Obama Transition Web Document Describes Science, Technology, STEM Education Agenda

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Publication date: 
9 December 2008

There is considerable discussion about the Obama Administration's expected approach to science, technology, and STEM education programs. A comprehensive outline of the incoming Administration's plans can be found at www.change.gov, the website of the Office of the President-Elect.

The website lists 23 major agenda items, among which is "Technology." The section on Technology begins by citing Obama's February 2007 Springfield IL announcement speech:

"Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America."

The Technology section then provides an overview of "The Obama-Biden Plan":

"Barack Obama and Joe Biden understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans. They will work to ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy. They will encourage the deployment of modern communications infrastructure to improve America's competitiveness and employ technology to solve our nation's most pressing problems -- including improving clean energy, healthcare costs, and public safety."

There are seven major Technology objectives in the Obama-Biden plan. The first three of these objectives are: "Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Ideas through an Open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets," "Create a Transparent and Connected Democracy," and "Deploy a Modern Communications Infrastructure."

Of particular significance to the science community is the fourth objective, "Improve America's Competitiveness," which has nine specific goals:

"Promote American Businesses Abroad: Support a trade policy that ensures our goods and services are treated fairly in foreign markets. Fight for fair treatment of our companies abroad.

"Invest in the Sciences: Double federal funding for basic research over ten years, changing the posture of our federal government to one that embraces science and technology.

"Invest in University-Based Research: Expand research initiatives at American colleges and universities. Provide new research grants to the most outstanding early-career researchers in the country.

"Make the R&D Tax Credit Permanent: Invest in a skilled research and development workforce and technology infrastructure. Make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms can rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D over multi-year timeframes.

"Ensure Competitive Markets: Foster a business and regulatory landscape in which entrepreneurs and small businesses can thrive, start-ups can launch, and all enterprises can compete effectively while investors and consumers are protected against bad actors that cross the line. Reinvigorate antitrust enforcement to ensure that capitalism works for consumers.

"Protect American Intellectual Property Abroad: Work to ensure intellectual property is protected in foreign markets, and promote greater cooperation on international standards that allow our technologies to compete everywhere.

"Protect American Intellectual Property at Home: Update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation, and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated.

"Reform the Patent System: Ensure that our patent laws protect legitimate rights while not stifling innovation and collaboration. Give the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) the resources to improve patent quality and open up the patent process to citizen review to help foster an environment that encourages innovation. Reduce uncertainty and wasteful litigation that is currently a significant drag on innovation.

"Restore Scientific Integrity to the White House: Restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on ideological predispositions."

Also of note is the fifth objective entitled "Prepare All our Children for the 21st Century Economy." Its five goals are as follows:

"Make Math and Science Education a National Priority: Recruit math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and support efforts to help these teachers learn from professionals in the field. Work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.

"Improve and Prioritize Science Assessments: Work with governors and educators to ensure that state assessments measure higher order thinking skills including inference, logic and data analysis, not just rote memorization of facts.

"Address the Dropout Crisis: Provide funding to school districts to invest in intervention strategies in middle school -- strategies such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time.

"Pinpoint College Aid for Math and Science Students: Launch an online database to give potential future scientists access to information about financial aid opportunities available in science and technology fields through the federal government and public or private resources.

"Increase Science and Math Graduates: Improve science and math education in K through 12 to prepare more students for these studies in college. Work to increase our number of science and engineering graduates and encourage undergraduates studying math and science to pursue graduate studies. Increase the representation of minorities and women in the science and technology pipeline, tapping the diversity of America to meet the increasing demand for a skilled workforce."

The next objective, "Prepare Adults for a Changing Economy," outlines two goals: "Lifelong Retraining" and "Build a Reliable Safety Net."

The seventh major objective is entitled "Employ Science, Technology and Innovation to Solve Our Nation's Most Pressing Problems." It begins with an overall statement and then lists five goals:

"21st-century technology and telecommunications have flattened communications and labor markets and have contributed to a period of unprecedented innovation, making us more productive, connected global citizens. By maximizing the power of technology, we can strengthen the quality and affordability of our health care, advance climate-friendly energy development and deployment, improve education throughout the country, and ensure that America remains the world's leader in technology. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will:

"Lower Health Care Costs by Investing in Electronic Information Technology Systems: Use health information technology to lower the cost of health care. Invest $10 billion a year over the next five years to move the U.S. health care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems, including electronic health records.

"Invest in Climate-Friendly Energy Development and Deployment: Invest $150 billion over the next ten years to enable American engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid. This investment will transform the economy and create 5 million new jobs.

"Modernize Public Safety Networks: Spur the development and deployment of new technologies to promote interoperability, broadband access, and more effective communications among first responders and emergency response systems.

"Advance the Biomedical Research Field: Support investments in biomedical research, as well as medical education and training in health-related fields. Fund biomedical research, and make it more efficient by improving coordination both within government and across government/private/non-profit partnerships.

"Advance Stem Cell Research: Support increased stem cell research. Allow greater federal government funding on a wider array of stem cell lines."

In addition to the 23 major agenda items is a section entitled "Additional Issues." It includes the following under the heading "Science":

"In the past, government funding for scientific research has yielded innovations that have improved the landscape of American life -- technologies like the Internet, digital photography, bar codes, Global Positioning System technology, laser surgery, and chemotherapy. At one time, educational competition with the Soviets fostered the creativity that put a man on the moon. Today, we face a new set of challenges, including energy security, HIV/AIDS, and climate change. Yet, the United States is losing its scientific dominance. Among industrialized nations, our country's scores on international science and math tests rank in the bottom third and bottom fifth, respectively. Over the last three decades, federal funding for the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences has declined at a time when other countries are substantially increasing their own research budgets. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe federally funded scientific research should play an important role in advancing science and technology in the classroom and in the lab."

Other major agenda items are Education, and Energy and the Environment.