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America COMPETES Reauthorization Act Gains Traction

October 21, 2014

Despite efforts in the House and Senate, the 113th Congress hasn't yet been able to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act that provides for investments in STEM research and education. But proposals supporting the critical role of engineering and informal education did gain traction.

House Republicans proposed splitting the COMPETES Act into smaller bills, including the "Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act of 2014" (FIRST Act). This legislation focused on reauthorizing National Science Foundation (NSF) programs and supporting research for out-of-school STEM programs. While the House Science Committee approved the bill, some groups were concerned about funding levels, changes to the merit-review process, and policies related to disclosure of research.

The House successfully passed the bipartisan STEM Education Act of 2014. This legislation also recognizes the importance of informal education and computer science by building upon current NSF programs. House and Senate Democrats released comprehensive reauthorizations of the COMPETES Act, which maintain a focus on informal education within NSF and NASA, and an emphasis on student exposure to engineering education.

After having testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, the House Science and Technology Committee, and the House Subcommittee on Early Education about informal and K-12 engineering education, Museum of Science president and director Ioannis Miaoulis is encouraged to see informal education and teacher programs focused on math and science expanded to include engineering, technology, and computer science.

Each science agency brings expertise to the educational table. It is essential that as educators we are exposed to and interact with federally-funded world-class scientists and engineers and that as citizens we understand the value and the risks of STEM research. Informal science centers are key to translating such research into digestible, useful, and engaging experiences and knowledge.

Miaoulis supports bills embracing the importance of informal science education and the expansion of programs that include technology, engineering, and computer science. Congress should craft bipartisan legislation in the spirit of America COMPETES early next year.

The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500