IEEE Members Voice and Raise the Importance of Science, Engineering and Technology at The Capital

By Fawzi Behmann - Vice Chair, ComSoc NA and Chair ComSoc/ SP/CS Central Texas Austin Chapters

As a senior member of IEEE and active volunteer in the Communications Society, I had the opportunity to participate in the Science, Engineering and Technology Congressional Visits Day (SET CVD), an annual two-day event held April 12-13 to bring scientists, engineers, mathematicians, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology.

The overall objective is to improve the innovative climate in the United States and the professional lives of America’s technology professionals. Considering the tight budget environment and discussion of the 2017 Federal budget, it was timely to join other colleagues and express IEEE’s position seeking sustaining research budgets and independence.

One of the objectives is to support maintaining National Science Foundation (NSF) funds to advance research. This improves America’s STEM K-12 science, engineering, and math education program, enabling IEEE to collaborate with education institutions and industry to bring advanced technology to students in a simplified, innovative, compelling and interactive way, while equipping students with hands-on experience to prepare them as future engineers and scientists.

The second objective is to seek support of NIST funds to help American businesses succeed and enable IEEE collaboration with industry so American companies are strengthened to compete in the global market. NIST will contribute to the health of our research infrastructure, e.g. improving America’s electrical generation and distribution systems, including promoting the use of alterative energy and the development of the Smart Grid.

For example, in the area of STEM, IEEE supports STEM initiatives with funding for K-12 and the PACE program for Regions 1-6. However funding is limited. On the other hand, the U.S. is endorsing the STEM program partially funded by the NSF. Such funding will help expand IEEE STEM activities in terms of outreach and coverage.

the program and prepare students in the 50 states for greater challenges with an entrepreneurial mindset. The outcome is to eventually contribute to the economy with jobs and new products and services, and to maintain students’ Interest in STEM careers and foster collaboration with academia and industry.

The Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America (ASTRA) recently surveyed six million high school students to determine their interest in STEM-related fields. Nearly 30 percent (more than 1.6 million) would like to pursue STEM careers in the future. Keeping STEM students from dropping out of the STEM talent pipeline is essential in meeting the future demand for US STEM jobs.

Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group

I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. as a part of the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group to express the importance of research and development activities to the nations’ economic growth and stability. On April 12-13 I joined with more than 150 scientists, engineers, and business leaders who made visits on Capital Hill as part of the 20th “Congressional Visits Day,” an annual event sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group.

While visiting congressional offices I discussed the importance of the nation’s broad portfolio of investments in science, engineering, and technology to promote our country’s prosperity and innovation. I also spoke about maintaining the budget for NSF and research for STEM programs to fund initiatives to bring advanced technology such as 3-D printing, Science in a Box, Internet of Things in a Box, and others to students in more simplified, creative, and interactive ways. I also called for support to maintain the budget for NIST budget and research for standards development required for smart alternate energy distribution from the grid to consumers and vice versa.

More than 50 percent of all industrial innovation and growth in the United States since World War II can be attributed to advances pioneered through scientific and technological progress. Achievements from federally funded science, engineering, and technology include global environmental monitoring, lasers, liquid crystal displays, and the Internet, among many other scientific and technical advances.

The federal government supports a unique research and education enterprise that fuels the American economy. This enterprise provides the underpinning of high-technology industries and expands the frontiers of knowledge in every field of science. Much of this research is carried out at academic institutions across the country, ensuring knowledge transfer to future generations of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, physicians, and teachers. Additionally, technology transfer from academic research adds billions of dollars to the economy each year and supports tens of thousands of jobs.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this event. I feel strongly that making our voices heard to our elected representatives in Washington is critical to ensure ongoing support of federal R&D programs. The most rewarding experience came when I was welcomed in the offices of Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn, Rep. John R. Carter, and Rep. Joe Barton. Highlights of the two-day event included a series of briefings and talks by Members of Congress and executive branch officials including Matt Hourihan, Director, AAAAS R7D Budget and Policy Program.

The George E. Brown Award for outstanding leadership in support of federal R&D was presented to U.S. Senators Chris Coons (DE) and John Thune (SD), and Representatives G. K. Butterfield (NC) and David McKinley (WV). The awards recognized outstanding efforts to promote science, engineering, and technology on Capital Hill.