January 21, 2021
House Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) have reintroduced four bills that focus on bolstering the STEM workforce. FABBS has endorsed legislation, per the invitation of the Science Committee.
- The Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act proposes the National Science Foundation (NSF) create a two-year fellowship program for scientists facing fewer job opportunities in academia because of the coronavirus pandemic. “COVID has severely reduced the ability of behavioral and brain researchers to collect new data. At the same time, it has created uncertainty for universities, many of which have reduced or eliminated faculty hiring. The impact of this twin disruption falls especially heavily on the shoulders of recent PhDs and current postdoctoral fellows, who are unable to proceed with planned career trajectories and may leave science altogether.” Nora S. Newcombe, Past-President of FABBS
- The STEM Opportunities Act, sponsored by Johnson for the past four Congresses, this legislation seeks to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields. The bill would expand collection of demographic data on federal research grant applicants and promote the identification and dissemination of best practices for increasing diversity in STEM. The House passed the bill last year but it did not advance out of committee in the Senate.
“The Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) strongly supports the need for increased behavioral and cognitive science research, interagency cooperation, and other federal steps and policies for identifying and countering implicit and explicit bias and other psychological factors and structural inequities that hinder the advancement of women, minorities, and other historically underrepresented groups in STEM.”
- Combating Sexual Harassment in STEM Act – Reintroduction expected. This bill directs NSF to award grants to institutions of higher education or nonprofit organizations (or their consortia) to expand research into sexual harassment and gender harassment in the STEM workforce, including students and trainees; and examine interventions for reducing the incidence and negative consequences of such harassment.
- MSI (Minority Serving Institution) STEM Achievement Act – Reintroduction expected. This bill supports efforts to increase science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at minority-serving institutions of higher education (IHEs), including by requiring NSF to award grants for building the capacity of such IHEs to increase the number and success of their students in the STEM workforce.
- The Rural STEM Education Act would direct NSF to support research on ways to improve the quality and accessibility of STEM instruction in rural schools, including through online coursework. The House passed the bill last year but it did not advance out of committee in the Senate.