Public Affairs

White House Promotes Women in Science

On April 24, the White House Council on Women and Girls held an event entitled Girls in STEM, where “trailblazing” women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) shared their experiences and encouraged young women to pursue a career in the STEM fields. A new video Girls in STEM, was released at the White House event. The video features young women scientists and engineers who participated in a science fair at the White House in February and their research projects. During the event, the Administration announced several private-sector partnerships to expand STEM learning opportunities and to provide role models and mentors for young women. These opportunities include:

  • More than $500,000 in new funding for STEM programing at the national girl-serving organization, Girls, Inc.;
  • A new partnership between Girl Scouts, USA and Mocha Moms, Inc., a national network for moms of color, to encourage the recruitment of more STEM mentors;
  • A new collaboration spearheaded by the Entertainment Industries Council to feature more women and girls in STEM fields in the media; and
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s new NASA G.I.R.L.S program featuring online STEM lesson plans and mentoring for girls.

To watch the video or read more about the event, go to www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/04/24/next-generation-girls-stem.


2012 Science and Engineering Technology Congressional Visits Day

On April 24-25, 2012, a committee consisting of myself, Tara Schwetz of Vanderbilt University, Suhrud Rajguru of the University of Miami, and Ellen Weiss, Director of Policy and Communications for the Biophysical Society met in Washington, D.C. to educate our elected officials and advocate for federal research funding as part of ‘Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day”. On the first day of our trip, we joined with 250 other scientists from many other professional societies at the AAAS headquarters to hear from a variety of experts about the President’s 2013 budget (“Investing in our Future”), the competing House budget created by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), and “sequestration,” the automatic spending cuts that will come into effect if no budget agreement is reached by early 2013. Sequestration resulted from the failure of the bipartisan “super committee” that met last fall to try to solve the budget crisis but which failed to arrive at a compromise agreement due to political differences. Recall that this failure in turn led to the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating. A combination of the Ryan budget with sequestration would result in devastating reductions in all U.S. scientific research and development funding.

Day 2 began with a breakfast and an excellent speech by Congressman Michael Capuano (D-MA) on the importance of scientific research and also participatory democracy. Capuano, whose Boston district includes Harvard and MIT, encouraged us to try to non-condescendingly educate the House and Senate members we were to meet (as well as their staffers) and to “keep the conversation going” even after we returned home. The rest of the day was spent in individual meetings with staffers representing Senators. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Marco Rubio (R-FL.), Bob Corker (R-TN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Carl Levin (D-MI). On the House side, we met with staffers from Congressman John Dingell’s office (D-MI). These were the states that we three BPS members represented. We also met personally with two congressmen, Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Despite their differing politics, both of these people were concerned about federal funding for cutting edge scientific and biomedical research and promised their support. In all of our meetings, we stressed the importance of basic research in biophysics for the good of our country and its people. We urged our elected representatives to continue to support NIH and NSF budget appropriations to ensure the U.S. remains competitive in scientific innovation, to reduce our nation’s health care costs, to promote the development of important spinoffs like biotechnology companies, etc. Generally, our message was well received, although some individuals were more supportive than others, as would be expected. Still, all thanked us for coming to visit to present our views and for participating in our governmental process. While there was a sense of “gloom and doom” because of the challenging fiscal situation and the level divisiveness in Washington currently, overall there was bipartisan support for maintaining research funding at least at the current level.

- Les Satin
  University of Michigan Medical School


Congressmen Announce Effort to Highlight Serendipitous Nature of Basic Research

Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN.), Charlie Dent (R-PA.), and Robert J. Dold (R-IL) joined several business, university, scientific, and public policy organizations at an April 25 Capitol Hill press conference to announce the creation of the “Golden Goose Award.” The new award will highlight the often unexpected or serendipitous nature of basic scientific research by honoring federally-funded researchers whose work may once have been viewed as unusual, odd or obscure, but has produced important discoveries benefitting society in significant ways. The first Golden Goose Awards, to be selected by a panel of outside experts, are expected to be announced in September 2012. Other members of Congress supporting the Golden Goose Award include Representatives Jason Altmire (D-PA), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Paul Tonko (D-NY).

“We’ve all seen reports that ridicule odd-sounding research projects as examples of government waste,” said Representative Cooper, who had the original idea for the award. “The Golden Goose Award doesthe opposite. It recognizes that a valuable federally funded research project may sound funny, but itspurpose is no laughing matter. I hope more of my colleagues will join us in supporting, not killing, the goose that lays the golden egg.”

The name of the award is based on the fable about the goose that laid the golden egg. Its sponsors view America’s federally-funded research enterprise as an extremely valuable goose whose golden eggs are the innovations and discoveries born from basic research that transform lives and fuel the economy. It also references the “Golden Fleece Award,” bestowed by the late Senator William Proxmire (D-WI), on examples of what he considered to be wasteful spending. Proxmire often targeted federally-funded research with his award.

“Federal support for basic scientific research creates jobs, fosters innovation, and improves the American people’s quality of life,” said Representative Dent. “As the Golden Goose Award will demonstrate, research supported by the federal government has led to remarkable breakthroughs and valuable scientific developments that affect our lives on a daily basis. As winners of the Golden Goose are determined by the Selection Committee, I look forward to learning more about the incredible achievements made possible by federal investment in research.”

Building from Representative Cooper’s original idea` to highlight seemingly obscure research that has led to major breakthroughs and significant societal impact, a coalition of scientific, business, university and public policy groups have organized to launch the Golden Goose Award. These groups share the belief that federally- funded basic scientific research is the cornerstone of American innovation and essential to the nation’s economic growth and global competitiveness. They include: the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Breakthrough Institute, the Progressive Policy Institute, The Science Coalition, and the Task Force on American Innovation.

To learn more about the Golden Goose Award, go to http://cooper.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=597&Itemid=73.
NIGMS Search for Director Reopens The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health has reopened its search for a permanent director after Chris A. Kaiser, Ph.D., who had been selected as the NIGMS director, withdrew his candidacy on April 23 for personal reasons. Judith H. Greenberg will continue to serve as acting NIGMS director during this process. The new vacancy announcement will be available on the NIGMS website, www.nigms.nih.gov.

 June 2012 Table of Contents