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Vol. 2008, No. 19 (31 December 2008)


House Science Committee Agenda for the 111th


President-Elect Obama Radio Address on the Role of Science

President Elect-Obama's Latest Appointments


Attacking the Recession: Finding Solutions To the Short-Term Crisis to Address and Accelerate Adjustment to Longer-Term Challenges

Just Released: TIMSS 2007, A Study of Math & Science Scores

Is Nanotechnology Safe? No One is Sure




IEEE-USA Now Accepting 2010 Government Fellowship Applications


House Science Committee Agenda for the 111th

House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) has outlined an ambitious agenda for his committee when Congress convenes in January. The committee was very active during the last two years, holding 123 hearings and seeing twelve laws enacted encompassing 27 bills. Among these were The America COMPETES Act, the Energy Independence and Security Act, and a host of other laws affecting the conduct and funding of science. Gordon is optimistic about the outlook for science and highlighted the National Nanotechnology Initiative that the House passed this year, but which stalled in the Senate. He is optimistic about this bill getting to the President's desk next year, and expects Obama to sign it.

Gordon recently also outlined the importance of funding projects that are "twofers": providing an economic stimulus today, and a large payoff in the future. Examples include broadband technologies, health IT and nanotechnology. Of note was Gordon's emphasis on the role that NIST will play in areas such as broadband technologies and standards' measurement. He also discussed ARPA-E, modeled on DARPA, which would finance high risk/high reward energy research in areas such as nanotechnology, solar cells, and batteries. With science funding relatively tight, science agencies are more risk adverse and are
"afraid to fail" in the research they finance. Gordon is hopeful that funding might be provided for ARPA-E in the
upcoming stimulus bill.

A two-page Agenda Overview providing a review of the committee's intentions regarding innovation, energy,
workforce, the protection of natural resources, space, transportation, security, and investigations and oversight is available at:


President-Elect Obama Radio Address on the Role of Science

21 DEC: Click here to listen to President-Elect Obama's latest weekly radio address where he introduces the new members of his science and technology team, and discusses the importance of science and innovation to the future of our country.

Excerpts below; read text of the full address on the website.

"I am confident that if we recommit ourselves to discovery if we support science education to create the next generation of scientists and engineers right here in America; if we have the vision to believe and invest in things unseen, then we can lead the world into a new future of peace and prosperity."

" we seek to meet America's twenty-first century challenges, from strengthening our security, to rebuilding our economy, to preserving our planet for our children and grandchildren. ..., I am pleased to announce members of my science and technology team whose work will be critical to these efforts.

"It is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology.

"Because the truth is that promoting science isn't just about providing resources—it's about protecting free and open inquiry. It's about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it's inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States —and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work.

President Elect-Obama's Latest Appointments

We have already told you about Dr. John Holdren who will serve as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Dr. Holdren will also serve as a Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology—or PCAST—as will Dr. Harold Varmus and Dr. Eric Lander. Obama promises that this team will work to "remake PCAST into a vigorous external advisory council that will shape [his] thinking on the scientific aspects of [his] policy priorities."

Dr. Varmus won a Nobel Prize for his research on the causes of cancer. From 1993 until 2000, he was director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Lander is the Founding Director of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard and was one of the driving forces behind mapping the human genome—one of the greatest scientific achievements in history.

Also recently added to the Obama science team is Dr. Jane Lubchenco who will serve as the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency devoted to conserving our marine and coastal resources and monitoring our weather. An internationally known environmental scientist and ecologist and former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Lubchenco has advised the President and Congress on scientific matters. She will be the first woman to hold the NOAA post if she is confirmed by the Senate.


Attacking the Recession: Finding Solutions To the Short-Term Crisis to Address and Accelerate Adjustment to Longer-Term Challenges

Britain's National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (NESTA) continue to produce excellent studies that provide a 360° wide-angle view on the role of innovation in modern society. Their latest report addresses the issue of how innovation can help drive recession recovery efforts. When it comes to tackling the recession via innovation, it is time for "all hands on deck." On its own, the private sector cannot be the sole driver of new innovations. Instead, innovations in all sectors—such as new approaches to providing public services, and new investments in worker "upskilling"—will be required. In addition, these efforts cannot operate in the traditional top-down manner. They must be built around regional networks that build collaboration among key players, while also reaching out globally to connect to new sources of knowledge and market opportunity.

Just Released: TIMSS 2007, A Study of Math & Science Scores

9 DEC: The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) released the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). While average US math scores rose from 1995 levels, average science scores stagnated, and the U.S. continues to lag behind a number of European and Asian nations.

TIMSS 2007 is the fourth in a series of "internationally comparative assessments dedicated to improving teaching and learning in mathematics and science for students around the world. Carried out every four years at the fourth and eighth grades, TIMSS provides data about trends in mathematics and science achievement over time."

Comprised of national research institutions and government research agencies from around the world, IEA designs TIMSS assessments for fourth and eighth graders. In the U.S., the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the Institute of
Education Sciences at the Department of Education oversees TIMSS assessments.

In 2007, 10,350 fourth graders at 257 schools, and 9,723 eighth graders at 239 schools completed the TIMSS assessments. The average fourth grade math score (529) was above the TIMSS scale average (500) and higher than the 1995 fourth grade math average (518).

Thirty-five other nations participated at the fourth grade math and science level, and 47 other nations participated in both subjects at the eighth grade level. Average fourth and eighth grade U.S. math scores rank among the top third of nations participating. Nations with an average fourth grade math score significantly higher than the U.S. were Hong Kong (607), Singapore (599), Chinese Taipei (576), Japan (568), Kazakhstan (549), Russian Federation (544), England (541), and Latvia (537). Nations not measurably different than the U.S. average included the Netherlands (535), and Germany (525).

Nations with a significantly higher average eighth grade math score were Chinese Taipei (598), Republic of Korea (597), Singapore (593), Hong Kong (572), and Japan (570). Those nations not measurably different than the U.S. included England (513), and the Russian Federation (512).

Average fourth and eighth grade U.S. science scores rank among the top quarter of nations participating. Nations with a significantly higher average fourth grade science score were Singapore (587), Chinese Taipei (557), Hong Kong (554), and Japan (548). Nations with an average fourth grade science score similar to the U.S. included the Russian Federation (546), England (542), and Italy (535).

Nations with average eighth grade science scores significantly higher than the U.S. were Singapore (567), Chinese Taipei (561), Japan (554), Republic of Korea (553), England (542), Hungary (539), Czech Republic (539), Slovenia (538), and the Russian Federation (530). Not measurably different than the U.S. included Hong Kong (530), and Australia (515).

Is Nanotechnology Safe? No One is Sure

The National Research Council (NRC) recently released a generally negative assessment of the current research plan for assessing nanotechnology safety. The report, "Review of the Federal Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety Research," characterized the current plan as insufficient.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) a program consisting of 25 federal agencies with a stake in nanotechnology is tasked with assessing these concerns. The NNI is overseen by the Nanoscale Science Engineering and Technology (NSET)
Subcommittee in the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).

House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) cited the report as an argument for passage of the "National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act" (H.R. 5940), an unsuccessful bill from the 110th Congress which he plans to reintroduce in the next Congress. This legislation would require NNI to develop an EHS research plan with near-term goals, and assign responsibility for developing the EHS plan to an associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).


If you like to keep up with what's going on in state politics, provides a good overview of the activities in all 50 state legislatures.


AAAS Grant Site

The American Association for the Advancement of Science supports GrantsNet Express.  Each week, GrantsNet provides a listing of science funding opportunities from private foundations and organizations, and new U.S. government grant announcements in the sciences. AAAS will send GrantsNet by e-mail to AAAS member subscribers.

FYI, AAAS recently established the Center for Science Diplomacy. Using scientific cooperation to promote international understanding and prosperity, the newly established Science Diplomacy Center in Washington, DC, seeks to provide a forum through which scientists, policy analysts, and policy makers can share information and explore
collaborative opportunities.

The President's 2002 Fiscal Year Management Agenda established as a governmental grants resource. is a central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs, and provides access to approximately $400 billion in annual awards. Most agencies, such as the DOE's Office of Science, use only to list all funding opportunities. Other funding opportunities of interest include the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and NASA.

National Science Foundation

For information on NSF Engineering Active Funding Opportunities, visit:


IEEE-USA Now Accepting Government Fellowship Applications

Each year, IEEE-USA sponsors three qualified IEEE members to serve as government fellows: one Engineering & Diplomacy Fellow and two Congressional fellows.  The fellows spend a year in Washington, serving as advisers to the U.S. Congress or key U.S. Department of State decision-makers.  IEEE-USA's Government Fellowships link engineers with government, providing a mechanism for IEEE-USA members to learn firsthand about the public policy process through personal involvement.

The congressional fellowship consists of an appointment to the personal staff of a U.S. Senator or Congressman, or to the professional staff of a Congressional Committee. The Fellow along with the Congressional sponsor and IEEE-USA, negotiates a starting date, although IEEE-USA recommends that Fellowship terms run from January 1st to December 31st. For an application Kit for the 2010 Congressional Fellowship Program, visit:

The State Department fellowship begins in January of each year and offers an opportunity for an engineer to provide technical expertise to the State Department, and help raise awareness of the value of engineering input while learning about and contributing to the foreign policy process. For an application Kit for the 2010 Engineering & Diplomacy (State Department) Fellowship Program, visit:

Fellows must be U.S. citizens.The postmark application deadline for 2010 Fellowships is 13 March 2009. For more information, visit:

Recent Policy Communications:

Public Policy Priority Issues - 110th Congress, 2d Session (2008):

Position Statements: - IEEE-USA position statements identify important technical and/or engineering career-related aspects of specific public policy issues deemed to be of concern or affecting IEEE's U.S. members.  They make specific public policy recommendations and provide recommended approaches for consideration by the U.S. Congress, Executive Branch officials, the Judiciary, representatives of State and Local Government, and other interested groups and individuals, including IEEE members. 

Check out the new positions statements approved in November 2008 [New!] . Many more are Under Review by committees.

IEEE-USA In The News:

Former IEEE-USA Government Fellows Available to Speak to Sections

Earlier this year, former IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow George Hanover spoke to an IEEE PACE group in the San Francisco Bay area. He discussed the innovation and competitiveness issues that he worked on during the year he served as an IEEE-USA government fellow, working as a staffer for the Environment, Technology and Standards Subcommittee of the House Science Committee. George also served on the personal staff of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a member of the House Science Committee. George also discussed an engineer's perspective on the "government process" and the IEEE-USA's involvement in that process. If your section is interested in having one of the former government fellows speak to your group about the program, how the legislative process works in Washington, and how IEEE-USA is influencing it, please contact Erica Wissolik at e. wissolik @ ieee. org. For more information on the IEEE-USA Government Fellows Program, please visit:

Next up? A January 20th IEEE Philadelphia Section dinner presentation by Former IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow Tom Fagan. Tom will discuss the IEEE-USA Congressional Science & Engineering Fellows Program, the program's history to date, and his personal reflections on the many activities in which he was involved during his tenure on Capitol Hill. During his fellowship, Tom served as a professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittees on General Procurement, Arms Control, and Military Construction. In addition, Tom will describe a number of initiatives that were started during his term that have now been recently implemented under the rubric of Acquisition Reform and Procurement Reform. Tom will discuss these changes and why they are good for the Defense Department, Defense Contractors, the United States, and the U.S. Taxpayer.

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