Regular Reminder of CRA Advocacy Tools!

On July 16, 2014, in CRA, People, by Brian Mosley

Did you know that CRA has an advocacy network, where you can get updates about what’s happening in the science policy world of Washington? Or that we are regularly looking for volunteers to participate in Congressional Visit Days in Washington? Have you wanted to learn how you can break into the exciting world of science policy? CRA has tools for all of these and a little bit more.

First, let’s talk about CRAN, or the Computing Research Advocacy Network. This is the Association’s e-mailing list; it’s where our members can get timely information and alerts about key advocacy opportunities. We’re also very careful to not waste your time; we try to keep the alerts to about 7 to 10 a year (ie: less than an email a month). And it’s not a discussion list; only CRA staff will use the mailing list and only for the purposes of informing our members about policy related matters that will impact the CS community. It’s definitely worth signing up for!

Our Congressional Visit Days held here in Washington DC. This is a chance for our membership to meet with the staffs of their Representatives and Senators in Washington, DC, and to make the case for computer science research directly. CRA provides the materials, the arguments, and the training; volunteers provide the flesh and blood example of the importance of federal research funding to their members of Congress. It’s a great way to be a Citizen Scientist and to take part in your government. This is a very important activity that the community can do to make sure federal support of CS research continues.

The Leadership in Science Policy Institute (LiSPI) is part of CRA’s mission, in partnership with CRA’s Computing Community Consortium (link) to develop the next generation of leaders in the computing research community. It is intended to educate computing researchers on how science policy in the U.S. is formulated and how our government works. It’s a two-day workshop, which features presentations and discussions with science policy experts, current and former Hill staff, and relevant agency and Administration personnel. The goal is to walk CS researchers through the basics about the mechanics of the legislative process, interacting with agencies, advisory committees, and the federal case for computing. The hope is that this will make more people from the CS community consider taking a job, temporary or permanent, in the policy world of Washington. LiSPI isn’t open to everyone; you have to be nominated by a chair or department head and then go through an application process. It’s all explained on the LiSPI website, so click through and find out if you’re interested.

Finally, we have the nuts and bolts of keeping our members informed: the Computing Research Policy Blog (which you’re reading) and Computing Research News (CRN). The Blog is our home for up-to-date information about advocacy and policy analysis for the computing research community. CRN is for more general computing science news in academia, government, and industry. Of particular importance are the job announcements, which are posted regularly. But both are useful for staying informed as to what’s going on.

So there you have it: all of the useful tools that CRA provides, right at your digital fingertips! We’d recommend you check them all out and get involved.

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The STEM Ed bill that would explicitly include CS in the definition of STEM will be on the House floor today on the “suspension” calendar, a status that allows the House to consider it in somewhat expedited fashion. This is reserved for non-controversial bills and limits debate on the bill to 40 minutes, doesn’t allow for amendments, and requires a 2/3 majority to pass. So it’s likely it will pass the House today. Whether it will go anywhere in the Senate isn’t known…

There are a total of 4 bills cobbled together from the ashes of FIRST that will be considered today:

HR 5031 — A bill to define STEM education to include computer science, and to support existing STEM education programs at the National Science Foundation.
HR 5035 — A bill to reauthorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and for other purposes.
HR 5056 — A bill to improve the efficiency of Federal research and development, and for other purposes.
HR 5029 — A bill to provide for the establishment of a body to identify and coordinate international science and technology cooperation that can strengthen the domestic science and technology enterprise and support United States foreign policy goals.

All are non-controversial. HR 5056 sounds ominous, given the committee’s recent efforts to “improve NSF accountability” in FIRST, but it’s just a bill calling on OSTP to put together a working group to study how to “harmonize, streamline, and eliminate duplicative Federal regulations and reporting requirements, and minimize the regulatory burden on US institutions of higher education performing federally funded research while maintaining accountability for Federal tax dollars.”

We’ll let you know how the vote turns out!

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STEM Education Bill Introduced in the House

On July 10, 2014, in STEM, by Brian Mosley

Today the chairman of the House Science Committee introduced H.R. 5031, the “STEM Education Act of 2014’”, to promote STEM education at NSF. The computer science community is a direct beneficiary: the first item in the bill would require federal agencies to include computer science in their definition of STEM.

You’ll recall Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) has been trying to move a reauthorization of the COMPETES Act, called the FIRST Act, but had met with much resistance from both the science advocacy community and the Democrats in the committee minority. That bill’s route to passage promised to be challenging, and ever since a rather contentious markup of the bill its progress has stalled.

However, in the interests of still wanting to do something legislatively, Smith decided to work with the Democratic minority on his committee to break out parts of FIRST to use as stand alone bills. These would be the least contentious and most bipartisan parts of the FIRST Act. This STEM bill is the first of possibly three total bills (the other possible bills are NIST reauthorization and international science cooperation).

As for specifics of the bill, it has three parts (it is actually a very short bill). The first part, which is of most importance to the CS community, is the explicit inclusion of Computer Science in the definition of “STEM education.” The inclusion of CS in STEM is aimed at ensuring that CS won’t get left out of future STEM Ed initiatives at the Federal level (at least at NSF, NASA, NOAA, Energy, and NIST…the agencies under the jurisdiction of the Science Committee). The bill also authorizes STEM agencies to fund research that advances the field of informal STEM education and expands the NSF Noyce Scholarship Program to include awardees with bachelor’s degrees (currently only people with master degrees qualify) and provide funding authorization to support NSF Master Teacher Fellows for a year. All three of these provisions are largely bipartisan and funding neutral.

This bill is very good news for the CS community and the science community as a whole, and hopefully indicates a new embrace of bipartisanship on the committee, after a fairly discordant period.

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