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Senator Pete V. Domenici
Full Committee Hearing on PACE-Energy Legislation
February 15, 2006
The subject of our hearing today is the “Protecting America’s Competitive Edge Act through Energy Act,” also known as, “the PACE-Energy Act.” PACE-Energy is one of a package of three bills that together will implement the twenty recommendations of the recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm.
The Gathering Storm report describes an issue of national urgency. It sounds the alarm that our global competitiveness will continue to erode if we do not take action.
There are already troubling signs that the United States is losing its relative advantage in science and high-tech fields. For example, In Industry:
• The share of leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing capacity owned or partly owned by U.S. companies today is half what it was as recently as 2001.
• Of 120 new chemical plants being built around the world with price tags of $1 billion or more, only one will be in the U.S. while 50 will be in China.
• In 1999, 68 percent of 8th grade students received instruction from a mathematics teacher who did not hold a degree in math or science
• In 2000, 93 percent of students in grades 5 through 9 were taught physical science by a teacher lacking a major or certification in the physical sciences.
For more perspective on our performance in science and math education, consider what Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO, General Electric said recently on the topic:
“If you want good manufacturing jobs, one thing you could do is graduate more engineers. We had more sports exercise majors graduate than electrical engineering grads last year. If you want to be the massage capital of the world, you’re on your way.”
The Gathering Storm report was written by a committee chaired by Norm Augustine, the former chairman of Lockheed Martin. Mr. Augustine’s committee included twenty individuals from the highest levels of industry, universities, and government. The committee included three Nobel laureates, presidents of leading U.S. universities, and the chief executive officers of multinational corporations.
The charge to Mr. Augustine and his committee was to develop a list of specific policy recommendations to bolster U.S. Competitiveness. The Committee produced an impressive report, and a list of twenty recommendations, after an intense ten weeks of effort.
Their recommendations all address a central problem. That is, we are not doing enough to harness, and develop, our national brainpower. The report recommends significant increases in our investments in science and mathematics education at all levels – kindergarten through high school, college, and graduate school.
We are going to put those recommendations into action through our PACE legislation. Here’s some of what our legislation will accomplish.
PACE-Energy will build on the existing educational programs sponsored by the Department of Energy, particularly leveraging the resources of the National Laboratories. These education programs will help ensure that we are preparing today’s young people for the demands of tomorrow’s high-tech workforce.
For example, one program will improve the skills of 50,000 thousand math and science teachers each year through summer institutes hosted at the National Laboratories. The PACE legislation will provide for the training of an additional 70,000 instructors for advanced placement and International Baccalaureate courses in science and mathematics. And the PACE Act will provide 30,000 scholarships and fellowships to attract the best and the brightest to careers as scientists and engineers.
In his recent State of the Union address, the President announced the American Competitiveness Initiative. I applaud the President for his bold vision and leadership on the issue of U.S. competitiveness. The President’s Initiative includes plans to double basic research funding for the physical sciences at the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Our PACE legislation is a good partner to the President’s Competitiveness Initiative. PACE-Energy provides authorization for doubling research dollars at the Department of Energy Office of Science. I was pleased to see the President’s budget request for the Office of Science calls for an increase just over 14 percent, putting it on track to double in a decade.
PACE-Energy also calls for the creation of a new authority within the Department of Energy, the Advanced Research Programs Authority – Energy, or, “ARPA-E.” ARPA-E will drive innovation in energy technologies by supporting high-risk but potentially high-pay-off research. I would like ARPA-E to provide the kind of successes that we have seen emerge from the Laboratory Directed Research and Development funds, called “LDRD.”
We need to take U.S. competitiveness seriously. We need to take action to support our standard of living, and ensure we continue to grow and prosper. If we do not, we can expect other nations to rival our global competitiveness – and one day to surpass us.
I am looking forward to learning more about these issues from our witnesses. I’ll turn now to the ranking member, Senator Bingaman, for his opening statement.
Witness Panel 2
Dr. Charles M. Vest
Rising Above The Gathering Storm:
Energizing and Employing America for a
Brighter Economic Future
Testimony Regarding S. 2197, Protecting America’s Competitive Edge – Energy
Charles M. Vest
President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Member, Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century
Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy
Division on Policy and Global Affairs
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
February 14, 2006
Chairman Domenici, Ranking Member Bingaman, Members of the Committee.
I am Charles Vest, former president of MIT. I was privileged to serve under Norman Augustine as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine’s committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century that produced the report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. I also am the past vice chair of the Council on Competitiveness that developed the National Innovation Initiative, and am a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In 2003, I chaired the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board’s Task Force on the Future of Science Programs at the Department of Energy.
It is an honor to contribute to your discussion today of S. 2197, the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge through Energy Act of 2006, (the PACE-Energy Act) part of a comprehensive package of legislation you have introduced to help ensure continued American leadership and prosperity in the rapidly evolving global, knowledge-based economy of this new century.
Above all, on behalf of our committee, thank you for your leadership.
America today leads the world in science and technology, and I believe that we are the most innovative nation on the planet. Our economy, which is strong, builds on two great national assets – a strong base of science and technology and a free-market economy.
So why should we be worried about the future?
We must be deeply worried about the future, because we have come to take our leadership and lifestyle for granted, and continuing to do so will lead in only one direction – down. Our nation must not only innovate and compete globally, but we must do it in such a manner that we can maintain our American standard of living. This is a Herculean task that will not be achieved without a concerted effort – the kind of concerted effort that can be driven by the PACE legislation.
What does competing in a knowledge-based economy require? It requires that we educate a workforce and leadership that can create and perform the well-paying jobs of the future. It requires that new knowledge be continually generated and moved into the marketplace fast and effectively. This is what we mean by innovation. The knowledge that is required to produce new products, services, and jobs will in large measure be technical, spawned by basic research in science, mathematics and engineering.
Our future economy, security, health, and quality of life depend upon our aggressiveness in investing now in American education and research, and in maintaining and enhancing a policy and tax environment that will allow innovation and entrepreneurial activity to flourish in American and in our industries’ operations throughout the world.
We must see globalization as an opportunity as well as a challenge. But our leadership and economic strength are not a birthright. We must earn them day in and day out. The recommendations of the Augustine Committee, the National Innovation Initiative, and indeed several other recent reports, including those by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, all point in the same direction. The PACE bills and the American Competitiveness Initiative begin the urgent task of building a sound base for our future and that of our children and grandchildren.
The National Academies’ recommendations outlined a bold, comprehensive and strategic program for the nation. Our committee is pleased that so many of our recommendations are reflected in the PACE legislation and that the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative is so consistent with them. We further hope that our analysis of the issues facing the country, which draws upon and consolidates the work of many other dedicated groups, is helpful to you and you colleagues.
The PACE legislation package is harmonious with our recommendations for educating a new workforce and leadership in science and engineering. This critical challenge spans from K-12 through doctoral and post-doctoral education. We are particularly pleased that the PACE Acts include major programs across agencies to provide scholarships for students who study science, engineering, or mathematics and concurrently earn certification and commit to teaching. We believe that the bills’ programs to strengthen skills of teachers through masters programs, workshops, and training for effective Advance Placement and International Baccalaureate instruction are excellent. I will not dwell on the bulk of these programs, because they are contained in
S. 2198 the PACE-Education Act, which will be the object of a subsequent hearing. However, I will note that our committee’s primary hope is that such programs will be put in place quickly and effectively.
In my view it is especially appropriate that the legislative effort to protect America’s competitive edge be spearheaded in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee because energy, innovation, and U.S. competitiveness are intimately intertwined. The following are among the reasons this is true:
1. Supplying this nation, and indeed the world, with safe, clean, affordable, secure, and sustainable energy is a prerequisite for prosperity, and is in large measure a technological challenge.
2. The Department of Energy currently is responsible for 40 percent of the federal investment in physical science as well as 14 percent of the federal basic research investments in mathematics and computing, environmental sciences, and engineering.
3. Producing and distributing electricity, heat, and transportation while protecting our environment is arguably our most urgent challenge, and it certainly is the one to inspire, create, and draw upon a new generation of scientists, engineers, and innovators.
4. If America grasps commanding leadership in new, clean and economical energy technologies, there will be vast new markets for our energy technology industries in the rapidly developing areas of the world such as China and India.
EDUCATION AND TEACHER ENHANCEMENT
PACE-Energy (S.2197) authorizes three specific roles for the department of Energy associated with improving STEM education in primary and secondary schools, and with inspiring and assisting young men and women to pursue college education in science and engineering.
The first is the establishment of Summer Institutes at the DOE national laboratories to provide teacher training. They would emphasize K-8 education and would be of at least two weeks duration. This is certainly the type of program that we recommended in Rising Above the Gathering Storm. The DOE lab facilities and their scientists and engineers certainly could create inspirational and useful programs for K-8 teachers.
The second authorizes DOE National Labs to provide assistance and support to STEM specialty schools and that each Lab establish a Center of Excellence at one public school in its geographic vicinity. This is precisely the kind of action that our committee encouraged.
Third, PACE-Energy provides for the establishment of an internship program at the National Labs, with a $50 million annual budget beginning in FY2007. Our committee believes that such inquiry-based learning can be very effective in inspiring and educating middle school and high-school students. The Labs are a natural venue for such programs.
I personally believe that through these three activities, the DOE can and should play an effective role in improving aspects of STEM education in our nation. I would recommend that as such programs are implemented, as I hope they will be, the Department will establish coherence of purpose and execution across the participating laboratories, and identify and promulgate best practices.
Federal support for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering has been essentially flat in real dollars for more than thirty years. During that time, the budgets for biomedical research have appropriately grown approximately four-fold. That four-fold investment will pay immense benefits to improved health as well as basic understanding of living systems. It has already done so, and also has stimulated an entire new industry of biotechnology. The levels of discovery and innovation in life science and medicine are astounding. Today there are nearly 100 biotech companies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I live. They are a direct result of the farsighted federal investment in biomedical research and education, as are the many pharmaceutical research facilities that have located there.
But the nation faces other challenges including, first and foremost, energy and environment, but also the creation of new services, technologies, and manufacturing techniques that will enable us to be secure and economically vibrant in a world of knowledge-based economies and globalized production and markets. The Augustine Committee has concluded that meeting these challenges requires a substantially increased and sustained federal investment in long-term, basic research in the physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, and computer science. Specifically, we recommended that these budgets be doubled over a period of seven years.
We therefore are very pleased that S. 2197 authorizes such a doubling of the budget of the DOE Office of Science by increasing it by 10 percent annually through 2013. We are confident that such an investment can pay dividends of extraordinary importance to the nation.
In our deliberations, we concluded that it would be wise to create 200 early career research grants of $500,000 each annually, payable over five years. It frequently takes far too long for our bright young men and women to establish appropriately independent research programs. This is very inefficient, because it drains their time and attention away from the actual conduct of research and teaching during what often are their most creative years. S. 2197 authorizes 65 such early career grants per year for five years to be administered by DOE, and S. 2198 directs similar programs in several other agencies. We applaud this.
S. 2197 establishes the Advanced Research Projects Authority – Energy (ARPA-E). This is a direct reflection of a recommendation made by the Augustine Committee. ARPA-E is the only major new organization recommended by our committee, so I would like to explain our intent.
We intend ARPA-E to provide a new field of opportunity to the Department of Energy as it works in new and reinvigorated ways to develop new technologies to supply this nation, and indeed the world, with safe, clean, affordable, secure, and sustainable energy. We simply must supply and utilize energy and transportation in new ways that will not degrade our environment. If we do not do this, there will be no future prosperity. We must derive new knowledge and technology from basic science and engineering research and reduce them to practice, and we must start now.
I wish to make a blunt statement that is based on my experience as an educator and an observer of the science and engineering communities. On the whole, in recent decades, many of our best minds were not attracted into the science and technology of energy. We in universities allowed energy to slip into academic backwaters, and neither our energy companies, nor our national laboratories, nor the entrepreneurial community have applied enough intellectual and financial muscle to it. We have grown complacent in the face of a monumental challenge. Of course there are counter examples, and I apologize if I am trampling on the toes of those few who have indeed dedicated their careers to these issues, but on the whole, I believe my characterization is accurate.
Today, however, the larger scientific and engineering communities are awakening to challenge of our looming energy crisis. But we must take concerted action and make the investments necessary to enlist our most talented researchers and innovators to address it. Our committee, therefore, conceived ARPA-E as an organization reporting to the DOE Under Secretary for Science that can achieve four objectives:
1. Bring a freshness, excitement, and sense of mission to energy research that will attract many of our best and brightest minds – those of experienced scientists and engineers, and, especially, those of students and young researchers, including those in the entrepreneurial world.
2. Focus on creative, out-of-the-box, potentially transformational research that industry cannot or will not support.
3. Utilize an ARPA-like organization that is flat, nimble, and sparse, yet capable of setting goals and making decisions that will allow it to sustain for long periods of time those projects whose promise is real, and to phase out programs that do not prove to be productive or as promising as anticipated.
4. Create a new tool to bridge the troubling gaps between basic energy research, development, and industrial innovation. It can serve as a model for how to improve science and technology transfer in other areas that are essential to our future prosperity.
Our committee did not believe it appropriate for us to specify the organization and mission of ARPA-E in great detail. We believe that must be worked out by the Secretary of Energy and the Under Secretary for Science in rapid, but intense, consultation with experts from the scientific and engineering communities. Defense visionaries who realized that the military had to reach out to new communities for the technologies that would be required to counter the rapidly changing threats of the post Sputnik era established the original ARPA in the DOD. It was enormously successful. We believe that ARPA will provide the right general framework on which to design ARPA-E. It is a proven model.
I would like to briefly address two arguments that have been directed by some against the recommendations of the Augustine Committee.
First, some have stated that America’s current lead in science, engineering, and innovation is so great that there is no urgency to addressing these matters. Our committee believes that this proposition is both incorrect and dangerous.
We are indeed on the pinnacle of science and technology R&D, but almost every trend is moving in the wrong direction. In just the last few years the U.S. has become a net importer of high-technology products, has invested more new money in foreign stock funds than in domestic portfolios, has seen its share of leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing cut in half, has dropped to 12th in the world in the number of broadband connections per 100 inhabitants, has dropped from number 1 to number 5 in Internet use and infrastructure, has had basically flat investment in physical science and engineering research, has less than one third of its 4th and 8th grade students performing proficiently in mathematics, has its 15-year olds ranking 24th out of 40 countries in assessments of applying mathematical principles to practical problems, has two thirds of its children learning science and mathematics from teachers who neither majored nor were certified in the subjects, and has only 15 percent of its university students studying natural science or engineering versus 38 percent in South Korea and 50 percent in China.
In my view there is a commanding urgency to these problems. Complacency is our enemy, not our refuge.
Second, some critics have stated that there is no current shortage of engineers and scientists, so there no reason to increase their numbers. Our committee believes that in a knowledge age we need more, not fewer, people who can generate and use new knowledge.
The need for more future engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and computer scientists is because these men and women will be the innovators who create new products, services, and jobs. Innovation is the key to productivity, which in turn is the key to a strong economy. Supplying and distributing energy, feeding the planet, building new industries around bio-based materials, continuing trends toward sophisticated service-based economies, keeping us secure, advancing medicine, developing new ways of learning, and responding to pandemics all require a technically competent workforce and scientifically astute leaders in business and government. Even today, over half of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have engineering backgrounds, and engineers and scientists dominantly create the newer entrepreneurial companies. The financial services industry is based on mathematics and information technology. Shipping companies and even retail businesses find the profit margins necessary for survival only through application of complex logistical science.
The argument that we have plenty of engineers and scientists is based on looking in the rearview mirror. The more people with sound engineering and scientific knowledge, the more connections among them, and the stronger the knowledge generation of long-term basic research to nourish them, the better will be our chances of prospering in the 21st century.
Chairman Domenici, Ranking Member Bingaman, and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to address PACE-Energy from the perspective of the National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm. It is a privilege to work together to enable our nation to prosper in the 21st century.
I would be glad to respond to any questions.
Dr. Luis Proenza
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITED STATES SENATE
S. 2197, PROTECTING AMERICAN COMPETITIVENESS EDGE
THROUGH ENERGY (PACE-Energy) ACT OF 2006
FEBRUARY 14, 2006
DR. LUIS M. PROENZA
THE UNIVERSITY OF AKRON
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, thank you for your invitation to provide testimony in support of this vitally important legislation.
I am Luis Proenza, President of The University of Akron. I also am privileged to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and on the executive committee of the Council on Competitiveness – bodies that have made recommendations that are directly relevant to the matters under your consideration. Many of you already are familiar with these recommendations, which are reflected in the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative and incorporated in other pending legislation, such as the Ensign – Lieberman National Innovation Act of 2005.
I expect you have asked me here today because of my role as chairman of the Science and Mathematics Education Task Force (SMETF), which is a subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB). However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that, because the work of our task force is still in progress, the remarks I will make today must be treated strictly as my own. My comments will naturally reflect much of the work we have done to date and, of course, we will be pleased to share the final report with this committee as soon as it is completed. From my review of the PACE language, I might add that the work of SMETF appears to be most closely related to sections 3171, 3175, 3181 and 3195 of PACE-Energy and sections 161, 211 and 231 of PACE-Education.
Although the national laboratories conduct a substantial proportion of the nation’s basic research in the physical sciences and engineering, as well as a healthy mix of other basic and applied sciences (e.g., biological and environmental sciences), the Department of Energy’s role in the scientific leadership of the nation is generally underappreciated. To carry out its mission, DOE requires substantial manpower resources, which is one reason why the Department’s involvement in the education pipeline must be understood better, supported adequately and leveraged. I am pleased that DOE’s vital role in STEM education was given a clear legislative mandate in section 1102 of the recently passed Energy Policy Act of 2005 and that the Department’s Office of Science, under Assistant Secretary Ray Orbach, was tasked to begin implementation of this section. I also note that former Secretary Abrams, who appointed SMETF, and Secretary Bodman, have expressed strong interest in ensuring the Department’s participation in enhancing our nation’s STEM education.
Much of what we have learned about competitiveness and innovation in recent years certainly speaks to the value of leveraging resources and to ensuring that the various components of our national innovation ecosystem are optimally linked, coordinated and enhanced. Thus, I am pleased that you have asked me to specifically focus on how we “would leverage Department of Energy resources, including personnel and equipment at the National Laboratories, to improve mathematics, science, and engineering education at all levels”. That is precisely the task that SMETF has had under review during the last 14 months.
The National Laboratories represent exceptional scientific and engineering facilities and talent – 17 geographically distributed laboratories of unparalleled strength and importance, particularly for the physical sciences and engineering, but also for a substantial mix of other basic and applied sciences (e.g., biological and environmental sciences). Such major resources are assets that can and should be accessed in support of strengthening STEM education. Leveraging is imperative because the labs must balance between their obvious and synergistic capacity to support STEM education and their need to maintain their mission focus. And this means we cannot leverage by simply increasing access. Rather, we must create leverage by multiplying the impact of those who come to the labs – by enhancing the capacity of STEM teachers to impact thousands upon thousands of students. By supporting the professional development of teachers, the labs can, as they have for many years, substantially enhance the educational competencies of teachers in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. These professional development experiences enable teachers to become conveyors of STEM expertise. And, having selected teachers as the means for exerting leverage, we also should determine where such teachers can have the most impact. Ample evidence suggests that the greatest impact that teachers can have is on middle school students, because that is the time when student performance and interest begins to drop and when students become especially vulnerable to the lack of strong educational experiences.
The DOE laboratories are a geographically distributed network of resources with great potential to provide teachers with authentic experiences in the scientific enterprise – thereby transforming science teachers into teaching scientists. The challenge is to leverage these unique resources – the national laboratories – as forcefully as possible through an intensive set of research experiences that yield teaching scientists capable of engaging students in STEM disciplines. We have found excellent STEM educational programs throughout the laboratory system, programs that lead to genuine transformations in teachers’ knowledge and enthusiasm for science. Moreover, our findings suggest that it is during adolescence when students present the most significant needs as well as opportunities. Thus, we will likely suggest the creation of a Teaching Scientist Professional Development Program that reaches cohorts of middle school teachers drawn from the geographical areas served by each laboratory – a hub-and-spoke strategy. The basic design elements build on DOE’s current Laboratory Science Teacher Professional Development Program (LSTPD) and entail intensive four- to eight-week summer internships spanning three years for each cohort. The plan also would call for Department-wide coordination of essential program features already in use, while also making appropriate allowances for local adaptations suitable to each laboratory. Continuous formative assessments and formal evaluations, drawn from the LSTPD experience, would guide further refinement of the program and provide ongoing evidence of effectiveness.
Leverage is not only essential in the context of the labs’ mission, but also provides a useful metaphor. The leveraging force is that of our national laboratories. The fulcrum point at which this leverage is exerted is the professional development of “teaching scientists” through intensive, transformative laboratory research experience. In turn, the effect is multiplied upon the millions of students in our nation’s middle schools, the critical stage during which students develop and sustain interest in science and mathematics, and when “teaching scientists” thus can have the greatest impact.
Across many, if not all, of our federal agencies there are other important STEM education initiatives. During the work of the task force, we requested and received several presentations, which revealed considerable variety of STEM educational programs across agencies. Among them, we saw spectacular examples of curriculum development, but not every agency or organization is well placed to take on the task of curriculum development. Nor are many school systems or individual teachers prepared to optimally integrate these materials into the classroom. We also saw opportunities for new endeavors that would be useful in their own right, while also supporting coordination. For example, the National Science Education Resources Center at the Smithsonian is in the early stages of developing a Web site of resources for STEM education, which might be the basis for more substantive interagency efforts. Finally, while many STEM education resources are readily accessible through the Internet, it is less clear that these are having measurable impact on the condition of STEM education in America.
My colleagues and I have discussed the leadership role that is needed among federal agencies in leveraging major scientific and engineering resources, such as the national laboratories, for STEM education and we believe that DOE is well poised in this regard. The Department of Energy can and should take on a leadership role in the development of educational efforts in cooperation with other agencies. In addition, DOE should encourage STEM education partnerships among agencies, businesses, universities, and national organizations. Of course, DOE’s ability to assume this role clearly depends on interagency discussions and the development of shared resources, both virtual and programmatic.
The leveraging opportunities associated with the national laboratories extend beyond their ability to bring teachers or students into contact with individual scientists or research programs at each of the 17 facilities. The laboratories, for example, also are home to some of our nation’s most advanced computational resources, which are capable of creating powerful simulation environments. These tools are key ingredients in American competitiveness. Computational tools have become essential to research, made it easier to bring concepts to the marketplace quickly, and greatly increased productivity in both manufacturing and service industries throughout the economy. In work we have done through the Council on Competitiveness’ High-Performance Computing Initiative, I personally have seen how some of these facilities, such as those at the Sandia National Laboratory, can assist industry in performing complex simulations to support improved manufacturing competitiveness.
These tools can also increase the productivity of the process of education and make concepts in science and mathematics more compelling and more accessible for a wide range of students. All of us are now familiar with how movie animation and video games have created compelling experiences built around simulated landscapes, cities and complex processes brought to life through high-performance computing. Modern personal computers and video game consoles now deliver computing power comparable to that of devices called supercomputers just a few years ago.
These powerful simulation capabilities, thus, hold another leveraging opportunity for DOE – namely, that of creating the sort of exciting and captivating interactive features that make possible the delivery of exploration and discovery-based learning tools long recommended by educational scientists. For example, agencies such as NASA and NOAA have taught students about space or deep ocean exploration through their Challenger and Jason programs. Now, STEM simulation tools can be created at a price that becomes affordable to the large number of students and teachers who cannot otherwise participate directly in experiences at the laboratories. Engaging simulations can connect what would otherwise be abstract concepts in the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics to simulations of real-world applications. DOE is in an excellent position to facilitate this by leveraging its subject matter expertise and strong record in computation. Even with comparatively simple instructional simulation tools, it should be possible to demonstrate a 30% reduction in learning time.
Tools that can increase the productivity of our educational system and tailor learning to the unique interests and needs of a diverse student body are essential if America is to produce the talent needed to ensure American competitiveness. But capturing the potential of simulations and other information technologies will require significant and sustained investment in research, demonstration and evaluation of such tools. A strategy for achieving this is contained in another piece of pending legislation: S. 1023, the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO IT). Although the PACE legislation you are considering proposes much-needed strategic advancements in STEM education and support for the physical sciences, those investments – in my judgment – would be greatly enhanced if we find a way to fill a large hole in our national research portfolio, namely in the support of research into innovation in the process of education itself and a careful assessment of what works and what doesn’t work. That is the purpose of S. 1023, DO IT.
During the course of our work, SMETF heard of how little of what has been shown to work is actually in practice and how much of what is being done is lacking in assessment of its effectiveness. As a nation, we currently do not support much in the way of research into educational and training effectiveness, and yet we are now in a global labor market that puts a premium on information-technology-based jobs where our systems of education and training must be the bedrock, the very infrastructure, of our economic competitiveness. The fact that modern computers offer the potential to implement sophisticated approaches to instruction in STEM has both changed the rules and raised the penalty for inaction.
Quite simply, we must enhance the effectiveness and productivity of our systems of education and training and ensure that they can benefit from the same revolutionary broadband technologies that have transformed our communications, defense, commercial and entertainment sectors. To achieve this, I urge your serious consideration and support of the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO IT) as an integral part of the PACE Act’s strategy for strengthening American innovation.
As a member of the Digital Promise Coalition’s Leadership Council, I have supported the DO IT legislation, S.1023 introduced by Senators Dodd, Snowe, Durbin and Burns. That legislation was based on a comprehensive research and development learning roadmap that was submitted to Congress two years ago. DO IT would be a form of venture capital fund to support the research necessary to create new teaching and learning tools using advanced technologies such as highly interactive virtual reality, simulation, embedded intelligence and one-on-one tutoring. It is time to harness the power of these tools for teaching and learning, especially in abstract areas of mathematics and science. We know that an integrated use of advanced technologies can make learning faster, more efficient, and allow a higher proportion of students to reach greater levels of competence. Our competitor nations are already far ahead of us in this area of research and in digitizing high-quality educational content for new educational technology applications. I feel strongly that no national strategy for reinvigorating our systems of research and innovation would be complete without something like the DO IT component.
In summary, Mr. Chairman, the work of SMETF will undoubtedly support the PACE legislation and we look forward to sharing a copy of our final report.
In closing, allow me to acknowledge my colleagues in SMETF. In particular, I want to thank Dr. Robert Calfee, vice chair of the task force, for his dedicated and insightful comments as well as for his many substantive contributions. We are most grateful for all the dedicated and talented staff in DOE and other agencies that took time to inform us of all the ongoing educational activities within the agencies and had the patience to answer our many questions and help us to understand the feasibility of the proposals we are considering. In particular, we wish to acknowledge the support of John Giordano and Peter Faletra.
Thank you for your attention; this concludes my testimony.