On June 28, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) by a vote of 345 to 67. Originally introduced in March, the NSF for the Future Act would authorize more than $72 billion for NSF, increasing its current annual budget of $8.5 billion to $17.9 billion by fiscal year (FY) 2026. The bill represents a counterproposal to the Endless Frontier Act, reintroduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in April as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) of 2021 (S. 1260). While both bills…


young individual typing on a laptop on a table in a living room

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed how society functions, and the transformation of America’s school system is a prime example. In 2020, in-person, interactive classrooms converted to virtual learning environments from Pre-K to the college level. Schools and university campuses shut down nationwide to curb transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and turned to virtual platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom, forcing students to continue advancing their education from home. Although a home classroom environment may seem comforting to some, for others it is not. A central issue arises from the inequitable access to educational resources from home, especially for…


The United States has traditionally been seen as the preeminent space-faring nation, especially after the Apollo missions successfully landed the first men on the Moon. However, if the United States seeks to successfully send humans to Mars, a critical precursor is developing the capabilities to sustain human activities on the Moon for significant periods of time. This requires allowing NASA to develop its long-term strategies without Congress micromanaging their budget each year. …


The benefits of increased automation are already seen today, where tasks once completed by people are now performed by programs and machines. On a smaller scale, this includes automatic bill reminders and payments, direct deposits, vending machines, automatic car washes and even tailored suggestions from Amazon and Netflix. Larger-scale examples occur in manufacturing — including knitting machines, automated car assemblies, and machines for agriculture and construction. While growth in automation has several benefits, many people are afraid automation will take jobs away from hardworking Americans. However, automation can be used in a way that complements the workforce, shifting responsibilities rather…


Access to fresh water is becoming a crisis in the modern world. Natural bodies of water are being depleted and contaminated by a lack of adequate water management techniques. In order to sustain our water sources, protecting natural bodies of water is vital. Therefore, everyone should take immediate action to preserve rivers, lakes, ponds and aquifers by introducing initiatives such as proper water management and waste disposal techniques, flood and rainwater control and wastewater mitigation measures.

The United Nations 2015 and 2017 reports on water management found that more than 80% of wastewater is dumped into the environment without proper…


Additional EPA policy changes have occurred since a previous blog post was written on this topic. The last post highlighted previous regulatory rollbacks on automobile emission standards and pollution enforcement. This week, the EPA announced additional regulatory changes, this time for mercury emission rules. Mercury is a heavy metal that can cause brain damage and is especially detrimental to children. The EPA’s 2012 regulation required power plants to invest in equipment that reduced mercury emissions; this equipment also reduced emissions from a range of other harmful pollutants, including fine particulate matter, PM2.5. The current rule change does not directly lower…


The Covid-19 pandemic has brought much of the world to a standstill, yet it has demonstrated that scientists can come together to address an issue that adversely affects everyone. This is reminiscent of another challenge that requires large scale cooperation: climate change. However, as the pandemic begins to devastate the U.S. economy, certain U.S. policymakers are using it as an opportunity to roll back environmental regulations. For instance, the White House is weakening emissions enforcement and reducing automobile mileage standards. These rollbacks will lead to increased air pollution, which will damage Americans’ lungs and increase the risk of complications and…


In May 2019, the Rice Management Company (RMC), which oversees Rice University’s investments, broke ground on the old Sears lot in Midtown Houston, transforming the historic Sears building into the Ion, the centerpiece of the planned South Main Innovation District. This development offers the promise of cultivating a startup ecosystem in Houston, providing a space to promote collaboration among industrial, academic and medical center partners and to share resources for entrepreneurs. Aiming to position Houston as a leading center for technology, the RMC claims the Ion will strengthen the economy, attract and retain talent, and benefit the community at large…


In response to the ongoing pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, a $2 trillion bill to provide relief to those impacted by the disease. While the bill helps many people hit by this crisis, one group in particular that this legislation leaves behind are university students. A central function of the CARES Act is to provide quick financial relief for immediate living expenses through a $1200 payment to all individuals earning less than $75,000 a year with an additional $500 for families per child under age 17. However, the many students aged 18–24…


In 2018, human embryos were genetically edited, implanted in women and brought to term. These were the world’s first genetically engineered human beings, a scientific achievement that is one of the most significant and controversial landmarks in recent history. This work and the man leading it, He Jiankui, have been widely condemned as unethical. Many believe He pushed this powerful new technology, which permanently alters the human gene pool, onto patients long before it was verified as safe, effective or ethically appropriate.

The news of these experiments, and the subsequent outrage, have hit particularly close to home. He Jiankui sat…

S&T Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute

Helping bridge the gap between science policy and society at the Rice University's @BakerInstitute.

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