Smith, Lofgren Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Create Science Laureate Position

May 9, 2013

Washington, D.C. - House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) today introduced H.R. 1891, bipartisan legislation that promotes science education and celebrates scientific achievement by establishing an official Science Laureate of the United States.  Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Chairman Smith: “Scientific discovery fuels the innovation that keeps our economy strong. I am happy to be an original cosponsor of bipartisan legislation that for the first time creates a national spokesman for science. An effective Science Laureate will not only be an accomplished scientist, but a role model who inspires students to pursue advanced degrees in science, math and engineering.  To remain the world leader in a high-tech global marketplace, we must continue to inspire the innovators of tomorrow.”

Modeled after the Poet Laureate in the Library of Congress, the Science Laureate would be a nationally-renowned expert in their field who would travel around the country to inspire future scientists. This new honorary position would be appointed by the President from nominees recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and serve for a term of 1-2 years.

Rep. Lofgren: “Scientists like Albert Einstein or Sally Ride can capture the public’s attention and inspire Americans if they are given a platform to speak from. As our society becomes ever more technical, a role model for how important scientific advancement is for our nation's future will help us. The Science Laureate can serve that role, as an accomplished individual to engage Americans on the importance of science in our lives and who can encourage our students to be the innovators of tomorrow.”

Using this national platform, the Science Laureate would be an advocate for the American scientific community and would be empowered to speak as a single American voice on scientific issues of the day. Like the Poet Laureate, the Science Laureate would not be a federal employee and would not be paid through federal funds. The scientist would also be encouraged to continue their important scientific work.

Sen. Hirono: “Getting students and Americans of all ages excited about science, technology, engineering, and math won’t just help kids learn – it’s imperative to our ability to compete in the global economy. As American students trail their international peers in STEM proficiency, the U.S. Science Laureate will be a national role model for kids who can encourage students to learn more about the sciences. By elevating great American scientific communicators, we can empower students – especially girls and minorities – to get excited about science.”

Sen. Wicker: “Recent studies have indicated that Americans are falling behind other countries in math and science.  These results call for an urgent need to improve science, technology, engineering, and math education. If the United States is to be economically competitive and continue to innovate and create jobs, we must place a greater emphasis on STEM education. Establishing an official Science Laureate is an important first step in prioritizing science in America.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, and the STEM Education Coalition have indicated support for the legislation.