America COMPETES Act: It Is Too Early to Evaluate Programs Long-Term Effectiveness, but Agencies Could Improve Reporting of High-Risk, High-Reward Research Priorities

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Scientific and technological innovation and a workforce educated in advanced technology are critical to the long-term economic competitiveness and prosperity of the United States. In recent years, leaders in government, business, and education have reported their concerns that declining federal funding for basic scientific research could diminish the United States' future economic competitiveness. These leaders have also reported their concerns that our educational system is producing too few students trained in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), which they believe may drive jobs in technical ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. October 7, 2010.

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Correspondence issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "Scientific and technological innovation and a workforce educated in advanced technology are critical to the long-term economic competitiveness and prosperity of the United States. In recent years, leaders in government, business, and education have reported their concerns that declining federal funding for basic scientific research could diminish the United States' future economic competitiveness. These leaders have also reported their concerns that our educational system is producing too few students trained in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), which they believe may drive jobs in technical fields--followed by jobs in manufacturing, administration, and finance--from the United States to other countries. Congress passed the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (COMPETES Act) of 2007 with the overall goal of increasing federal investment in scientific research to improve U.S. economic competitiveness. To that end, the act also increased support for education in STEM fields. Specifically, the act authorized $33.6 billion from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2010, in appropriations to be spent by four federal agencies: (1) the Department of Education, (2) the Department of Energy (DOE), (3) the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce, and (4) the National Science Foundation (NSF). Within these four agencies, the act authorized funding for 24 new programs and the expansion of 20 existing programs to increase federal investment in basic scientific research and STEM education in the United States. The act also authorized the establishment of a new agency--the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)--within DOE to support transformational energy technology research projects to enhance the country's economic and energy security. In addition, the act established specific goals for some of the individual programs and includes a number of reporting provisions. Section 1008 of the act expresses the sense of Congress that each executive agency conducting research in STEM fields should strive to support and promote innovation by setting a goal of allocating an appropriate percentage of its basic research budget toward funding high-risk, high-reward research. The act describes high-risk, high-reward research projects as those that should also (1) meet fundamental scientific or technical challenges, (2) involve multidisciplinary work, and (3) involve a high degree of novelty. With respect to agencies conducting basic STEM research, the COMPETES Act provides for the following actions: (1) Goal setting--Agencies are annually required to report whether they have set a percentage funding goal for high-risk, high-reward research. (2) Spending toward goal--Agencies that set such a goal must report whether the goal is being met by the agencies and describe the activities funded. (3) Manner of reporting--Agencies are required to report this information to Congress along with documents supporting their annual budget. The COMPETES Act requires GAO to evaluate, within 3 years following its enactment, the effectiveness of authorized programs. To satisfy this reporting requirement, we briefed your staffs on the results of our work on August 5, 2010, and this report provides additional details. Our reporting objectives for this review were to examine (1) the extent to which the four agencies that received funding have obligated and reported funding for new or expanded programs and activities and (2) the effectiveness of the new or expanded programs and activities in meeting the goals of the act."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • October 7, 2010

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United States. Government Accountability Office. America COMPETES Act: It Is Too Early to Evaluate Programs Long-Term Effectiveness, but Agencies Could Improve Reporting of High-Risk, High-Reward Research Priorities, text, October 7, 2010; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302396/: accessed August 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.