April 2010

Renewing America COMPETES


Highlights from the Policy Blotter

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Policy Blotter blog posts regular news and commentary about current science policy issues. Below are some recent highlights. You can read them at http://asbmbpolicy.asbmb.org.

• University Infrastructure: Declines and Dollars  
During the House Science and Technology Committee’s hearing Feb. 23, senior officials from major research institutions highlighted declines in research infrastructure at universities.

Help Wanted: Federal Science Policy Leaders  
In recent weeks, several prominent leaders in the science-policy community have announced they will be leaving their positions.

• Former FASEB Staffer to Join NIH Leadership  
Pat White, former director of legislative relations for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, has been appointed associate director for legislative policy and analysis at the National Institutes of Health.

Business leaders also emphasized the importance of COMPETES in promoting education in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

By focusing on increasing the number of American students proficient in STEM, “this legislation is moving America in the right direction,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on Jan. 20.

During a subsequent hearing on Feb. 4, education experts agreed but recognized the challenges facing STEM education.  Richard Stephens, senior vice president for human resources at Boeing and chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association work force-steering committee, described the attrition of students from undergraduate STEM majors and highlighted the dearth of qualified candidates for science and engineering jobs.

But, there was no clear consensus about the solution to STEM education woes.

Noah Finkelstein, associate professor of physics education research at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said that traditional models of classroom education are no longer appropriate. Although researchers now know how to improve student learning, new practices are not widespread, and more research is needed to disseminate educational reforms, Finkelstein said.

Robert Mathieu, director of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, advocated for the integration of research and teaching in undergraduate and graduate education. Specifically, he acknowledged the NSF’s faculty early-career development program, known as CAREER, which provides awards for early-stage faculty members who successfully integrate research and teaching.

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