Press Release

House Approves Bills to Coordinate International Science and Technology Partnerships, STEM Education Programs in Federal Agencies

By SpaceRef Editor
June 8, 2009
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(Washington, DC)–Today, the House of Representatives approved two bills that originated in the Committee on Science and Technology. H.R. 1736, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2009, passed by a vote of 351 to 52, and H.R. 1709, the STEM Education Coordination Act of 2009, passed by a vote of 353 to 39. The House also approved H.Res. 492, supporting the goals and ideals of High-Performance Building Week, by a voice vote.

The International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2009 will recreate a committee under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to coordinate the international science and technology activities across our federal agencies. In a hearing on the topic, witnesses told the Committee that when international partnerships are managed on a case-by-case basis, without a coordinated approach, significant opportunities are missed, especially at the intersection of science and diplomacy.

“Science diplomacy presents a unique and essential opportunity to develop and sustain friendships and collaborations into the future,” said bill author Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA), who managed the bills on the Floor. “The scientists, their students, and of course the science itself all benefit from this scholarly exchange. But so do our national security and economic prosperity. The intellectual input of the foreign scientists helps build that foundation of discovery that leads to new technologies and new intellectual property in the United States. And the exchange of scientists and their students help to build mutual trust and understanding between people who may otherwise be inclined to avoid or even fear each other.”

The STEM Education Coordination Act will coordinate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education activities done across the federal government, at agencies including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Education. The bill strengthens and elevates an existing committee under NSTC to manage the coordination.

“Science, technology, engineering, and math education is a key component of our national economic competitiveness,” said bill author Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “The foundation for an innovation economy is workforce that is prepared for the jobs of the 21st century, including a strong grounding in the STEM fields. The Committee has held many hearings on the issue, and, while the federal government can play an important role in STEM education at all levels because of the richness of the science and technology resources at our research agencies, one key recommendation we’ve heard repeatedly was the need for interagency coordination of federal STEM education activities, and improved dissemination of these activities to practitioners.”

“There are already many valuable programs being funded through the federal agencies that could play an important role in sharing knowledge and passion for STEM with students, teachers, and the general public,” said Baird. “Unfortunately, many of the agencies have had difficulty evaluating their programs and building awareness of those programs among teachers. In order to make the most effective use of our federal investment in STEM education, it is crucial that the agencies have a forum where they can come together to discuss tools for improved dissemination, share research findings, and create common metrics for evaluation.”

H.Res. 492 passed ahead of high-performance building week, which is June 15 through June 19.

“I continue to surprise constituents when I tell them 40% of annual U.S. CO2 emissions come from buildings,” said resolution author Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO), co-chair and founder of the Congressional High-Performance Building Caucus. “It’s imperative Congress not only address vehicle and factory emissions, but also set healthier building standards to reflect the urgency of addressing global warming. The impact of implementing new technologies in new and existing buildings has not only an environmental impact, but an economic impact by creating jobs right here in the U.S. It is my job, and the role of government, to work with industry to set high, sustainable standards, and to provide workable incentives to help meet these standards to benefit the health and well-being of American families.”

“Buildings consume 40 percent of the all energy in the United States, more energy than any other sector of the economy,” said Baird. “Deployment of high-performance buildings can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This resolution creates greater public awareness about high-performance buildings and recognizes the need to continue research and development for innovative energy efficient technologies. We held a hearing on this issue in April, and I am happy to report that we are working on legislation to address several important issues we identified at the hearing.”

For more information, including about international science cooperation or STEM education, please see the Committee’s website.

SpaceRef staff editor.