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SPIE leaders visit Capitol Hill to urge support for science education

By Stacey Crockett

Bellingham, WA-June 8, 2007-SPIE President Brian Culshaw and CEO Eugene G. Arthurs recently joined leaders of other societies in the House Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. The two met with members of the House Science Committee, praising them for their swift action on the National Science Foundation (NSF) Authorization Act, approving $21 billion for the NSF for FY08-FY10, and renewed support for the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI).

The two spoke with Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (WA). They praised the committee, while voicing their concern that the bills get fully funded through the appropriations process and asked what SPIE could do to support the thrust of the Science Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. Rep. Baird responded, "SPIE members should interact with young students. They should go into the schools, bring them into the labs and show them the excitement of science and engineering." He later said that scientists and engineers needed to be politically active, "The large community of scientists and engineers need to communicate to their political representatives; advise and educate them on the several crises' facing the nation and the world. Who knows more about global warming, energy and water than scientists?" Rep. Baird also had advice for parents, "turn off the television."

Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers (MI) also spoke to the group, discussing the damage done by the friction within the universities over teacher training, with the scientific disciplines looking at the education departments with disdain, and the educators looking on the teaching skills of research focused scientists in the disciplines in like manner. He urged the professional societies to take an active role by encouraging their members to address this serious issue.

SPIE supports a series of current Congressional initiatives that seek to address concerns about America's future ability to compete, maintain a standard of living and protect its national security interests based upon a continuum of science funding and education policy options.

About SPIE - Dedicated to advancing the science and application of light, SPIE is the largest international not-for-profit society in optics, photonics, and imaging with 17,500 individual members, including 3,500 students, and representing 86 countries. SPIE has distributed nearly $3 million dollars in individual scholarships and institutional grants. This ambitious effort reflects the Society's commitment to education and to the next generation of optical scientists and engineers.