Subcommittee Approves NSF Reauthorization to be Rolled into America COMPETES Act
(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a markup and favorably reported a Committee Print of the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2010. The Committee Print was comprised of legislative language fromH.R. 4997, introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL).
“The Subcommittee has held a series of hearings on topics ranging from the state of STEM education at all levels, to the need to promote high-risk/high-reward research, to ensuring a sustainable research infrastructure. In addition to our Subcommittee hearings, I’ve also held a number of listening sessions across the country to gain insights from those on the frontline of research facilitated by the NSF,” stated Lipinski. “The result of the listening sessions and the Subcommittee hearings is a bill that will accelerate the growth of scientific knowledge, promote knowledge transfer and innovation, build a 21st century STEM workforce, and spur economic development.”
The bill keeps the National Science Foundation (NSF) on a doubling path, as was recommended in Rising Above the Gathering Storm and set in the 2007 COMPETES. It aims to: help scientists and engineers funded by NSF to serve as more effective leaders and participants in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education; broaden participation in STEM at all levels; and ensure U.S. competitiveness and national security through technology transfer and commercialization.
The reauthorization directs NSF to spend at least five percent of its research budget to fund high-risk, high-reward research proposals. This was based on reports and recommendations from: the 2005 National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the 2007 National Science Board’s Enhancing Support of Transformative Research at the National Science Foundation, the 2008 American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ ARISE: Advancing Research in Science and Engineering, and witness testimony at a hearing on the subject last October.
The bill will also help NSF support U.S. manufacturers by awarding grants to institutions of higher education to support fundamental research leading to transformative advances in manufacturing technologies, processes, and systems that will support U.S. manufacturing through improved performance, productivity, and competitiveness.
The Committee Print included legislative language introduced asH.R. 4977 by Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), to amend the Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to reduce the cost-sharing requirement for colleges and universities so that a more diverse group of institutions can afford to participate in the Noyce program.
“If U.S. students are going to remain competitive in a global economy, it is vitally important that we recruit and train qualified and motivated STEM teachers to work in our k-12 schools,” said Mitchell. “The Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program does exactly that. It is especially crucial to make it easier and less expensive for universities to provide this valuable training during these tough economic times.”
The Committee approved a Manager’s Amendment from Chairman Lipinski which included legislative language from three bills: H.R. 4998, H.R. 4955, and H.R. 4968.
H.R. 4998 was introduced by Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN) to establish and to expand partnerships that promote innovation and increase the economic and social impact of research by developing tools and resources to connect new scientific discoveries to practical uses.
“I am happy the Research and Science Education Subcommittee marked up the NSF authorization that will be included in COMPETES,” said Hill. “As our country works its way out of this difficult economic recession, investing in research and education is crucial to help our economy grow. That is why I recently introduced legislation that would authorize a National Science Foundation grant program - called the Partnership for Innovation Grant - that would convert the innovative research being developed at our nation’s universities into new business opportunities. The grant would encourage faculty and students to build partnerships with private companies and local businesses to ensure the resources and talent that are already in place at the United States’ institutions of higher education are utilized to educate younger Americans and help create new jobs. I look forward to continuing to work with the Committee on the COMPETES legislation in the weeks and months ahead.”
The Transforming Undergraduate STEM EducationAct, H.R. 4955 was introduced by Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) to authorize the NSF to provide grants for implementing or expanding research-based reforms in undergraduate STEM education for the purpose of increasing the number and quality of students studying toward and completing baccalaureate degrees in STEM.
“STEM education is critical for preparing our children to excel in the 21st century economy,” said Kosmas. “This legislation will spur the development of innovative approaches to the teaching of math and science in order to ensure that America remains a leader in the global economy.”
H.R. 4968 was introduced by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) to authorize the NSF to award grants for implementing or expanding research-based reforms in master's and doctoral level STEM education that emphasize preparation for diverse careers in the STEM workforce.
“I was proud to introduce the 21st Century Graduate Education Act, legislation that will contribute broadly to American competitiveness,” said Giffords. “The grants made possible through this bill will help colleges and universities develop the workforce necessary to lead America in a 21st century economy. It will help equip students in the STEM fields with the tools to work in schools, providing the next generation with a solid foundation in math and science, in federal laboratories, developing breakthrough technologies and in industry, driving America’s high tech sectors including clean energy. This small investment in today’s graduate programs will pay great dividends for for years to come.”
The Committee also approved amendments from Chairman Lipinski, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Research and Science Education Subcommittee Vice Chair Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Vice Chair Paul Tonko (D-NY).
“My amendment will create an innovation inducement prize pilot program at the NSF,” said Lipinski. “This is another way to encourage high-risk, high-reward research. Unlike a traditional grant proposal, which necessarily focuses on incremental challenges that can be solved during the grant period, a prize contest can highlight important problems that nobody knows how to solve. A prize program can also generate excitement and interest in the frontiers of science. Ultimately the goal is to further diversify our approach to funding science and engineering. There are a number of potential benefits, and a pilot program is the right way to see exactly how useful innovation inducement prizes can be.”
"There are research questions that, if answered, have great potential to improve preK-12 STEM education,” said Fudge. “The NSF and the Department of Education both invest in STEM education research, and each brings its own mission and own strengths to this purpose. However, there is merit in having the two agencies collaborate in identifying grand challenges in education research, and then determining what specific role each of these two agencies should play in addressing those grand challenges.”
“It’s critical that we find ways to increase student interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and math through college if we’re going to remain competitive globally as we move towards an innovation economy,” said Tonko. “My amendment seeks to improve interest by creating new opportunities for students to participate in hands-on scientific research, which provides context to classroom learning. This amendment will provide these valuable research experiences which will help improve outcomes and prepare more American students for the jobs of the future.”
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Photo Credits: Images courtesy of National Radio Astronomy Observatory/Associated Universities, Inc., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)