ACS Legislative Summit on Innovation and Competitiveness

      by Marinda Li Wu (originally published in Vortex, 6/06)

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Earlier this year, I was appointed to the National ACS Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs (CCPA). CCPA is responsible for “advice and recommendations for ACS action on public policy matters involving the chemical sciences and technologies.” I recently returned from my first CCPA meeting and the 5th Annual ACS Legislative Summit in Washington D.C. on April 25-26, 2006. CCPA members along with members of the ACS Board of Directors and the Council for Chemical Research visited Capitol Hill to speak with legislators representing their home districts.

The focus of this year’s ACS Legislative Summit was to advance the Society’s recommendations to Congress regarding competitiveness and innovation, including support for basic physical science research and K-12 science education. Staff from the ACS Office of Legislative and Government Affairs (OLGA) organized our visits and accompanied the various teams. As part of a California and New Mexico team, I led our team discussion when we visited the offices of Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer, and Representative Tauscher.

 

We discussed the need for our nation to meet the global competitiveness challenge. The importance of investment in basic research in the physical sciences along with funding to improve math and science education was emphasized. Specifically, we asked Congress to fully fund the Math and Science Partnership programs at NSF and the Department of Education as well as the priorities outlined by President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) with $1.05 billion increase for Basic Physical Science Research at NSF, DOE Office of Science, and NIST plus $380 million for math and science education programs proposed by the ACI programs at the Department of Education. We stressed that this in not just a one year issue, but a long term national priority in order to maintain American competitiveness in the 21st century. 

 

While the legislative offices we visited for CA and NM seemed receptive to our inputs, I heard from other teams that this was not the case for all their visits. Indeed, our team heard quite often that such funding requests are difficult with our huge national deficit.

Congress is currently debating the funding for research and education as well as issues regarding immigration and taxes in legislation proposed in the U.S. Senate’s National Innovation Act (NIA), the PACE (Protecting America’s Competitive Edge) Legislative Package (3 bills on Energy, Education, and Finance), and President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). We learned that the House and Senate may not reach agreement on these issues by the end of this year.

 

For more information on this innovation legislation and ACS President Ann Nalley’s letter to President Bush on innovation, please visit OLGA’s website at www.chemistry.org under Government Affairs. If you are not already a member of the ACS Legislative Action Network (LAN), I encourage you to join via the OLGA website at www.chemistry.org/takeaction. LAN is a tool that makes it easy to contact your legislators with your views on innovation and maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

 

Years ago, I led a group of scientists and educators to visit House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office in San Francisco to voice similar concerns and stress the importance of increased funding for math and science education partnership programs as well as research. As I expressed in my ACS Comment on “Contact Congress” (C&EN, Nov. 14, 2005), it is important for us chemists to take action both as a Society and as individual constituents. I hope you will try to do your part to contact Congress on this important issue of maintaining American competitiveness in innovation – a 2006 public policy focus for ACS.

 

One last note of interest, the next time you visit Washington, D.C., I highly recommend that you make reservations to attend Senator Feinstein’s constituent breakfast. It was quite a thrill to meet the Senator and hear her express her views on many issues of interest!