another so-called "branch campus" in Singapore gives Americans a window on the advances in transportation logistics, he said. Schuster said that programs such as these encourage collaboration between countries.

Mark Wessel, Dean of the Heinz School of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), provided additional input for what a school with an extensive information technology program implements in its schools abroad. CMU, he said, asks itself if they might be training a workforce outside the U.S. which would eventually replace American workers. He admitted this to be true to a certain extent, but he cited the benefits to the economy and to our own workers as being a worthwhile trade-off. By interacting internationally, he said, networks are made and graduates are better able to lead. He added, though, that universities themselves are not immune to competition either. Universities must have their own interest and longevity in mind before they create programs overseas.

Providing an academic, rather than an administrative perspective on the matter, was Dr. Phillip Altbach, a professor at Boston College applauded the committee's interest saying that the issue of university globalization needs greater attention. The American university, he said, is the "gold standard" and the global model that foreign institutions are copying around the world. At the same time, there is a worldwide demand for great access to higher education. He added that these branch campuses have significant advantages for Americans as the institutions earn money, increase their reputations, increase their visibilities, and can more easily expose their American students to other cultures. Altbach also cautioned that the accreditation process varies by country thereby making "quality control" more problematic for American universities.

The question and answer period showed differing opinions and priorities among the congressmen with regard to international college programs. Baird said that he had great appreciation for foreign students, who, even if returning to their homeland, retain a "deep affection" for the United States thereby promoting the nation's standing in the world. To that, Schuster mentioned that Georgia Tech requires branch campus foreigners to spend some time on the state-side campus. Skorton urged the consideration of American higher education as an economic sector and echoed Wessel's opening remarks by saying that they are facing "serious competition." He cited India's goal of quadrupling the number of its domestic universities over the next fifteen years as direct competition for higher education.

Full Committee Ranking Member, Ralph Hall (R-TX) questioned the universities' claims of equal opportunity abroad by saying that coupling it with seeking the "best and the brightest" natives would be mutually exclusive. He also asked, to laughs across the room, "For a state institution overseas, who do you consider to be out of state?" Hall's comment, though, addressed an important issue of financial aid for American students studying abroad, which by and large was not addressed at the hearing.

The hearing concluded with an emphatic call by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to reevaluate acceptance of international graduate students in American universities. He said that the American public pays enough into universities that it should be intended first and foremost for American students. "This is not a public service to foreigners," he said. He went on to imply that the United States is being taken advantage of for its technology and intellectual capital. He considered this dynamic as a technological security issue, which Skorton later likened to espionage. "Don't we have a large pool of Americans that could be trained rather than […] people from overseas?" Rohrabahcer asked. Skorton replied simply that "unfortunately, we're doing as good a job in the STEM pipeline in this country as we need to be." "Help us fill up the STEM pipeline," he urged.


Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing on
"The Impact of Rising Gas Prices on America's Small Businesses"
June 14, 2007

Guy Caruso, Administrator of the Energy Information Administration (EIA)
Frederick W. Smith, Energy Security Leadership Council
Salvatore Lupoli, President, Sal's Pizza Inc.
Janet Myhre, Director of Government Services Group, Chuckals Office Products
Timothy P. Lynch, Senior Vice President, American Trucking Associations

The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship met on June 14, 2007 to discuss "The Impact of Rising Gas Prices on America's Small Business." Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) opened the hearing by emphasizing the impact that gas prices are having on American businesses. Kerry cited Department of Energy statistics that indicated a 52% increase in gas prices since January of 2007, further pressuring small businesses with already ballooning transportation costs. Kerry criticized the "failed leadership" of Congress on the issue of energy policy over the past thirty years, but also expressed optimism for the legislation currently working its way through the Senate. Additionally, in his opening comments, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) related his own experience as a farmer and explained how rising gas prices are affecting his business. His tractor, he said, can "cut a pretty big hole in my profit margin." He finished off by telling the panelists that he looked forward to any "silver bullets that you can pull out of your holster."

First to testify, Guy Caruso, of the Energy Information Administration, discussed the factors of soaring petroleum costs and market conditions, both current and predicted. Caruso cited several causes for the costs: decreased production by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC), tighter refining capabilities, higher demand especially for light products, and continuing geopolitical concerns. He also suggested that prices would be difficult to predict in the coming weeks mostly due to the repairs needed on refineries and the imminent hurricane season.

Chairman and CEO of FedEx Corporation, Frederick Smith testified on behalf of the Energy Security Leadership Council, a non-partisan organization of retired military officers and business leaders who aim to reduce oil dependence in the U.S. Smith started FedEx as a small business in the 1970s and he provided insight into how transportation costs can affect small- to medium-scale businesses. Smith targeted advice for Republicans and Democrats. Democrats, he said, should acknowledge that not pursuing domestic energy production "exacerbates the dangers of oil dependence." On the other hand, he said "Republicans must accept that the free market has not - and will not adequately" take the steps to protect the nation in the event of an oil crisis.

Salvatore Lupoli, President of Sal's Pizza, Inc., offered anecdotal testimony of how rising gas prices have affected not only his transportation costs, but business revenue and employees themselves. His company's daily operation of a few dozen trucks has cut into his bottom line. Lupoli also emphasized the human impact on his employees, many of whom come from low-income areas. "Often I am faced with employees," he said, "that are unable to afford gasoline for their cars" and must choose not to go to work as a result. Lupoli cited car pooling and public transportation as possible options, but added that these options were not always available. He also mentioned that his business was not alone in having a tighter budget and that many frequent customers would be less frequent visitors to his establishments due to their own smaller budgets.

Janet Myhre, Director of the Government Services Group at Chuckals Office Products, testified next on her business's financial difficulties due to rising gas prices. Myhre noted that cost per delivery of office products has doubled for the company since January 2005. Myhre raised concerns that her company has in maintaining competitiveness and its ability to provide full benefits for its employees.

The last witness to testify was Timothy Lynch, Senior Vice President at American Trucking Associations. Lynch mentioned that the nation's freight industry will spend a record amount this year on fuel, estimated at more than double the sector's fuel cost in 2003. The trucking industry has also had concern about emission standards which have reduced the efficiency of vehicles. And while he said that they "do not oppose these efforts" they still come at a cost. Lynch proposed several methods for helping the industry cope with fuel difficulties, including clarifying the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This would ensure that the Federal Highway Administration enforces a federal 400 pound weight exemption for trucks running fuel-efficient generators for air conditioning rather than the main engine.

During the question and answer period, Chairman Kerry mainly focused on the role of oil production on the oil market. Caruso explained that the current extent of refinery outages was unexpected and responsible for the price increase. Kerry also asked about how Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards might hurt the oil market and the overall economy. Smith responded by saying that similar efforts in the 1970s proved to be worthwhile despite concern. Many auto manufacturers resisted when fuel efficiency standards were first put into place in 1975. But ultimately, Smith said, leaders of the car companies, such as Henry Ford, Jr., admitted to being wrong about their opposition. As for the current situation, he said, "we believe nothing we suggested at the end of the day is harmful."

Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-ME) expressed her support for the small business sector saying that a financial crisis for small business was "clearly an issue of major national priority." She asked if anything else should be done in the energy bill. Smith cautioned that the United States should not put food markets in peril. He also expressed support for the Dorgan-Craig bill (S.1118), which, starting in 2012, would force auto manufacturers to improve fleet efficiency by a flat 4% annually, as opposed to a graduated plan in a similar legislation introduced by Senator Boxer.

Several other senators engaged in the question and answer period, including Senators Tester, Bob Corker (R-TN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), John Thune (R-SD), and Ben Cardin (D-MD). All expressed sympathy for small businesses that are suffering from higher gas prices, and none voiced particular opposition to stricter fuel efficiency standards.


House Committee on Science and Technology hearing on "The Globalization of R&D and Innovation"
June 12, 2007

Dr. Alan S. Blinder, Director of the Center for Economic Policy Studies at Princeton University
Dr. Ralph E. Gomory, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Dr. Martin N. Baily, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and senior adviser to McKinsey Global Institute
Dr. Thomas J. Duesterberg is the President and CEO of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI.

On June 12, 2007, the House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing on "The Globalization of R&D and Innovation." Committee Chair Bart Gordon (D-TN) commented that the United States' high standard of living is "derived largely from our technological superiority." He thus found it disturbing that "most American science and engineering jobs are vulnerable to offshoring." Gordon sees the decrease in possible science and technology jobs as a factor that is keeping American students from pursuing science careers, as illustrated by a 40 percent drop in the number of American undergraduates enrolling in computer science programs. "Unless the United States maintains its edge in innovation, which is founded on a well-trained creative workforce, the best jobs may soon be found overseas," he stated. He expressed the willingness of the current Congress to deal with these issues in a meaningful way.

Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) echoed Gordon's concerns, mentioning that it was previously thought that only unskilled labor was in danger of being moved to foreign countries, but now even high tech jobs are at risk. He also expressed concern that other countries are outpacing the United States, noting that 58 percent of degrees awareded in China last year were in the physical sciences, as compared to only 17 percent in the U.S. "If we continue to lose our research and development and high tech jobs to foreign competitors, we are going to have a long steep hill to climb to keep our economy going," he stated.

The first witness, Alan S. Blinder, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, stated that while Americans are "far better educated on average," there are still "millions of skilled workers in developing countries educated about as well as Americans are." He estimated that because of this educated foreign workforce, 30 to 40 million American jobs are "potentially offshorable." Blinder admitted that some of his views are controversial and are interpreted as indicating that all potentially offshorable jobs will be lost. However, he noted the difference between "personal jobs" and "impersonal jobs." Personal jobs require face-to-face contact, such as teachers, doctors, and taxi drivers. These types of jobs will never be exported. He also reassured that not all of the impersonal jobs, such as technology jobs, will leave America. He gave the example of the manufacturing industry. While it has been much cheaper for several decades for American companies to manufacture goods in countries such as China and India, there continue to be a sizable number of manufacturing jobs within the United States. Similarly, he suggested, not all technological jobs will move oversees, despite the seeming monetary advantage. Blinder stressed that in order to maintain as many jobs as possible, the United States has to "remain the hotbed of innovation" and maintain "support for basic research."

Dr. Martin N. Baily, former chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, views globalization as a potentially good thing for American economics. "The benefits of globalization are going to come," he stated, adding that the United States has benefited from an "inward brain drain" in which foreign scientists come to the U.S. to study and eventually become naturalized citizens. Baily noted that while many low skill technology jobs, such as data entry, have been lost in the United States, overall "employment is growing in high tech fields." He also mentioned the need to "embrace the fact that science and technology is a global endeavor" by allowing foreign scientists to come work or study in the U.S. Another major area of importance that Baily stressed was funding of scientific research and education. In addition to funding materials science, the government should provide scholarships to encourage more students to pursue graduate study in science and technology, he said.

Dr. Ralph E. Gomory, former Director of Research at the IBM Corporation, had a slightly different focus than the other witnesses. His main point was that "the interests of companies and countries has diverged," so that U.S. companies no longer invest in domestic research and development, but rather they invest abroad where costs are cheaper. He noted that investments in science and technology do not "contribute to a nation's wealth directly by employing large numbers of people," but rather by creating "end products," such as computers or medical services, that make up "the bulk of a corporation's revenues and support the wages of its employees." Gomory suggested that "Improved K-12 education and more money for research and development" will improve U.S. productivity relative to those of Asian nations, but will still have only a "limited impact." Instead, he suggested that the government should "offer incentives and reward companies," such as a corporate tax scaled by the value added per full time equivalent for adding high tech jobs. Such incentives could "realign the profit interests of corporations with the interests of the country."

The final witness, Dr. Thomas J. Duesterberg, mentioned that "access to local and regional markets" is a major reason for locating manufacturing jobs abroad. For example, when American companies open manufacturing plants in China, typically only 10 percent of the products are sold back to the U.S., with the remaining 90 percent sold in regional markets. In this way, Duesterberg described, American companies producing jobs abroad is not always a bad thing. He noted that "U.S. manufacturers' share of global high tech output increased from approximately 25 percent in 1980 to 42.5 percent by 2003." He also stressed that "more R&D is insourced into the U.S. than is outsourced," such as research by Japanese and German companies. Overall, Duestererg had a very positive outlook, but still mentioned the need to "keep our domestic economy strong" by "creating a better career path for U.S. scientists and engineers."

When Brian Baird (D-WA) asked about why so many jobs are moved abroad, Gomory stated that "the incentives [foreign governments] provide are irresistible," and reinforced his suggestion that the U.S. government needs to "reward the creation of high value jobs" as well as creating job demand. Duesterberg mentioned the huge levels of funding spent on the Apollo program half a century ago, and suggested that if similar funding levels were being spent now, there would not be a research and development problem in the United States. He also described how globally engaged companies, such as Intel and Microsoft, continue to increase jobs both in the U.S. and abroad. Duesterberg stated that a major issue is that "we do not value math and science jobs" anymore, and recounted that when he was attending college in the 1960's, everyone wanted to be an aerospace engineer. He stated, that the "culture is not as supportive as it should be to people entering these fields."

Representative David Wu (D-OR) questioned about foreign universities' extent of research and development. Blinder reassured that the United States has "a huge comparative advantage in education," but that "it is only natural for the rest of the world to catch up." Baily said that the U.S. needs to maintain science and technology at state and local universities, not just the "top 10" universities. He noted the "spillover" from University research to the private sector, which helps to fuel the economies of cities such as Boston, San Francisco, and Austin. Judy Biggert (R-IL) focused instead on the state of science education in elementary schools, saying that the No Child Left Behind act is "pretty dismal." She asserted that the U.S. is "not going to attract kids to science and math if [it] does not give them basic education and the will to learn." Blinder agreed and stated that the U.S. needs to "move away from 19th century educational practices" such as standardized tests, and focus on getting children to "play with ideas" and "use more creativity."


House Science and Technology Committee Research and Design subcommittee hearing on "Federal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education Programs."
June 6, 2007

Dr. Cora Marrett, Assistant Director, Education and Human Resources Directorate National Science Foundation (NSF)
Dr. Joyce Winterton, Assistant Administrator, Office of Education National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Mr. William Valdez, Director Office of Workforce Development for teachers and Scientists, Office of Science Department of Energy
Dr. Bruce Fuchs, Director Office of Science Education, National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The subcommittee of Research and Science Education of the House Science and Technology Committee met on June 6, 2007 to discuss and assess the role of the federal government in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and hear recommendations of how to better evaluate the success of these programs. In his opening statements, Vice-Chairman Jerry McNerney (D-CA) said "one of the most important aspects of any discussion on STEM education is how we can reach more students and make sure the U.S. is not only keeping up with the rest of the world, but outpacing other countries." He continued that based on the Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC) report and previous hearings, two major hurdles that must be overcome in STEM education are better collaboration between federal agencies and state/local governments as well as improved evaluation methods that are simpler than previous measurements. Ranking Member Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) concurred with McNerney stating that STEM education is a priority of this nation and there is still much more that the federal government needs to do.

In Dr. Cora Marrett's testimony she stated that STEM education is a priority and that in response to the ACC report the National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken action. The subcommittee on Education and Workforce Development of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) is being re-constituted to represent all of the agencies that make up the NSTC by appointing a representative from each agency. These newly appointed representatives will have a considerable degree of knowledge of their agency's STEM education program and be able to address the education needs at all levels. NSF has also taken several steps with regard to improving coordination of STEM education with other federal agencies. Previous coordination efforts involved memorandums of understanding with the Department of Education (DOEd), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy (DOE). This year NSF has written another formal memorandum of understanding with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Marrett indicated that the goal of this memorandum is to "support the development of a creative and diverse engineering workforce that comprehends the technical and social impacts of technology applications and needs in a rapidly changing environment." Marrett also addressed the need for improved evaluation of STEM programs. Previous evaluations focused on monitoring of developments and evaluation of impacts. The updated evaluations focus on gathering information at the beginning of a program in addition to a post-program evaluation. The goal of these improved evaluations is to help better design future STEM education programs.

Dr. Joyce Winterton's testimony echoed Dr. Marrett's on the importance of STEM education. Furthermore, she emphasized that STEM education is vital to the future U.S. economy by educating a diverse technological workforce that is able to handle new challenges. The goals of NASA's educational investments are to develop a stronger workforce, attract more students to STEM education and provide a link between formal and informal STEM education. NASA has begun to work more closely with educators in the K-12 setting by providing tools and programs for K-12 educators. Such programs include the NASA Explorers School (NES) which provides grants and stipends for educators to receive "intensive training and on-site professional development… to improve teaching and learning in STEM education." Winterton also testified that NASA education programs have also improved their evaluation programs based on the recommendation of the ACC. NASA's primary evaluation focuses on the number of students employed by NASA, number of undergraduate students that move on to NASA related fields and the level of interest taken in STEM careers resulting from NASA's K-12 education programs. Winterton commended the subcommittee for its work on STEM education and hoped that it would continue.

William Valdez testified on behalf of the DOE and their efforts to improve STEM education. The DOE's largest contribution to STEM education has been to undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students by providing use of the DOE's 17 national laboratories. The Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS) a program managed by the DOE, provides over 600 internships for undergraduate students however, over 4,100 undergraduate students take advantage of DOE laboratories. WDTS has also partnered with NSF to gain more access to undergraduate students and to share programs. With regard to the ACC evaluation recommendations, Valdez admitted that WDTS has "done a poor job over the past 10 years of rigorously evaluating programs." However, he noted that WDTS would work closely with the Under Secretary for Science, Raymond Orbach, to correct this issue. When asked to describe the current evaluations of the WDTS education program, Valdez responded that the evaluation technology is still being developed and therefore it is too soon to tell how successful their programs are. Valdez concluded that the U.S. has the ability and the resources to meet STEM education needs.

In Dr. Bruce Fuchs' testimony he described the STEM education efforts of the NIH. The main goal of NIH is to further the knowledge of medical science that will provide better health for everyone. NIH recognizes that to meet this goal, STEM education is critical to attract new talent into biomedical science careers. Therefore, NIH has carefully considered the ACC recommendations and stepped up its coordination with other federal agencies. For example the NIH is coordinating with NSF and the Education Department to reconstitute the NSTC subcommittee and has appointed Dr. Duane Alexander as a co-chair. NIH has also begun to undertake efforts to conduct rigorous evaluations of its STEM programs. Fuchs stated that NIH is "working toward conducting randomized controlled trials where appropriate." Fuchs concluded that NIH is committed to implementing the recommendations and goals of the ACC report and is open to coordination with other federal agencies.

The subcommittee overall seemed to be pleased with the progress made within each agency but recognized that there is still much room for improvement. McNerney expressed concern that while these programs are good they only reach a small segment of the population. In particular, many inner city students do not have access to these programs. McNerney encouraged all of the agencies to bolster the scope of their programs to reach more students. Improved evaluation methods and greater collaboration between federal agencies will hopefully increase the number of students that pursue STEM related careers that will ultimately increase American competitiveness on the global stage.

A link to the witness testimony can be viewed here.


House Natural Resources Subcommittees on National Parks, Forests and Public Landsand Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Joint Hearing on "No Child Left Inside: Reconnecting Kids with the Outdoors"
May 24, 2007

Panel 1
James Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior
Gail Kimbell, Chief, USDA Forest Service
Gina McCarthy, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection

Panel 2
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., American Academy of Pediatrics
Richard Dolesh, Director of Public Policy, National Recreation and Parks Association
Amy Pertschuk, Managing Director, Children and Nature Network
Jerry Calengor, Former Chairman, American Sportfishing Association; Chairman, Rapala VMC
Dale Penny, Chief Executive Officer, Student Conservation Association
Alan F. Lambert, Scout Executive, National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America

The natural beauty of America can at times be overwhelming. From the grand sweeping sandstone landscapes of Zion National Park, to the gentle murmur of frogs in the Everglades and even the wonder of overturning a backyard rock to find an entire ecosystem, the great outdoors have long been entrenched in American life and lore. However, as videogame and internet usage hit all time highs, the wonders of technology seem to be interfering with the ability of the youth of our country to enjoy and appreciate nature. On May 24, 2007, the House Natural Resources Subcommittees on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands and Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans held a joint hearing to discuss reconnecting kids with nature.

National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) stated that being outside "fosters a conservation effort" in children, as well as promoting better health. "In too many instances, adventure games are replacing actual adventure," he lamented, mentioning popular video games such as "Grand Theft Auto." Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) seconded Grijalva's comments. He lightheartedly poked fun at his own weight, and described how outdoor play can help curb rising obesity rates in America's youth. "But when the big famine hits, I'm going to be the last to go," he joked. He also emphasized that ties to the environment can drive education, saying "out of ecology comes understanding of human activity," and "if you want kids to learn math, science, literature, and art, the core curriculum could be the environment; it could be ecology."

The first panel of witnesses represented various agencies in charge of large swaths of public land. James Cason, Associate Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, noted that "the government can be a catalyst, an encourager, a motivator, and a provider" of outdoor opportunities for children. He stated that the Bureau of Land Management oversees 3,500 recreation sites, and various DOI agencies can be "creative" in engaging children. "Together we can help families and children become healthier and live fuller lives," he said, noting the need to serve urban and underprivileged children. He added to the lighthearted mood of the hearing when he commented that as far as his own two children were concerned, "both of their Gameboys are currently embargoed right now, because they spend too much time on them and not enough outside."

Gail Kimbell, Chief of the National Forest Service, mentioned the 193 million acres of Forest Service land spread across 46 states. She expressed concern that there are downward trends in visitations of national parks and forests, stating that "environmental illiteracy" is one of the most important challenges the country faces. Kimbell noted that less that one percent of these lands charge entry fees, leaving the majority of forests free and open to the public. She described several programs the Forest Service is initiating to draw kids back to nature, including a "More Kids in the Woods" program. She also recognized the value of collaborating with various agencies and community volunteers in order to maximize resources.

Gina McCarthy, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, described the "No Child Left Inside" program, which was initiated by the Connecticut Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the spring of 2006. "Our society will suffer if children do not engage with nature," she said. She noted the need for increased staff and programs, not just "museums of open space" where families are afraid they might "trample on the wrong flower." She explained that while it is important to invest in infrastructure at parks, there is a need to do much more in order to actually attract families. "Just because you build a clean toilet does not mean they are going to come," she said, pausing for a moment before adding "or go," to a round of laughter. She also mentioned a program that gives foster families free access to parks that normally have fees, to ensure underprivileged children have the opportunity to experience nature. Representative Bishop praised McCarthy, saying, "you have illustrated what a state can actually do."

Stephanie Herseth (D-SD), asked about what the forest service and DOI were doing within Native American communities. Kimbell noted the Forest Service has been "actively involved" in working with tribes, particularly the Nez Perce in Idaho, as well as offering forest fire fighting programs that could lead to eventual employment. Cason mentioned that "generally, Indian country is rural to begin with," but Herseth commented that this does not necessarily imply a connection with nature. "We need the programs, the resources, the expertise," she explained, adding that it is not "adequate" to simply live in a rural area.

The perceived dangers of outdoor activities were brought up several times during the hearing. "The single biggest issue we are facing is the safety issue," said McCarthy. She relayed a story of a mother refusing to let her daughter go on a hiking trip because there might be snakes. McCarthy had responded to her, "yeah, there are snakes there, that is why we are going." She explained that the outdoors are very safe, but the general public does not necessarily think so. Kimbell admitted that some remote forest areas can have safety issues, but the Forest Service works with law enforcement agencies to maintain safety. Cason explained that there is a "minimal risk" to outdoor activities, while there are also risks and consequences if children stay indoors. "We try to mitigate safety issues through education," he stated.

The second panel consisted mostly of witnesses from non-governmental organizations that have an interest in seeing kids interact with nature. Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, described the "central importance of play for all children," emphasizing that unstructured play "engages all of the senses" and promotes both physical fitness and "healthy brain development." Amy Pertschuk, Managing Director of the Children and Nature Network, explained that while "children are far more aware of global threats to the environment," they no longer have a direct personal connection to nature. She gave parental fear as one reason, citing a perceived "epidemic of abductions" for keeping children indoors, even though "child safety is at an all time high." Richard Dolesh, Director of Public Policy at the National Recreation and Parks Association, commented that "we are in danger of losing an entire generation of kids," and jokingly suggested that the government open fenced-in dog parks for kids, where parents can turn their kids loose without worrying about safety issues. He agreed with Pertschuk's assertion that outdoor safety issues are more imagined than real.

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.


House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education
Hearing on "Federal STEM Education Programs: Educators' Perspectives"
May 15, 2007

Ms. Linda Froschauer, President, National Science Teachers Association
Mr. Michael Lach, Director of Mathematics and Science, Chicago Public Schools
Dr. George D. Nelson, Director, Science, Technology, and Mathematics Education, Western Washington University
Mr. Van Reiner, President, Maryland Science Center
Dr. Iris Weiss, President, Horizon Research, Inc.

The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education convened on May 15, 2007 for a hearing on "Federal STEM Education Programs: Educators' Perspectives." The Subcommittee members and witnesses discussed the role of federal agencies in improving science and mathematics education. Subcommittee Chair Brian Baird (D-WA) stressed that it is important to figure out "how to attract more students to careers in science and engineering." He mentioned that agencies such as NASA, NOAA, NIST, EPA, and DOE need more funding for programs that can "make science and math captivating to young people." He also referenced bill H.R. 362, which the House passed in April 2007. Nicknamed "Ten Thousand Teachers, Ten Million Minds," the bill would authorize scholarships for educating mathematics and science teachers. Baird added "we are very concerned that American students are not realizing their potential in science and math," and that ensuring STEM teachers are properly trained will be a step in the right direction.

Ranking Member Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) echoed many of Baird's concerns, noting that "the best programs are those that excite and inform teachers and students." He showed concern that a constrained budget will hurt such programs. "Our challenge in Congress is to target limited funds," he added, "to promote STEM literacy at all levels."

Linda Froschauer, president of the National Science Teachers Association, focused her testimony on professional development. She suggested that various government agencies should be more involved in adequately preparing science and math teachers. "One of the challenges with federal education programs is that they reach only a miniscule proportion of our nation's science teachers. We must find new ways to get proven, effective professional development programs up to scale so they reach a large number of teachers," she added. This idea of expanding federal programs to encompass more teachers was present through much of the witness testimony. Representative Ehlers also mentioned that the American Meteorological Society offers a summer curriculum development program for teachers, with a requirement that the participating teachers must go back to their school system and teach the curriculum to ten other teachers. "I thought that was a brilliant idea, something we might pursue," Ehlers exclaimed.

Michael Lach, Director of Mathematics and Science at Chicago Public Schools, mentioned the importance of collaboration. For example, he noted that Chicago Public Schools collaborate with local museums, universities, and Argonne National Laboratory to improve science and math education. He argued that there are two major assets of federal research and development agencies that can contribute to K-12 STEM education: human capital and facilities. He described federal scientists and engineers as "the best and brightest in the world," and mentioned the network of government laboratory facilities. "Most of our students have a very incomplete picture of the real work of scientists and engineers," he stated, and stressed interaction with government scientists at government facilities to help correct this problem. "Using curriculum by itself is necessary but not sufficient," he added, and mentioned the need for more workshops and leadership development for science and math teachers.

George D. Nelson, Director of Science, Technology, and Mathematics Education at Western Washington University, focused on possible improvements in the implementation of federal STEM education programs. "There is a huge inventory of poorly designed and under-evaluated mission-related curricula," he noted. "The constant barrage of new resources adds to the noise in the system and contributes to the 'mile wide, inch deep' problem," he added. He suggested streamlining government STEM programs, and improving coordination between agencies. This need for improved collaboration between federal agencies was frequently discussed in the hearing. "We believe that better coordination and communication is desperately needed among federal agencies, bureaus, divisions, and centers that are involved with STEM education," Froschauer noted. Representative Ehlers agreed, saying "having some cohesion to the federal government's efforts might be very effective."

Iris Weiss, President of Horizon Research, Inc., suggested developing a "logic model" which would allow proper evaluation of the effectiveness of STEM education programs. "In many cases supported by federal, state, and local agencies, considerable resources have been devoted to programs where lack of classroom-level impact could have been anticipated," she noted, adding, "there is no question that we need to be doing a more rigorous job at evaluating programs." Weiss seconded Reiner's call for informal education, saying "I believe [federal] agencies should play a relatively small, supporting role in efforts to improve the formal K-12 education system, and a more direct and major role in the informal science arena." She also promoted the idea of professional development, saying that "the emerging consensus in the field is that professional development is the most effective in changing classroom practice when it is closely tied to classroom instruction."

Van Reiner, President of the Maryland Science Center, stressed the need for "informal education" as a means of connecting the general public with science and technology. "Learning by doing is the foundation of informal education, he noted, adding that "motivating students to take interest in science, technology, engineering and math, whether or not they choose to pursue a career in those fields, puts science centers in a unique position to spark an initial interest." He indicated that science centers should increase collaboration with federal agencies, as "[science centers] know how visitors react and how best to present scientific discovery and scientific process… and how to present it in ways that matter to individuals." In this way, science centers and museums can act as conduits between scientists and the public. "There is nothing like the face of a student, who, interacting with an exhibit, suddenly gets it," he added. Reiner relayed a story of a USGS geologist who came in to the Maryland Science Center as part of a day where various scientists discussed their jobs with middle school aged children. A seventh grader approached the geologist and said, "you really like what you're doing, don't you? And they pay you for that?" Reiner stressed the importance of this "face to face" contact between scientists and students, in order to develop an early interest in science and technology among children. He summarized the over-arching theme of the hearing when he concluded, "we believe that greater understanding leads to greater acceptance that science is resident in everything we do - it does not just happen in a laboratory."


Sources: Hearing testimony,

Contributed by Marcy Gallo, Government Affairs Program Staff, Corina Cerovski-Darriau, AGI/AIPG 2008 Summer Intern; Elizabeth Landau, AGI/AAPG 2007 Fall Intern; Paul Schramm, AGI/AIPG 2007 Summer Intern and Sargon de Jesus, AGI/AIPG 2007 Summer Intern.

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

Last updated on August 7, 2008.