Cory Gardner: Making science bipartisan again
"This committee has already addressed one of the greatest long-term threats to American innovation: You've made science bipartisan again, countering rhetoric that has at times made the research community feel under siege." That statement was made by former National Science Board official Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing. Then, on Jan. 6 of this year, President Obama signed into law the last-passed legislation of the 114th Congress, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act.
President Obama's action marked the final step in a nearly two-year process I undertook as a leader of the Senate Commerce Committee's Innovation and Competitiveness Working Group. Our country's economic success depends on its ability to compete around the globe and investing in research is critical to unleashing the power of American entrepreneurship. The passage of this legislation allows for the U.S. to continue to foster innovation and modernize federal research and technology policy to pave the way for more scientific breakthroughs.
The American Competitiveness and Innovation Act is a much-needed and long-awaited update to the America COMPETES Act, a comprehensive bill aimed at ensuring America remains a global leader when it comes to science, research, and technology. The COMPETES Act was signed into law in 2007 as the product of collaboration between the George W. Bush Administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress.
Some of our country's most significant technological advances that impact our daily lives have benefitted in part from federal dollars. For example, GPS and the glass in the iPhone's screen were backed by federal research funding and Google's search engine algorithm was developed by a student at Stanford University who was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. In order to continue to foster a new wave of cutting edge developments, federal research policy needed an update.
That's why in July 2015, my colleague, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and I initiated a series of discussions to gather information from the U.S. science and research community in order to help shape federal research and development policy. We recognized the importance and value of bringing together members of Congress and representatives from academia, business, nonprofits, and federal agencies to discuss policy priorities previously authorized by the America COMPETES Act. We discussed maximizing basic research, improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education research and practices for students, and translating federal research results into innovative commercial applications that benefit economic growth and improve everyday lives.
The American Competitiveness and Innovation Act was the product of our discussions. This legislation maximizes basic research opportunities, reduces administrative burdens for researchers, encourages scientific entrepreneurship, and promotes oversight of taxpayer-funded research. It also promotes diversity in STEM fields, incentivizes private-sector innovation, and boosts manufacturing. It most directly affects programs within the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
The American Competitiveness and Innovation Act will have a significant, positive effect on cutting-edge research and development initiatives. Colorado is home to more than two dozen federal research facilities and I am excited about the many opportunities for Coloradans going forward.
Our progress is evidence of what we can achieve when we work together. We are at the beginning of a new Administration and a new Congress, and I look forward to continue working to find solutions to keep America competitive and create more opportunities for Coloradans and Americans across the country.
Cory Gardner is Colorado's junior U.S. senator.
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