Washington, D.C. – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved two important bills to support high quality research at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Both bipartisan bills were approved by voice vote.
The Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act (READ Act) (H.R. 3033)
The READ Act is a bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) to support important research at NSF to help overcome dyslexia. Reps. Smith and Brownley are co-chairs of the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, which is comprised of over 100 Members of Congress and is dedicated to increasing public awareness about dyslexia and ensuring all students have equal educational opportunities. Dyslexia affects an estimated 8.5 million school children and one in six Americans in some form.
Rep. Smith: “Despite the prevalence of dyslexia, many Americans remain undiagnosed, untreated and silently struggle at school or work. More research focused on practical applications is the best way to help develop the potential of students. This research includes greater awareness of how to identify students with dyslexia, better curricula, more resources in the hands of parents, teachers, and students, and the development of proven implementation and scaling models for effective interventions. The READ Act will provide an opportunity for a brighter and more productive future for millions of Americans.”
The READ Act requires the president’s annual budget request to Congress to include a line item for the Research in Disabilities Education program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). It also requires the NSF to devote at least $5 million annually to dyslexia research.
The Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293)
The Committee also approved the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure that the NSF is accountable to the taxpayers about how their hard-earned dollars are spent. The bill requires that each NSF public announcement of a grant award be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of the project’s scientific merits and how it serves the national interest. This written justification is intended to affirm NSF’s newly required determination that a project is worthy of taxpayer support.
Chairman Smith: “America’s future economic growth and national security depend on innovation. Public and private investments in research and development fuel the economy, create jobs and lead to new technologies that benefit Americans’ daily lives. But to remain a world leader, we must ensure that our investments fund the highest quality basic research. Unfortunately, in recent years, the federal government has awarded too many grants that few Americans would consider to be in the national interest. This legislation requires the NSF explain in writing and in non-technical language how each research grant awarded supports the national interest. This will add transparency, accountability and credibility to the NSF and its grant process, which will help the NSF earn the public’s support.”
The NSF has recently recognized the need for increased transparency and accountability and has begun to implement a policy of clear, non-technical explanations of research projects. This legislation is consistent with NSF’s mission and makes this commitment permanent.
At a Science Committee hearing held earlier this year, NSF Director France Córdova agreed with a legislative effort to uphold a national interest standard for taxpayer-funded research grants. The Scientific Research in the National Interest Act is virtually identical to a provision that passed the House this spring as part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015.
The bill clearly states, “Nothing in this section shall be construed as altering the Foundation’s intellectual merit or broader impacts criteria for evaluating grant applications.”
The following bipartisan members of the Science Committee are original cosponsors of H.R. 3293: Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.); Frank Lucas (R-Okla.); Alan Grayson (D-Fla.); Barbara Comstock (R-Va.); John Moolenaar (R-Mich.); Randy Weber (R-Texas); Stephen Knight (R-Calif.); Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla); Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.); Brian Babin (R-Texas); Mo Brooks (R-Ala.); Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.); Bill Johnson (R-Utah); Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.); Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas); Bill Posey (R-Fla.); Gary Palmer (R-Ala.); and Ralph Abraham (R-La.). Read More
H.R. 3033, the “Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia (READ) Act,” approved by voice vote.
Manager's Amendment, offered by Mr. Smith (R-TX), approved by voice vote.
Edwards/Takano 001, offered by Ms. Edwards (D-MD) and Mr. Takano (D-CA), failed by voice vote.
H.R. 3293, the “Scientific Research in the National Interest Act,” approved by voice vote.
Washington, D.C. - The president has signed into law the STEM Education Act of 2015 (H.R. 1020), a bipartisan bill introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.). The bill strengthens science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education efforts and expands the definition of STEM to include computer science. The bill recently was approved unanimously by both the House and the Senate.
Chairman Smith: “We must prepare our students for degrees in STEM subjects to ensure that they have the ability to thrive in today’s technology-based economy. This means motivating more American students to study STEM subjects, including computer science. Unfortunately, America lags behind many other nations when it comes to STEM education. American students rank 21st in science and 26th in math. The STEM Education Act expands the definition of STEM, encourages students to study these subjects and trains more teachers. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their work getting this important bipartisan bill on the president’s desk.”
Rep. Esty: “Enactment of our bipartisan STEM Education Act demonstrates that we can work together to help our students thrive and to help ensure that they are prepared for the careers of tomorrow,” said Esty, a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. “More and more jobs of the 21st century require science, technology, engineering, and math skills. We need to make sure that all of our students have opportunities to thrive in STEM education. This bill strengthens our efforts at the federal level and ensures that critical computer science skills are included among STEM subjects. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House and Senate for their unanimous support, and I am proud to join Chairman Smith in celebrating this new law.”
The STEM Education Act of 2015 directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue to award competitive merit-reviewed grants to support informal STEM education. Informal education is work that takes place outside of the classroom at places like museums, science centers and afterschool programs. These types of efforts engage students in STEM subjects and fields in ways that formal classroom training often does not.
The bill amends the NSF Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program to allow teachers in pursuit of Master’s degrees to participate in the program. This would allow more teachers the opportunity to compete for the grants. Computer science is also added as a subject for the scholarship program.
No new or additional spending is authorized in this bill. Read More
Washington, D.C. - The House of Representatives today unanimously passed the Senate amendment to the STEM Education Act (H.R. 1020), a bipartisan bill introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.). The bill strengthens ongoing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education efforts at federal science agencies and ensures computer science is included in these efforts as a subject that builds on the traditional STEM subjects. The bill now heads to the president’s desk for signature and enactment.
Chairman Smith: “A well-educated and trained STEM workforce ensures our future economic prosperity. This means motivating more American students to study science and engineering so they will want to pursue these careers. A healthy STEM workforce that is literate in all STEM subjects, including computer science, is critical to America’s ability to create jobs and compete in the world. I thank my colleague Rep. Esty for working with me on this important bipartisan legislation that will help prepare our students to thrive in a technology-based economy.”
Rep. Esty: “More and more jobs of the 21st century require science, technology, engineering, and math skills. Final passage of the bipartisan STEM Education Act demonstrates that we can come together to help our children thrive and to help ensure that they can be competitive in a global economy. I hear from manufacturers, high-tech companies, and small businesses across all sectors that struggle to find workers with the necessary technical and critical problem-solving skills to fill jobs in demand. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House and Senate for their support, and I look forward to this bill reaching the President’s desk and becoming law.”
Summary of Major Provisions in the STEM Education Act of 2015:
Expands existing federal grants and programs related to STEM education to include computer science education.
Supports competitive merit-reviewed grants for informal STEM education, which is learning outside of the classroom at places like museums, science centers, and afterschool programs.
Amends the National Science Foundation Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship program to allow teachers in pursuit of a master’s degree to apply for the grant and explicitly include computer science teachers. The STEM Education Act would allow more teachers the opportunity to compete for the grant, better reflecting the current reality facing our schools, especially in high-need areas.
No new or additional spending is authorized in this bill. Read More
Washington, D.C. - Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will tighten its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb.
Chairman Smith: “Protecting health and promoting economic growth are not mutually exclusive goals. Over the last several years, ozone levels have steadily decreased without new strict federal mandates. This rule could be the most expensive regulation ever imposed on the American public. It will put millions of Americans out of work and cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars. And it will most impact financially vulnerable families who already struggle to find employment and pay their bills.
“The EPA has continually ignored experts and stakeholders to impose its job-killing regulatory agenda on hardworking American families. The EPA did not base its new ozone standard on sound science and has failed to provide this committee with the data it uses to justify this rule.” Read More
Washington, D.C. - Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to Dr. Jagadish Shukla, a professor of climate dynamics at George Mason University who founded the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES). IGES is a non-profit organization that has received millions of dollars in federal grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA.
According to media reports, IGES is responsible for circulating a letter to the president and senior White House officials requesting a criminal investigation of organizations who question the risks of climate change. Specifically, the letter seeks a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) investigation that would allow the government to impose criminal penalties. The letter was posted to the IGES website and later removed and replaced with a note saying it had been “inadvertently posted.”
Chairman Smith: “IGES appears to be almost fully funded by taxpayer money while simultaneously participating in partisan political activity by requesting a RICO investigation of companies and organizations that disagree with the Obama administration on climate change. In fact, IGES has reportedly received $63 million from taxpayers since 2001, comprising over 98 percent of its total revenue during that time.”
In light of the non-profit’s decision to remove the controversial letter from its website, Smith directs IGES to preserve “all e-mail, electronic documents, and data created since January 1, 2009, that can be reasonably anticipated to be subject to a request for production by the Committee.”
The full letter can be found here. Read More
Washington, D.C. - Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Willie May requesting documents and information after an explosion last summer at a NIST facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland was caused by the manufacturing of the illegal drug methamphetamine. A senior officer with NIST Police Services, Christopher Bartley, recently pled guilty to attempting to manufacture the methamphetamine that caused the explosion.
The Committee has requested building access records for building 236 where Mr. Bartley attempted to manufacture the illegal drug. However, NIST has declined to provide building access records citing an ongoing investigation by the Commerce Department’s Inspector General.
“This Committee has a legitimate interest in the safety of NIST employees and ensuring that agency property is not used to produce illegal drugs,” Smith wrote. “The building access records are essential to the Committee’s oversight.”
Smith said that information obtained by the Committee shows “a culture of waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct at NIST Police Services.” For example, Officer Bartley allegedly had sexual relations with other NIST employees on agency property, in vehicles owned by the government, while on official duty.
“More troubling, it appears that agency officials were aware of Mr. Bartley’s conduct but failed to take appropriate disciplinary actions and even selected him as interim chief of police despite his misconduct,” Smith wrote.
Documents reviewed by the Committee also indicate that time and attendance fraud occurs regularly at NIST Police Services. In one instance, Mr. Bartley allegedly worked 84 hours of overtime during a two week period while also covering his full-time shifts. It also appears that police equipment worth thousands of dollars is unaccounted for or missing from the police force.
“If this information is accurate, it raises serious questions about the lack of internal agency controls at NIST. The American people expect the federal government to exercise responsible stewardship of their tax dollars.”
The letter requests documents and information to better understand the extent of abuses and mismanagement at NIST Police Services, as well as a staff site visit of the NIST campus, including building 236 where the meth lab explosion occurred.
The full letter can be found here. Read More