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Guiding Principles Aim to Assist Congress in Reauthorizing America COMPETES Act

The America COMPETES Act, which is due for reauthorization this year, should set funding targets that strongly support STEM education and all disciplines of basic scientific research, according to a letter from AAAS and other organizations that was delivered to key lawmakers on Friday.

The letter outlines a set of guiding principles for the America COMPETES Act, which stands for America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science. First signed into law in 2007 and expiring every three years, the legislation sets funding goals for various science agencies, primarily the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy Office of Science. It also includes provisions for improving STEM education at all levels, from elementary school through higher education.

“While this is an authorizing bill and not an appropriations bill, it is an important standard by which we measure Congress’ interest in supporting innovation and key research in the sciences, math and engineering. So, we view this as a critical bill,” said Joanne Carney, director of the AAAS Office of Government Relations.

Alan I. Leshner, AAAS CEO and executive publisher of Science, and other leaders from the education, science, engineering, innovation and business communities, devised the recommendations, which aim to guide Congress as it takes up the reauthorization. The effort was spearheaded by Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities, and other signatories included Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

The principles focus on:

  • Funding for basic science and engineering research across major research agencies and all disciplines, from the physical, mathematical and life sciences, to engineering, to the social, economic and behavioral sciences.
  • Maintaining and promoting scientific literacy and strengthening the pipeline of scientists and engineers.
  • Preserving research excellence and opportunity by sustaining the research funding system.

The authors acknowledge that the original legislation’s aim of doubling funding for key federal research agencies within seven years is difficult in the current fiscal environment. Nonetheless, “now is not the time for us to back away from our commitment to increasing the productivity of our national science and technology enterprise,” they write.

Read the cover letter and guiding principles to sent on 19 May.

View the current list of endorsing organizations.