Office of Science and Technology Policy

The Office of Science and Technology Policy must have regulations based in science that should be frequently updated to take into account the lessons gained from experience.

Reform the U.S. regulatory system. Regulations must be based in science and should be frequently updated to take into account the lessons gained from experience. The system should not seek zero risk as this is unattainable in the real world. Regulatory review should seek to establish that novel products are as safe as others in the marketplace. In making this evaluation regulators must take into account both the harms caused by present practices as well as opportunity costs, the potential benefits that would be lost by non-adoption. The degree of regulation should be commensurate with real risks and harms.

The Congressional Office of Science and Technology Policy should provide incentives for industry-hosted temporary jobs for undergraduates.

Providing more opportunities for college STEM students to work in industry, especially early in their college careers, will help encourage more students to stay in STEM. As a result, the White House should request through executive order that government agencies begin sitting some of their student fellowship/internships/co-ops/summer jobs in industry locations (e.g., an agency’s industry suppliers or collaborators), if not prohibited by law. At the same time, Congress should allow companies to take a tax deduction for corporate employee time spent mentoring student hires. The company could claim up to 35 percent of the aggregate student hire hours as donations of employee time, at the median prevailing wage of their salaried employees.

Congress should expand funding for NSF interdisciplinary higher education learning.

Approximately 75 percent of college students would prefer an interdisciplinary education, and such training is also needed for workforce skills. There are a number of steps that should be taken to expand interdisciplinary learning. Congress should expand the NSF IGERT Program by a factor of three, to $30 million in annual funding. Where allowed by law, federal agencies should redefine all federally-funded scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and traineeships such that professors receiving students supported by such mechanisms must include some kind of interdisciplinary training experience for the student. Alternatively, OSTP can coordinate a multiagency effort to divorce student support from faculty research support. Faculty would apply for research grants as before, but when the grant arrives at the university, it arrives in two parts: a student support portion (tuition and stipend) that is awarded to a student and henceforth travels with the student; and a research support portion (professor salaries, equipment funds, materials, etc.) that stays with the professor. This approach frees students to pursue their own educational interests – which tend to be much more highly interdisciplinary than the narrow in-field research needs of the professor.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy considers expanding undergraduate research opportunities, particularly during freshman year.

Because undergraduate research is a highly engaging experience with a track record of greatly diminishing student dropout/switch out from STEM, such experiences should be moved to student’s first year of college, as a prophylactic against dropout/switch out endemic to the freshman year. Such a move could increase national B.S. output by as much as 20 percent. To facilitate this transition, the President should issue an Executive Order requesting 30 percent or more of federal-agency-funded undergraduate research experiences be moved to the freshman year and summer following. Prior to the White House issuing the order, OSTP can be directed to arrive at a list of programs that would be affected by such an order, and asked for process suggestions that would allow for a smooth transition to the new model.