California Response to “Gathering Storm” Sparks Followup

May 8, 2007 |   | Contact: M. Daniel DeCillis

CCST’s response to the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, Shaping the Future, has led to numerous discussions between CCST and a variety of institutions on implementing the recommendations in the report.

“The Gathering Storm report highlighted the importance of improving America’s science and math education and economic environment,” said Larry Papay, CCST Council chair. “CCST’s report brought these warnings home to California, and offered specific suggestions from task forces consisting of leaders from industry, education, and the national labs.”

The task forces offered four principal recommendations for the governor focusing on bringing and keeping top science and technology talent to the state, and ensuring that the state develops mechanisms to appropriately consider science and technology issues in future policy. The recommendation to invest in innovation and R&D was reflected in Governor Schwarzenegger’s $95 million Research and Innovation Initiative in December, announced in December after receipt of the CCST report. This initiative provides funding for major projects such as the Energy Biosciences Institute intended to grow California’s economic strength in key innovation sectors, including clean energy technologies, biotechnology and nanotechnology. The Governor’s commitment of such substantial resources to innovation was a key factor in the subsequent decision of BP to award a $500 million energy research program to UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“For scientific policies to become reality elected officials must play a leadership role,” said Nobel Laureate Stephen Chu, Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and CCST Fellow. “The Governor is serving as a catalyst for California’s research community.”

The government has been considering responses to other recommendations from the task forces as well.

“The budget situation makes it challenging to implement some of the recommendations, such as allocating funding to the state’s public and private science centers to provide regional professional development to K-12 teachers,” said Susan Hackwood, CCST executive director. “However, there are actions that are not dependent upon additional monies from the state.”

On May 18, a meeting was held at the Beckman Center in Irvine which brought together 40 representatives from selected CSU and UC campuses, federal labs and industry. The meeting, which was chaired by CCST Board member Warren Baker, president of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, discussed science and math teacher professional development that engages “teachers as scientists” and worked to build a consensus on a large-scale proposal.

“These professional development opportunities constitute an important mechanism for enhancing recruitment, preparation, and retention of high quality math and science teachers,” said Baker. “The collaborative groundwork we began here is consistent both with the recommendations in Shaping the Future and in the recently completed Critical Path Analysis.”

CCST has also been working to facilitate implementation of another recommendation from Shaping the Future, that of creating a science and technology policy function in the Governor’s Office similar to the White House Office of Science and Technology.

“This action would elevate S&T issues to the place where they rightfully belong – among the highest of priorities in the state – and help ensure that California remains the most competitive location in the world for S&T education, research at the frontiers of knowledge, and innovation,” said Papay. Several other states have similar advisors, including Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. CCST has helped submitted a detailed implementation plan for the creation of such an office to the Governor.

“Because of the budget, it may take a few years to ramp up to the point where such an office can be fully funded as we recommend,” said Papay. “But the importance of effective science and technology policy advising cannot be overstated.”

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