Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research

Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers in both parties urged their colleagues Monday to invest in and work to develop a new, diverse generation of American scientists and researchers to help close the innovation gap with foreign rivals.

In discussions held during The Hill’s “Science & American Advancement” event Monday, Democratic and Republican members of the House voiced support for boosting research funding and increasing the public interest in developing crucial technologies.

“This is hugely important because it underpins so many aspects of our modern life and it bears fruit going forward for how we might be able to live even better,” said Rep. Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research The Hill's 12:30 Report: Presidential race tightens in key states MORE (R-Ind.).

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“I want to make sure that this is invested in, I want to make sure it's nurtured, I want to make sure that we recognize the boundaries thereof, but ultimately, I want to make sure it's constantly at the forefront of our mind,” Hollingsworth told The Hill's Steve Clemons.

Both Democrats and Republicans have grown increasingly concerned about protecting the U.S.’s role in driving scientific innovation and have sought to steer more youth — particularly women and minorities that are underrepresented in science and technology — toward those careers.

Black Americans make up 11 percent of the U.S. workforce but just 9 percent of STEM workers, according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, while Hispanic Americans make up 16 percent of the workforce but just 7 percent of all science, technology, engineering and math workers. 

“We know that the growing population is going to be both female and minority, and that's the population we really need to impact,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll House passes legislation to boost election security research Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns MORE (D-Texas), the first woman and Black lawmaker to chair the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

“A lot of it has to do with student loans and the cost of education,” she continued. “It's one thing to have a bachelor's degree, but it's another thing to have the skills that we need for today's world.”

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The lawmakers also noted how the emergence and devastation of the coronavirus pandemic had thrust biotechnological and pharmaceutical innovation into the spotlight, but with the taint of political polarization. Several dozen studies have reinforced the effectiveness of masks and facial coverings to hinder the spread of the novel coronavirus, but the act of wearing one has been fiercely opposed among some right-leaning Americans and political officials. 

Rep. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll House passes legislation to boost election security research Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research MORE (D-N.J.) said widespread adoption of mask wearing and social distancing guidelines were crucial to her state overcoming one of the first major U.S.coronavirus outbreaks, voicing hope that science could help Americans overcome political divides.

“Now that we're looking at this global pandemic and how necessary it is to fund some of the basic structures of our government so we can get money out to small businesses and so we can attack this pandemic, we need to make sure government works. We need government to be efficient and we need government to serve the people,” Sherrill said. 

The event was sponsored by Philip Morris International.