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May 2012 Public Policy News

May 31, 2012: NIST director testifies before Congress regarding manufacturing: Patrick Gallagher, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, testified before the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on technology and innovation today regarding the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, the $1 US billion program included in NIST's 2013 budget request. The proposed network would create up to 15 institutes for manufacturing innovation nationwide, which will be made up of industry, academic and government entities. Gallagher said the groups will work together to "accelerate innovation by investing in industrially-relevant manufacturing technologies with broad applications." Facing criticism from House Republicans on the subcommittee over whether the program can actually spur manufacturing, Gallagher defended the proposal, saying, "The NNMI is a critical piece of innovation infrastructure that can help U.S.-based manufacturing to remain globally competitive by fostering cutting-edge technological advances, solving problems of interest to a wide range of manufacturing sectors, supporting small and medium-size manufacturing enterprises, and strengthening the skills of workers, managers, and entrepreneurs."

21 May 2012: New bill to enable STEM graduates at U.S. schools to stay and look for work gains SPIE support: In a press release published today, SPIE expressed support for legislation recently introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) that would create a new visa category for students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. The SMART Jobs Act of 2012 would allow foreign students educated in graduate programs in the United States to more easily stay and work in the country. "Many of the top schools in optics and photonics are in the United States, and top students from around the world compete to study here," said SPIE President Eustace Dereniak. "For many graduates, their first choice would be to stay on to work in leading labs in the U.S. However, at this time they are required to leave the country upon graduation, and must conduct their job searches from outside the U.S. before they may apply for the limited number of work visas that are made available each year."

18 May 2012: SPIE signs onto letter regarding government travel restrictions: SPIE joined with more than 50 other scientific societies and education organizations in expressing concern regarding amendments that were passed in the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 2146) and the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789), which would place severe restrictions on government employees' abilities to attend meetings and conferences. In letters sent today to both the House and Senate, the societies state: "(we) urge you to protect the integrity of the scientific enterprise and encourage you to allow greater flexibility for government employees to attend scientific and technical conferences organized or supported by professional societies and non-governmental organizations."

16 May 2012: SPIE releases video on Horizon 2020: Horizon 2020, the EU's new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for 2014 to 2020, has a particular emphasis on the role of photonics research and innovation, with photonics recognized as one of the European Union's six Key Enabling Technologies. But there are still many challenges in translating excellent research into innovation potential and economic growth and job creation. In a video released today by SPIE, Thierry Van der Pyl, the Director of the Directorate on Components and Systems in Directorate-General Information Society & Media, which includes responsibility for photonics in the European research Framework Programme, discusses the role of photonics in the new framework.

9 May 2012: House passes FY2013 Commerce, Justice, & Science Appropriations bill: The Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, H.R. 5326, was passed by the full House of Representatives (with strong opposition from the White House) after Members voted on 63 amendments and adopted 36 of them. An item of note in the bill includes:

Elimination of the political science program at NSF: In a symbolic move, the House voted to defund political science research at the National Science Foundation. An amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), states that "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation. The House passed the amendment on primarily a party line vote of 218-208. The political science program supports scientific research that advances knowledge and understanding of citizenship, government, and politics