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Science, Technology, and Global Economic Competitiveness

Date: 
Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 12:00am
Location: 
Washington, D.C.

Opening Statement By Hon. Bart Gordon

I want to join Chairman Boehlert in welcoming everyone to this morning’s hearing.

I also want to thank our distinguished panel for not only taking the time to appear before us today, but for their time and effort in preparing this report.

The title of this report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, summarizes the challenge before us.

There is a general uncertainty about our country’s future economic prospects and a desire for guidance on how to move forward. I think that the report provided by the Panel takes some steps towards providing that guidance.

A few disturbing facts from the report jumped out at me:

The large wage disparity between U.S.-based scientists and engineers and their competitors in China and India; and

The 110 chemical facilities that have closed or are slated for closure in the U.S. coupled with the 120 large chemical plants currently under construction globally - 1 new plant in the U.S. and 50 in China.

China is producing more than 600,000 engineers per year.

As the report notes, “Thanks to globalization, workers in virtually every sector must now face competitors who live just a mouse-click away,…” I’m left wondering where will the good high-paying jobs be for the next generation - in the U.S. or in some other country.

The report outlines a number of specific actions we can take to improve the innovation environment in the U.S. Many of these recommendations are familiar to us because they are what the Science Committee has advocated in legislation.

For example, substantial increases in funding for NSF and the Office of Science at DOE. In the area of science education, the Committee has authorized scholarships for math, science and engineering students to obtain teaching certificates as well as the math and science partnership program to improve the training of new teachers.

There seems to be a broad consensus on what the U.S. should be doing, but the Administration has not followed through in its funding requests.

This report highlights that our current federal R&D investment strategies are not up to meeting the global competitive paradigm of the 21st century. The recommendations represent a challenge to the Administration and to Congress to take action now

I am interested about one of the Panel’s statements, which is that some of its recommendations “require funds that would ideally come from the re-allocation of existing funds.” What is not identified is what funds should be re-allocated or why. I hope our witnesses will provide some more detail into the Panel’s thinking.

We can all agree that more R&D will result in more innovation, but one issue not addressed by this report is will it really generate more and better jobs in the U.S.? Or will the exploitation of these innovations quickly move to countries with lower-cost labor?

I hope the panel has some thoughts on how to ensure that the development of new technologies leads to the creation of new jobs in the U.S. One only has to look at most types of consumer electronics - the history of VCR technology as an example - to see that we have often lost the economic payoff from technology invented here.

In closing, it seems that we understand the challenges we face and we have agreement on how to address these challenges. What is lacking is the political will to make the investment.

I would like to point out that his report represents a consensus of panelists representing business, academic, and education leaders. I would challenge the Panel to press the Administration and Congress to fund their recommendations. As a Nation, we cannot afford not to.

Download the opening statement text.


Opening Statement By Hon. Brian Baird

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and Ranking Member Gordon for raising importance to the issue of math and science education as it relates to scientific and technological competitiveness. I would also like to thank the witnesses - Mr. Augustine, Dr. Vagelos, and Dr. Wulf - for testifying today on the recently released National Academy of Sciences report entitled, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. One of the recommendations made in this report is to vastly improve K-12 math and science education. I could not agree more. This should be one of the highest priorities of the Federal and state governments and I look forward to reviewing the testimony of our witnesses and the specific recommendations from this report to translate these recommendations into Congressional action.

With the topic of today’s discussion centering around science competitiveness, it could not be more appropriate to honor a guest visiting the committee today, as she can speak directly to the importance of a quality science education - and she can do so quite well, I might add. This honoree is Neela Thangada, the winner of the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge, and her mother, Mrudula Rao Thangada. Neela was named "Top Young Scientist" at an awards ceremony yesterday evening for her project, “Effects of Various Nutrient Concentrations on the Cloning of the Eye of the Solanum Tuberosum at Multiple Stages” or, in laymen’s terms, she set out to explore potato cloning.

I had the chance to meet with her and her mother before the hearing, and was impressed with her enthusiasm for science and discovery and her ability to effectively speak about her research. She is indeed an incredible young lady.

Her trip to the House Science Committee today from her home in Texas was the result of an important public-private partnership initiated by the Discovery Channel. Every year since 1999, Discovery has launched the competition in partnership with Science Service to nurture the next generation of American scientists at a critical age when interest in science begins to decline. The cutting-edge competition gives 40 of the nation’s top middle school students the opportunity to demonstrate their scientific know-how and push the limits of their knowledge in the quest for the title of America’s “Top Young Scientist of the Year.”

More than 9,500 middle school students have formally entered the Challenge since its inception, and these students are drawn from an initial pool of 75,000 students annually. Previous winners have attained more than $500,000 in scholarship awards and participated in science-related trips that have taken them to the far corners of the globe, from the Galapagos Islands to the Ukraine.

This year’s finalists traveled to Washington, D.C., to compete in team-based, interactive challenges designed around the theme of “Forces of Nature.” In the wake of the recent natural disasters that ravaged the Gulf Coast of the United States and Southeast Asia, each student faced simulated challenges - from fog banks to hurricanes to tsunamis - that utilized their broad range of knowledge in order to understand the implications and scope of natural disasters.

Public-private partnerships such as these exist to challenge and engage our students and we must continue to support such programs. However, we must also better prepare and inspire our math and science teachers to provide the highest-quality education for all students throughout the country. We can start by implementing some of the recommendations laid out here today.

Download the opening statement text.

Witnesses

Panel

1 - Norman Augustine
Chairman (ret.) Lockheed Martin Corp. Lockheed Martin Corp.
Download the Witness Testimony

2 - Dr. P. Roy Vagelos
Chairman and CEO (ret.) Merck & Co., Inc. Merck & Co., Inc.
Download the Witness Testimony

3 - Dr. William Wulf
President National Academy of Engineering National Academy of Engineering
Download the Witness Testimony

(Left to right) Mr. Augustine, Mr. Vangelos and Dr. Wulf
(Left to right) Mr. Augustine, Dr. Vangelos and Dr. Wulf


Transcript
Link to Government Printing Office PDF file Link to text version Link to text version with speaker index
Serial 109-27
109th Congress