The U.S. chemistry enterprise and broader science and technology sector are facing many challenges. A struggling economy, real-dollar decreases in funding for science, and globalization have all contributed to job losses and uncertainty within our community. However, I strongly believe that if we find ways to work with each other and with our fellow science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals, we can transform such challenges into opportunities.
This conviction was the inspiration for my 2013 presidential theme, “Partners for Progress & Prosperity,” and for my presidential task force, “Vision 2025: Helping ACS Members Thrive in the Global Chemistry Enterprise.” My task force consists of two working groups, but here I will focus on the one called Jobs & Advocacy.
It is more critical than ever to communicate to our elected officials the importance of funding scientific research and development and supporting business to help revive the U.S. economy. By urging your U.S. senators and representatives to act in support of science and innovation, you can do your part to help make a difference in promoting job growth and an improved quality of life—not just for chemists and other scientists and engineers, but for all Americans.
Other countries that I have visited have governments that very much understand that supporting science leads to economic growth. They have increased their R&D funding accordingly. But science in general and chemistry in particular have long been underappreciated—not only in the U.S. but worldwide—in terms of what they contribute to society.
Now is the time to speak up! We are fast approaching the government’s Sept. 30 fiscal year-end, so Congress is working on appropriations bills that will fund the federal government in 2014. In addition, the U.S. is predicted to reach its debt limit before December, so Congress will need to find a way to raise this debt ceiling again to avoid a government shutdown.
A robust and successful pipeline of scientific discoveries depends on predictable and sustainable federal R&D funding, but it has become increasingly difficult in recent years for lawmakers to find common ground on budgetary matters. In 2011, passage of the Budget Control Act led to this year’s across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration. These decreases came at a time when R&D funding was already stagnant. It is imperative that we urge our lawmakers to oppose further cuts that could result from the upcoming debt ceiling battle.
In addition to the overarching budgetary and funding struggles looming on Congress’ agenda, lawmakers are set to address other important priorities for the science and technology community. In 2007, Congress passed the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education & Science Act—known as the America Competes Act—with strong bipartisan support. The act authorized focused federal investments for R&D at science agencies including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards & Technology, as well as for STEM education and innovation programs.
The America Competes Act was renewed in 2010 with continued but weaker bipartisan support. Sadly, its further renewal, which must happen by the end of this year, looks uncertain. Please join me in supporting its critical renewal by explaining the economic and societal benefits of the act to your lawmakers. Visit www.act4chemistry.org to prepare yourself to talk about at-risk federal science funding and other important policy issues, such as supporting a competitive U.S. business climate through innovation, chemistry, and jobs.
The end of the 2013 calendar year also marks the expiration of the R&D tax credit, which stimulates private investment in scientific R&D. Congress will determine in the coming months whether or not to make the credit a permanent fixture of the tax code.
If you have never met with your legislator, or if you would like to hone your advocacy skills, I encourage you to take advantage of ACS resources. Although visiting your senator or representative’s office may seem intimidating, you’ll find it surprisingly easy as long as you show up prepared.
To that end, I am pleased to invite you to a presidential event organized by the Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs at the ACS national meeting in Indianapolis. It will focus on training ACS members to become advocacy leaders for the society and their communities. This advocacy training will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 10, from 10 AM to noon in Room 204/205 at the JW Marriott Indianapolis hotel. If you are unable to attend the training session or would like more information, you can find resources online at www.acs.org/policy.
By becoming partners in advocating and speaking up for science at this critical juncture, we can help to spur U.S. innovation and discovery. Together, we can make a difference in the economic and employment outlook for chemists and for all Americans—for progress and prosperity. I conclude with my favorite quote regarding advocacy from Thomas Jefferson, “Science is my passion; politics, my duty!” I welcome your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.