Issue Date: May 28, 2007
Speaking Up For Science And Technology: Enhancing Innovation And Competitiveness
Did you know that the American Chemical Society has a national charter passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937? The charter sets out lofty goals for ACS, including "promotion of research in chemical science and industry" and "fostering public education and welfare, aiding the development of our country's industries, and adding to the material prosperity and happiness of our people."
Part of the way we fulfill our unique national charter is through the ACS Office of Legislative & Government Affairs (OLGA), which interacts daily with our federal policymakers on Capitol Hill and at key federal agencies to provide scientific input and counsel.
OLGA also operates the ACS Science & the Congress Program, which has provided Capitol Hill with informational briefings on emerging scientific issues since 1995. The 110th program, "The Impact of R&D on U.S. Economic Competitiveness," was held this year at the opening of the 110th session of Congress.
The real key to successful advocacy for ACS lies in making your voice heard—and that is where the ACS Legislative Action Network (LAN) comes in. LAN has more than 13,000 ACS members who are prepared to communicate with their congressional representatives. Since January 2006, OLGA has issued 10 LAN alerts on innovation and competitiveness bills and has generated 15,183 letters to President George W. Bush, U.S. senators, and U.S. representatives to encourage them to focus their attention on top ACS priorities. Well done!
OLGA also works with local sections in establishing Government Affairs Committees that reach out to their elected representatives when they're back home in their states and congressional districts. Currently, 50 of the 189 local sections have GACs, which regularly communicate with their Congress members.
I recently returned from the 6th annual ACS Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C. Working with members of the ACS Board of Directors, the ACS Committee on Communications & Public Affairs (CCPA), and the Council for Chemical Research (CCR), we visited 64 congressional offices and expressed support for bills to enhance U.S. innovation and competitiveness—bills that ACS staff and governance helped to draft and have advocated over the past three years!
While the timing was coincidental, imagine the excitement of being in Washington as the Senate and House passed major legislation that puts our premier federal basic science funding agencies on a budget-doubling trajectory over the next 10 years as well as increases our nation's investment in science and math education. The bills were S. 761, the America COMPETES Act; H.R. 362, the 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science & Math Scholarship Act; and H.R. 363, the Sowing the Seeds through Science & Engineering Research Act.
But this is not the time to rest on our laurels. How do we enroll not just 13,000 of our members in LAN but all 130,000 domestic members? How do we enroll all 189 local sections in creating Government Affairs Committees? How do we reach out to our sister societies across the U.S. and around the world? And how do we do this in an effective and sustainable manner?
I have discussed these questions with many ACS members, students, and teachers from all walks of life and a diversity of backgrounds. Their input led me to the idea of creating a blue-ribbon Presidential Task Force on Enhancing Innovation & Competitiveness.
My vision is that the task force will recommend new and innovative ACS advocacy tools to even more successfully promote science and technology legislation. That is, to increase federal investment in research and development and support for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. The end goal is fostering innovation that increases our nation's competitiveness and creates opportunities for the chemical enterprise and ACS members.
I am very pleased to report that former U.S. Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) has agreed to cochair the task force with Glenn Ruskin, OLGA director. Before retiring in January of this year, Boehlert chaired the House Science Committee, where he earned a reputation as a strong and reliable advocate and supporter of the sciences.
Here is an abbreviated list of activities that the task force of 15 members will undertake:
• Assess current ACS advocacy and public policy activities and resources and garner information on advocacy activities of other organizations.
• Identify areas where ACS might work with other organizations to generate greater advocacy synergy and success.
• Help create a network of leaders who can be called upon to assist ACS in achieving its advocacy and public policy goals and priorities.
I want to leave as part of my presidential legacy an advocacy program second to none in the scientific community, where ACS continues to be recognized as a leader in advocating sound policies to enhance our nation's innovative energies and foster our continued competitiveness.
As I've said before, we have a lot to do. So, let's get started!
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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