Ranking Member Johnson Introduces the STEM Opportunities Act

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(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced H.R. 1358, the STEM Opportunities Act of 2013. The legislation combines two bills that Ms. Johnson had introduced in past Congresses, the Broadening Participation in STEM Education Act and the Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Act.

Ms. Johnson said, “Many reports over the past decade have found that it is critical to our Nation’s economic leadership and global competitiveness that we educate and train more scientists and engineers. In the meantime, research shows that women and underrepresented minorities, who by 2050 will comprise more than 50 percent of our population, are disproportionately lost at every transition point in their STEM studies and research careers. As a Nation, we cannot afford to continue hemorrhaging so much talent.”

The legislation would require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to collect more comprehensive demographic data on the recipients of federal research awards and on STEM faculty at U.S. universities (while protecting individuals’ privacy); promote data-driven research on the participation and trajectories of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM so that policy makers can design more effective policies and practices to reduce barriers; develop, through the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), consistent federal policies for recipients of federal research awards who have caregiving responsibilities, including care for a newborn or newly adopted child, and consistent federal guidance to grant reviewers and program officers on best practices to minimize the effects of implicit bias in the review of federal research grants; require NSF to develop and disseminate guidance to universities to aid them in identifying any cultural and institutional barriers limiting the recruitment, retention, and achievement of women and minorities in research careers and developing and implementing current best practices for reducing such barriers; require OSTP to develop and issue similar guidance to all federal laboratories; and authorize NSF to award grants to universities to implement or expand research-based practices targeted specifically to increasing the recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty.

Ms. Johnson said of the legislation, “We did much more than just staple two bills together. We solicited fresh input from governmental and non-governmental stakeholders and completely overhauled some of the provisions that have been around for a while to better reflect today’s needs and opportunities. The result is a more comprehensive bill that attempts to systematically address the full suite of issues facing both female and minority STEM researchers, from work-life balance policies, to campus climate, to better data collection, to recruitment and retention practices. We also expanded the bill to include not just researchers at universities but also researchers at our federal laboratories. Finally, we significantly strengthened the research components of this bill to increase our understanding of the trajectory of women and minorities in STEM research careers.”

She continued, “I hope we can make this a bipartisan bill and move it through this Congress. Making sure we are engaging all of the talent of this country in STEM degrees and careers should not be a partisan issue.”

Original cosponsors include Yvette D. Clarke (D- NY), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Donna M. Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA), and Bobby Rush (D-IL). The bill is also been endorsed by several organizations:

"The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME), an organization representing 38 corporations and 50 universities, salutes Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson for the introduction of the STEM Opportunities Act of 2013,” said Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail, President and CEO of NACME. “We remain optimistic that the Bill will get the attention of lawmakers in the present Congress and within the Administration. The continued underrepresentation of African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in STEM education and careers represents 'the New American Dilemma.' The failure to resolve this dilemma threatens U.S. competitiveness and our quality of life."

“We are pleased to see legislation that will support equal educational access for women interested in STEM careers,” said Alyse Stofer, president of the Society of Women Engineers. “Creating environments where women and other underrepresented minorities have the opportunity to contribute genuinely is the key to creating diversity that fuels innovation.”