ARPA-E: The House Science and Technology Committee voted to send to the House floor legislation to establish an Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, as recommended in the National Academies' "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report. However, the vote was not without controversy, with many, but not all, committee Republicans opposing the bill.
PHYSICS DECADAL SURVEYS: The National Research Council's Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences has released two new decadal surveys, highlighting future opportunities in the fields of Plasma Science and Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics, and the potential benefits of such research. A total of six surveys are planned; those on on elementary particle physics and atomic, molecular and optical science have already been issued.
DOE OFFICE OF SCIENCE APPROPRIATIONS: Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have passed bills that would increase FY08 funding for the Energy Department's Office of Science by almost 20 percent over current-year funding. The House bill would provide an amount equal to the president's request and, according to the committee's report language, would fully fund "operating time at most existing DOE user facilities and equal or increased operating time at several others." The Senate funding level would be slightly higher than the request, and the Senate committee states in its report language that "these funds represent an investment in basic research that is critical to both the future economic competitiveness of the United States and to the success of our national and energy security." The overall funding level in the House committee's bill has drawn a veto threat from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
USGS APPROPRIATIONS: The House Appropriations Committee would increase funding for the U.S. Geological Survey by 4.5 percent over the current year, while appropriators in the Senate would raise it by 2.2 percent. President Bush's FY08 request would have cut USGS funding below the level of the current budget.
STEM EDUCATION HEARINGS: So far this year, several House hearings have focused on various aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. One hearing focused on the science laboratory experience for high school students, which a National Research Council panel found to be generally poor for most students. Two additional hearings investigated the role of federal mission agencies in K-12 STEM education. Expert witnesses encouraged those agencies without expertise in pedagogy and classroom practice to eschew development of curricular materials and instead provide opportunities that expose teachers, students and the public to scientists and the conduct of science.