On 9 March 2007, U.S. Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA, 5th) introduced HR 1453, legislation that would authorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) to make grants to institutions to develop programs to provide communications training to science graduate students. As introduced, the “Scientific Communications Act of 2007” would authorize $10 million for the NSF to make grants “on a competitive, merit-reviewed basis, in a manner so as to ensure relevance to public policymaking.” The legislation would also require that NSF incorporate the new grant program with existing graduate student training programs, such as the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program.
The legislation--cosponsored by Science and Technology Committee Chairman, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN, 6th), Rep. Thomas Allen (D-ME, 1st), and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ, 12th)--has been referred to the House Committee on Science and Technology.
As justification of need for the new program, HR 1453 would “Find” that:
- with the increasing presence of science and technology in public policy issues, a greater national effort needs to be made to train scientists to engage in the public dialogue;
- graduate training programs in science and engineering often lack opportunities for students to develop communications skills that will enable them to effectively explain technical topics to nonscientific audiences;
- providing training in communications skills development will ensure that United States-trained scientists are better prepared to engage in dialogue on technical topics with policymakers and business leaders;
- given the enormous annual investment that the Federal Government makes in the United States research enterprise, training scientists to interact with policymakers will improve accessibility to information and ensure that technical expertise is included in the public policy dialogue; and
- providing early career preparation for interaction with nonscientists will improve the ability of research scientists to engage in public/private partnerships to facilitate product development based on United States research discoveries.
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