On 29 April 2014, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments.” The hearing was well attended, with half of the thirty Senators who serve on the committee present at the three hour long event.

Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) noted that this was the first hearing held by the full Appropriations Committee this year, despite having held dozens of subcommittee meetings. The Senator remarked that innovation is a topic of national interest, as “the hallmark of our DNA has always been in discovery, entrepreneurship, and the protection of intellectual property.”

Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) spoke about the need to control growth in mandatory spending, which is crowding out investments in research.

Several Senators raised the issue of an innovation deficit and asked witnesses from federal science agencies about the impacts of budget austerity on innovation and the scientific workforce.

Another issue of concern was U.S. global competitiveness, especially since several Asian nations are expanding spending on research and development.

The leaders of several federal agencies testified at the hearing, including Dr. John Holdren of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. France Cordova of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Frances Collins of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Ernest Moniz of the Department of Energy, and Dr. Arati Prabhakar of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and more than one hundred other organizations submitted written statements ahead of the hearing. You may read the testimony provided by AIBS at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20140423_innovation.html.


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