Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Roger Wicker (R-MS), along with Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives today that promotes science education and celebrates scientific achievement by establishing an official Science Laureate of the United States. The Science Laureate would be a nationally renowned expert in their field who would travel around the country to inspire future scientists.
This new honorary position would be appointed by the President from nominees recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and serve for a term of 1-2 years. Using this national platform, the Science Laureate would be empowered to speak to Americans on the importance of science broadly and scientific issues of the day. Like the Poet Laureate, the Science Laureate would be an unpaid, honorary post. The scientist would also be encouraged to continue their important scientific work.
"Getting students and Americans of all ages excited about science, technology, engineering, and math won't just help kids learn -- it's imperative to our ability to compete in the global economy," Senator Mazie K. Hirono said. "As American students trail their international peers in STEM proficiency, the U.S. Science Laureate will be a national role model who can encourage students to learn more about the sciences. By elevating great American scientific communicators, we can empower students -- especially girls and minorities -- to get excited about science."
"Recent studies have indicated that Americans are falling behind other countries in math and science," said Senator Roger Wicker, co-chair of the Senate STEM Education and Workforce Caucus. "These results call for an urgent need to improve science, technology, engineering, and math education. If the United States is to be economically competitive and continue to innovate and create jobs, we must place a greater emphasis on STEM education. Establishing an official Science Laureate is an important first step in prioritizing science in America."
"Scientists like Albert Einstein or Sally Ride can capture the public's attention and inspire Americans if they are given a platform to speak from," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). "As our society becomes ever more technical, a role model for how important scientific advancement is for our nation's future will help us. The Science Laureate can serve that role, as an accomplished individual to engage Americans on the importance of science in our lives and who can encourage our students to be the innovators of tomorrow."
"Scientific discovery fuels the innovation that keeps our economy strong," said Chairman Smith. "I am happy to be an original cosponsor of bipartisan legislation that for the first time creates a national spokesman for science. An effective Science Laureate will not only be an accomplished scientist, but a role model who inspires students to pursue advanced degrees in science, math and engineering. To remain the world leader in a high-tech global marketplace, we must continue to inspire the innovators of tomorrow."
The legislation has received support of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society, the STEM Education Coalition, the American Chemical Society and the Hands-On Science Partnership.
"Establishing honorary U.S. Science Laureates would send a clear message to young people about the value of science and technology in our society, and the importance of scientific research to both economic progress and our quality of life," said Alan I. Leshner Chief Executive Officer of the AAAS and Executive Publisher of Science.
"STEM education is closely linked with our nation's economic prosperity in the modern global economy and strong STEM skills are a central element of a well-rounded education," said James Brown, Executive Director of the STEM Education Coalition. "We commend this effort to recognize and elevate American scientists, educators, and innovators as national role models. That so many members of Congress from both parties have come together to back this bill to elevate STEM education speaks volumes about the importance of this issue to our nation's future."
Original Senate cosponsors include Senators Ayotte (R-NH), Murray (D-WA), Cochran (R-MS), Gillibrand (D-NY), Udall (D-NM) and Boozman (R-AR).