Ranking Member Johnson Introduces STEM Opportunities Act

Jan 22, 2015
Ranking Member Johnson Introduces STEM Opportunities Act

(Washington, DC) – Today Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced H.R. 467, the STEM Opportunities Act of 2015. The legislation is similar to legislation she has introduced several Congresses in a row, including H.R. 1358 in the 113th Congress.

Ms. Johnson said, “The evidence keeps mounting that it is critical to our Nation’s economic leadership and global competitiveness that we educate and train more scientists and engineers. A wave of retirements is about to hit many of our industries and government agencies that employ scientists and engineers, and we are likely to face acute shortages in certain sectors in particular. In the meantime, research shows that women and underrepresented minorities, who by 2050 will comprise more than 50 percent of our population, are disproportionately lost at every transition point in their STEM studies and research careers. Despite years of talking about such disparities and even taking steps in an effort to address them, underrepresentation of women and minorities remains high in most STEM fields. As a Nation, we cannot afford to continue hemorrhaging so much talent.”

H.R. 467 would require federal agencies that fund scientific research to collect more comprehensive demographic data on the recipients of federal research awards and on STEM faculty at U.S. universities (while protecting individuals’ privacy); promote data-driven research on the participation and trajectories of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM so that policy makers can design more effective policies and practices to reduce barriers;  develop, through the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), consistent federal policies for recipients of federal research awards who have caregiving responsibilities, including care for a newborn or newly adopted child, and consistent federal guidance to grant reviewers and program officers on best practices to minimize the effects of implicit bias in the review of federal research grants; require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop and disseminate guidance to universities to aid them in identifying any cultural and institutional barriers limiting the recruitment, retention, and achievement of women and minorities in research careers and developing and implementing current best practices for reducing such barriers; require OSTP to develop and issue similar guidance to all federal laboratories; and authorize NSF to award grants to universities to implement or expand research-based practices targeted specifically to increasing the recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty.

Ms. Johnson said of the legislation, “In developing this legislation, we solicited extensive input from governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to ensure that the guidance and requirements reflect today’s needs and opportunities. The result is a bill that attempts to systematically address the full suite of issues facing both female and minority STEM researchers, from work-life balance policies, to campus climate, to better data collection, to recruitment and retention practices. The bill includes not just researchers at universities but also researchers at our federal laboratories. Finally, the bill includes research components to increase our understanding of the career trajectories of women and minorities in STEM research careers.”

In 2014, Ms. Johnson also joined Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in asking the GAO to review the current state of demographic data collection and policies to promote inclusion at a number of federal science agencies. That study is currently underway and should be completed in 2015.

Ms. Johnson continued, “The GAO study will give us a much better starting point from which to identify and address unjustified disparities in data collection and inclusion policies across our federal agencies. Based on what we’ve heard so far, I expect the final report will unambiguously reinforce the need for this legislation. I hope we can make this a bipartisan bill and move it through this Congress. Making sure we are engaging all of the talent of this country in STEM degrees and careers should not be a partisan issue.”

Original cosponsors include Katherine Clark (D-MA); Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX); Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Mark Takano (D-CA); Marc Veasey (D-TX); Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA); Mike Honda (D-CA); Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR); Louise Slaughter (D-NY); Danny Davis (D-IL); Donna Edwards (D-MD); and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). The bill is also been endorsed by several organizations:

“In order for the US to remain a leader in the STEM fields, it is crucial to fully engage the entire STEM talent pool and make sure that everyone, regardless of gender or ethnicity, is able to fully participate at all levels,” said Karen Horting, CEO of the Society of Women Engineers. “We must embrace and encourage all women and underrepresented minorities who have a passion for these fields and do what we can to support them, remove obstacles and maximize their contributions to the nations STEM needs. H.R. 467 offers crucial provisions towards this end by supporting research on the participation of women, increasing awareness of implicit bias, promoting best practices and encouraging accountability through data collection."

American Society of Mechanical Engineers President J. Robert Sims said, “By improving the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in the STEM workforce, the U.S. can leverage the diversity of these individuals to fuel the innovation necessary for our global competitiveness, as well as meet the challenges of a changing world.”

“My organization—National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME)—recently celebrated four decades of progress in leading the national effort to increase the representation of successful African American, American Indian, and Latino women and men in engineering education and careers,” said Dr. Irving Pressley McPhail, President and CEO of NACME. “Since 1977, the percentage of all engineering degrees earned by underrepresented minorities has dramatically increased from 5.7% to 13.4%. Yet, this metric pales in comparison to the growing percentage of underrepresented minorities in the U.S. population. Much work remains to realize NACME’s vision of an engineering workforce that looks like America. This is why NACME salutes Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson for the introduction of the STEM Opportunities Act of 2015. This Bill must get the attention and support of the Congress and the Administration if our great nation is to retain its preeminence in innovation, invention, and entrepreneurship in STEM.”