On February 25, the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology (SST) held a hearing on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on U.S. research and potential solutions to provide relief and recovery to the research enterprise. The hearing featured testimony from CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Dr. Sudip Parikh, Vice President for Research at Washington State University Dr. Christopher Keane, Executive Vice President of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas Quaadman, and Executive Director of the American Educational Research Association and member of COSSA’s Board of Directors Dr. Felice Levine. The hearing was presided over by SST Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK).
The Committee members questioned the witnesses on a variety of issues related to the public health emergency surrounding COVID-19 and how it is affecting the U.S. research enterprise. Members posed questions related to the stagnation of U.S. research investment per capita, the future of U.S. leadership in science on the international stage, inequities among women and racial minorities in research, the career development for young people in science and technology, the importance of public-private partnerships in coordinating the research enterprise, and the need for funding to jumpstart research that has slowed due to the pandemic.
A major topic of discussion was the prospect of passing the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 869), which would authorize $25 billion across several research agencies to offset costs related to lost research productivity due to the pandemic. Each of the panelists voiced support for the passage of the RISE Act, with many Democratic members of the Committee echoing this support. Support for the legislation was also expressed by some of the Republican members of the Committee, including Ranking Member Lucas, although concerns were raised about perceived partisanship in the drafting of the bill and reluctance to spend money for research while institutions are partially closed.
Of note, Dr. Levine advocated for the passage of the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act (H.R. 144) to help offset lost human capital in research. Dr. Levine also highlighted the role of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as the role of the social and behavioral sciences in identifying ways to bolster the scientific workforce in the aftermath of COVID-19 and for future generations.
Chairwoman Johnson’s opening statement, the witnesses’ testimonies, and a recording of the hearing are available on the SST Committee website.