Space, STEM hearings on the Hill this week

Innovation in the classroom, at the workplace and within the branches of the federal government will dominate committee hearings on Capitol Hill this week.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is the subject of the House Science and Technology Committee's first hearing on Tuesday. A collection of education experts from universities and research groups around the country will offer their takes on how to best broaden participation in STEM programs, one of the White House's key education goals. When: Tuesday, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.; Where: Rayburn 2318.

Members on the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats on Tuesday will markup the Homeland Security Science and Technology Authorization Act of 2010. The bill appropriates money for the agency's Directorate of Science and Technology for 2011 and 2012. When: Tuesday, March 16, 2 p.m.
 Where: Cannon 311, also available via webcast.

Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee will examine the effectiveness of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Tuesday. That hearing arrives at the same time Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Tx.) are pushing a bill that would establish a panel to investigate the federal government's running FOIA backlog. When: Tuesday, March 16, 2 p.m.; Where: Rayburn 2154.

On Wednesday, the House Science and Technology Committee will convene again to focus on the federal government's role in stimulating private innovation. Attending that hearing will be Dr. Susan Smith, a chief researcher at General Motors, among representatives from other industries and science/technology researchers. When: Tuesday, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.; Where: Rayburn 2318.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will also convene Thursday to hear testimony on "commercial space capabilities." That hearing arrives in response to the president's 2011 NASA budget, which in part would contract out some low-orbit, manned space missions to private firms.

However, a handful of lawmakers from both political parties believe commercial entities are far from ready to begin those missions in the near future. Many are now calling on the Obama administration to rethink its budget proposal -- an argument likely to be repeated during Thursday's discussion. When: Thurs. March 18, 2:30 p.m.; Where: Russell 253.