12 June 2013

Keeping STEM in Our Future

Jim Manning

Is there STEM in our future? How can we make sure?

It’s not so easy a question to answer these days. The Obama Administration’s FY 2014 budget proposes sweeping changes in how it will support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education — abruptly ending scores of programs in its science agencies that boast many years of accomplishment (very many of them in NASA's Science Mission Directorate) and transferring the funding to three agencies for efforts not yet entirely clear. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) thinks this is a bad idea, and we’ve said so (see the public statement on our website at astrosociety.org). We think a better idea is that science education and science work best when they work together, and that the government should build on and leverage its successful existing programs to coordinate a robust STEM effort.

We’re obviously not alone in our concern about what this all means for STEM education and public outreach (EPO): the AAS has also issued a statement expressing dismay at the Administration's proposal, and there seems to be skepticism in Congress too (follow the links from "Performance Metrics for NASA's SMD EPO Programs").

In the meantime, as the budget process winds its way through Congress, the ASP, which has supported EPO practitioners by offering our annual meeting as a forum for sharing, learning and networking for nearly a decade, is adding an additional thread to its “Ensuring STEM Literacy”-themed meeting this summer: “Documenting NASA EPO Impacts.” The thread invites NASA-funded programs and projects to share their metrics and impacts at the meeting, to be compiled into a proceedings that will exist as a permanent and citable record of just how much impact NASA’s EPO programs have had and continue to have, with useful lessons and evidence of best practices for us all.   

It’s not too late to make plans to join us for the conference, to be held on the lovely campus of San Jose State University in San Jose, California, July 20-24, with support from the AAS, for which we are grateful. In addition to the EPO symposium, the meeting will also include the every-three-year “Cosmos in the Classroom” symposium, bringing together college introductory astronomy instructors from around the country (and beyond) to network and engage in professional-development activities. The conference will gather formal and informal educators, scientists, communicators, and others to share their experiences and learn from each other as we strive to create a future in which science is widely understood, valued, and considered in debating and deciding the great questions of our time — and executed by a strong STEM workforce.

Come join us in San Jose this summer, for either symposium or both as we consider what we are doing, what impacts we’re having, what we can do besides, and what we can do together to help ensure greater STEM literacy for the future. Visit our meeting website to learn more about what we have in store.

Is there STEM in our future? How can we make sure? Come join the discussion, as we collectively work to ensure STEM literacy as we head deeper into the 21st century.

See you in San Jose?