OSA Visits Capitol Hill, Calls for Increased Federal Investments in Scientific R&D, STEM Education


Angela Stark
Optical Society of America

OSA Visits Capitol Hill, Calls for Increased Federal Investments in Scientific R&D, STEM Education

WASHINGTON, May 10 Optical Society of America (OSA) members are on Capitol Hill today calling on their elected officials to support a range of science policy initiatives, including increased federal investments in scientific research and development (R&D) for fiscal year (FY) 2008 and innovation legislation in the House and Senate. Nearly 30 participants are meeting one-on-one with U.S. senators and representatives and their staffs as part of the 2007 Capitol Hill Day event co-sponsored by OSA, the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA), the American Physical Society (APS) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA Lasers and Electro-Optics Society (IEEE-LEOS).

"Capitol Hill Day provides an important opportunity for members of the field of optics and photonics to talk with elected officials and their staff," said Elizabeth Rogan, OSA executive director. "They are sharing concrete examples of how federally funded research and quality math and science education are the basis for the technological breakthroughs that help save lives, advance communications and make everyday life better. Congressional decisions on issues like these affect not only those who work in the sciences but everyone who relies on scientific advances in medicine, energy and other advanced fields."

Participants from 14 states will discuss the importance of doubling federal investments in basic research for FY08 at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science and in the National Institute of Standards and Technologys (NIST) core programs. Authorizing bills for both NSF and NIST passed in the House last week, providing Congress with the clearance to double the budgets for the two agencies by 2010. Participants will be thanking lawmakers for their support of those important first steps to ensuring scientific R&D gets the funding it needs.

Participants also will encourage lawmakers to continue to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, thanking them for recent bills that emphasize its importance. For example, the House recently approved authorizing legislation H.R. 362, the 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Math and Science Scholarship Act, which is designed to strengthen and expand the STEM teacher workforce and attract the best and brightest students into STEM education careers. The Senate, for its part, passed S. 761, the America COMPETES Act, which seeks to improve K-12 STEM education programs by establishing new summer training programs for teachers at the National Laboratories and NSF, assisting states in developing specialty schools in math and science, and creating partnerships between the National Laboratories and high-need high schools to establish math and science centers. Members will also encourage passage of strong STEM education measures with the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, emphasizing the significance of the provisions that support increased STEM education in the U.S.

OSA Public Policy Committee chair and professor of optics at the University of Central Florida Peter Delfyett will visit the offices of his legislators today, including Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Tom Feeney. "My laboratory at CREOL, the College of Optics and Photonics, uses federal funds for critical, often life-saving optics and photonics research. While I am just one researcher in one lab, sharing my personal experiences with members of Congress has the potential to impact other researchers across the country," he said.

Participants are visiting approximately 40 offices on the Hill. The event is being held in conjunction with the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics/Quantum Electronics and Laser Science Conference.

About OSA

Uniting more than 70,000 professionals from 134 countries, the Optical Society of America (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit www.osa.org.