The Coalition for National Science Funding, of which CRA is an active member, held its annual Science Exhibition on Capitol Hill last week. It was once again a great success with a room full of hundreds of attendees and a number of Congressmen visiting exhibits. For the first time, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attended, spoke briefly on the importance of funding basic science research, and received many thanks from the community there for her efforts to see science funded as part of the stimulus bill and the FY 09 Appropriations. Other members of Congress who attended included Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) pictured here. Overall, the event was very successful in spreading the message that federally funded science research makes important contributions and discoveries in all scientific fields.
Also pictured are Dr. Gregory Abowd of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Dr. Gillian Hayes of the University of California, Irvine who represented CRA with an exhibit on Behavior Imaging and Autism that drew a great deal of interest from attendees and the other participants. The exhibit showcased research on using sensors in toys and video imaging to monitor the developmental progress of children with autism and other developmental disorders.
The event, a science fair for Congress and staff, had 35 booths manned by researchers representing universities and scientific societies featuring some of the important research funded by the National Science Foundation.
John P. Holdren was confirmed as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy yesterday. The OSTP Director is the top White House science adviser and Holdren was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee a week ago following a hold on his nomination. The reason for the hold has been variously attributed to concerns over his positions on climate change and to unrelated issues involving the Administrations position on Cuba.
Holdren was the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard University and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center before being asked to serve in the Obama Administration. He has also served as President and Chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as a member of the Presidents Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) during the Clinton Administration. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations.
Cameron Wilson over at the ACM Technology Policy Blog put together this post detailing how ACM, CRA and NCWIT are working together to try and raise the profile of computer science education efforts in the federal government’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program. Rather than try to summarize, here’s the entirety of his entry cross-posted here:
As far as obscure government acronyms go, NITRD is a pretty good one. It stands for the National Information Technology Research and Development program. This program cuts across numerous federal agencies to carry out and coordinate investments in IT R&D. In 2007, the Presidents Council of Advisory on Science and Technology (PCAST another doozy of an acronym) issued a report making recommendations for some reforms of the NITRD program. One interesting issue it touched on is the need to improve computing education and strengthen the IT workforce pipeline. With Congress now using this report as basis to look at what changes it would make to the program, ACM joined with the Computing Research Association and National Center for Women and Information Technology in a letter outlining ideas of how NITRD could be improved to address computer science education issues, particularly at the K-12 level.
While R&D is clearly the focus of the NITRD program, it has an education component. The overall program is broken into several (acronym alert) Program Component Areas (PCAs). Each one deals with a field of research but its Social, Economic, and Workforce Implications of IT PCA is charged with addressing workforce and education issues. In truth, this part of the program is small and the Nation Science Foundation dominates the contributions to it. Further, it really does not have a K-12 focus and the Department of Education dropped out of the overall program some time ago. Its time to revitalize and expand this area.
The community letter to Congress seeks to strengthen the pipeline by expanding, better leveraging, and coordinating existing education efforts within the NITRD program. We outline four recommendations (and specific legislative language for the wonks out there):
- Promote computing education, particularly at the K-12 level, and increased exposure to computing education and research opportunities for women and minorities as core elements of the NITRD program;
- Require the NITRD program to address education and diversity programs in its strategic planning and road-mapping process;
- Expand efforts at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to focus on computer science education, particularly at the K-12 level through broadening the Math Science Partnership program; and,
- Enlist the Department of Education and its resources and reach in addressing computer science education issues.
Each of these recommendations would bring a much-needed federal focus to issues in computer science education at the K-12 level. More and more conversations are occurring within the community about what needs to be done to improve computing education, and the discussion often turns back to the K-12 level. Computing and the innovations it yields are critical to the domestic economy. The ubiquitous nature of computing has spread its reach into everyones daily lives. Securing our cyber-infrastructure, protecting national security, and making our energy infrastructure more efficient are among numerous issues all depending on computing. However, the current pipeline will not satisfy the demands of an industry that includes some of the countrys most innovative and successful companies. Nor will the existing education system give students the kind of background knowledge in computing and skills they need for the 21st Century.
We must do more to expose kids to a quality computer science education program at the K-12 level, support teachers and bring innovative new curricula into the schools. Opening a serious education front in the NITRD program would be a good start to this ambitious goal.