Progress report identifies successes and challenges for U.S. science infrastructure.
June 23, 2018, marks the third anniversary of the call to action from Innovation: An American Imperative, a coalition of more than 500 organizations, including the American Psychological Association, in science, engineering, higher education, and industry. The call urged Congress to increase federal investment and enact policies aimed at stimulating innovation and scientific progress. Among the priorities of the Innovation coalition are:
· Renewing the federal commitment to scientific discovery
· Improving student achievement in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM)
· Reforming U.S. visa policy
· Reaffirming merit-based peer review
· Taking steps to streamline or eliminate costly and inefficient regulations
Recently, the Innovation coalition released a progress report assessing developments related to these priorities.
Importantly, while progress has been made in renewing the federal commitment to scientific discovery, as evidenced by recent increases in federal funding for scientific agencies in fiscal year 2018, these recent increases alone do not compensate for insufficient funding in recent years and will require continued Congressional attention moving forward. Further, the report notes the disastrous implications of the recent Presidential Budget Requests for scientific progress.
Although advances have been made in STEM education, the U.S. still ranks no better than 19th in science and math among the OECD nations. Recent efforts aimed at strengthening STEM education have so far failed to translate into the gains many hoped.
The report describes an increasing level of concern about U.S. visa policy. For the first time in more than a dozen years, the number of international students coming to study and conduct research in the U.S. declined in 2017. Recent actions and statements from the Administration offer little hope for positive momentum on the issue.
Merit-based peer review systems at the U.S. federal scientific agencies continue to be the international gold standard. The quality of the U.S. peer review process was reaffirmed with passage of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act in 2017 which lauded the rigor of U.S. peer review systems. However, merit review still faces challenges from misguided legislation, such as S. 1973 – Basic Research Act which would add inexpert and duplicative members to review panels, among other unnecessary provisions.
Overall, recent investments in scientific funding and support for merit review systems bolster the scientific climate in the U.S. However, significant concerns exist regarding STEM education and U.S. visa policy. Moving forward, the American Psychological Association will continue working with its partners at other scientific organizations and in higher education to promote policies that facilitate scientific progress.