Public Release: 

Chemists praise congressional passage of landmark innovation and competitiveness law

American Chemical Society

WASHINGTON -- American Chemical Society (ACS) President Catherine T. Hunt, Ph.D., today (Aug. 3, 2007) praised Congressional leaders for completing action on comprehensive legislation to support innovation in the United States as a way to bolster American competitiveness and passing the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act (H.R. 2272).

"The COMPETES Act represents a truly bipartisan effort to ensure that our great nation remains the world's economic and technological leader by renewing our focus on research and development in the physical sciences, science and math education, and other policies that encourage innovation," Hunt said. "This bill is a huge victory for science and for our country. It is appropriate that Congress has passed this landmark law in 2007, the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch. We look forward to President Bush signing the bill into law."

Passage of this bill marks the culmination of more that two years of intense efforts by legislators working with the scientific, education, and business communities to produce a comprehensive, broadly supported, bi-partisan bill. The legislation directs substantial resources both to strengthen the pillars of American innovation and competitiveness: education, basic research, and a business environment to drive innovation.

"As the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm report and many other publications so clearly illustrate, we are being challenged to maintain our position as a world economic leader like no other time before," Hunt pointed out. "The need to train more and better scientists, invest in world class scientific facilities, and provide our leading researchers the resources that will lead to transformational scientific breakthroughs has never been greater. The demonstration of the incredibly broad range of support behind this bill has helped change the way that science and technology issues are dealt with in Congress. This bill has cemented a consensus that our country's future prosperity absolutely depends on our recognition of the importance of investing in science and technology," said Hunt.

This legislation will expand America's talent pool by reforming pre-service and in-service education and training programs for math and science teachers and by expanding scholarships to enable talented young minds from every background to pursue science and technology careers.

Specifically, the bill establishes a broad range of initiatives to recruit and retain highly-qualified educators in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects at the K-12 level and will expand incentives to attract early career researchers in the science and technology fields. "The COMPETES Act contains several measures designed to target high-need areas of the STEM education pipeline, such as the Partnerships for Access to Laboratory Science," Hunt stated. These measures would improve science laboratories in the highest need high schools across the country."

The COMPETES bill authorizes increased basic research funding in the physical science and engineering fields by doubling research funding levels at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) over seven years. Hunt added: "These programs form the core of America's 'innovation engine" and the COMPETES Act is an important step towards ensuring that America will have the resources necessary to maintain our global economic leadership well into the 21st century."

The COMPETES Act also establishes new programs at various federal agencies. These include a major energy research initiative -- the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) at DOE -- which would allocate significant new resources for large-scale cutting-edge energy research using a venture capital style model and Technology Innovation Program (TIP) at NIST to fund high-risk, high-reward technology development. "Congress has taken an agenda developed by the scientific, education, and business communities and provided the programming and policy elements that allow it to secure our future through increased investment and new programs like ARPA-E and TIP," Hunt went on to say.

The COMPETES Act was produced in a unique multi-committee bi-partisan process led by the House Science and Technology Committee, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and the House and Senate Education Committees.

"The American Chemical Society appreciates the efforts of the many congressional leaders," added Hunt. Committees and individual legislators whose efforts have made this victory possible. ACS particularly wants to thank Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) for their leadership in approaching the National Academies to engage this issue and Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) of the House Committee on Science and Technology for his work to bring the disparate parts of the bill together this year."

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The American Chemical Society -- the world's largest scientific society -- is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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