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Public Policy Report for 7/21/2000

The Morella Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development released its final report at a July 13 hearing before the House Science Subcommittee on Technology. The report culminates nine years of effort by Morella to address this issue. Under legislation sponsored by Morella (the Commission on the Advancement of Women in Science and Technology Development Act; P.L.105-255, enacted in 1998) the eleven Commissioners examined what underlying factors contribute to the relative lack of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in the science, engineering, and technology fields. The Commission was charged with developing recommendations for government, academia, and private industry to follow to encourage the recruitment, retention, and advancement of those currently underrepresented in the these fields. Major recommendations include:

-expansion of the Pell Grant Program to increase the size of the maximum grant allowable
-the states, rather than the federal government, should adopt comprehensive high-quality standards in mathematics and sciences
-private industry should develop a national model that encourages diversity, including a system of rewards to recognize exemplary employers for achieving workplace diversity in science, engineering, and technology
-development of a coordinated national effort to change the public image of science, engineering, and technology careers

The full report will be available in late August at

Mikulski, Bond ask Senate colleagues to support doubling of NSF budget Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on VA-HUD-Independent Agencies and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), ranking member of the subcommittee, announced July 12 that they were urging other members of the Senate to cosign a letter calling for a doubling of the NSF budget by the year 2006. The letter will be sent to Senate leaders of both parties. It particularly emphasizes the ways in which NSF-sponsored research is critical to medical research, saying, "It is our strong belief that the success of NIH's efforts to cure deadly diseases such as cancer depends on the underpinning research supported by NSF." Accompanying the letter were letters from Kenneth Shine, President of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science and Harold Varmus, former Director of the National Institutes of Health, pointing out that advances made at NIH were based on basic research funded by NSF and calling for a better balance in funding of these research institutions.

Hearing on Ehlers science education bill. At a July 19 hearing before the House Science Committee on H.R. 4273, the National Science Education Incentive Act, a panel of education professionals including the Cozette Buckney, Chief Education Officer of the Chicago Public Schools and Judith Sunley, NSF Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources, testified about the need for more qualified science and math teachers. Alfred Berkely, III, President of the NASDAQ Stock Market, told the Committee that economic growth in the United States is attributable to decades of scientific research and development, and that future economic growth will require a workforce that is capable and interested in careers in science and math. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), sponsor of the legislation, noted that the tax incentives he has proposed (K-12 science, math, engineering, and technology teachers would receive a tax credit of ten percent of their total college tuition, up to $1,000 per year for ten years) would help attract bright students into the teaching profession. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, which has not yet acted on it, and will not likely be brought to a vote of the full House until next year.

NSF Reauthorization hearings. Hearings to reauthorize the National Science Foundation began in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on June 12, 2000. Committee Chairman Jim Jeffords (R-VT) and Ranking Member Edward Kennedy (D-MA) heard three panels of witnesses, starting with NSF Director Rita Colwell. Chairman Jeffords noted that NSF has enjoyed great support over years but may now be dwarfed by NIH funding increases. He asked Dr. Colwell if there was concern that researchers will shy away from NSF because of the funding imbalance. She answered that Congress should level NSF funding to the NIH level and noted the average NSF grant is $1,000 less than in 1963. When asked how much of an increase would be needed to accomplish NSF's goals, Colwell advocated a doubling of the budget.

National Council for Science and the Environment releases Strategic Plan - NCSE, successor to the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment, has released a strategic plan to bring about its vision of a "society where environmental decisions are based on an accurate understanding of the underlying science, its meaning, and its limitations." The Plan, available online at or by fax request to (202)628-4311, describes how NCSE aims to significantly improve the scientific basis for environmental decision-making by:

-Working to ensure the full implementation of the National Science Board report Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation
-Working with diverse communities to identify science needs and priorities, develop science agendas, and support their efforts to link science with decision making
-Developing the National Library for the Environment as a comprehensive online resource of understandable, science-based environmental information
-Education policy makers, government agencies, the media and the general public about the value of science in environmental decision making


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