The recently passed CHIPS and Science Act promises billions of dollars in funding to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) research and production at government agencies, private companies, and colleges and universities across the U.S. While the legislation’s primary goal is to boost the nation’s ability to compete with China when it comes to cutting-edge technology and manufacturing, it also includes provisions to increase diversity in STEM education and the workforce and to promote socioeconomic development for underserved communities.
“If we are going to lead in science and innovation, we must create and support a STEM workforce that represents the diversity of our nation,” states a U.S. House of Representatives fact sheet about the act. “This legislation supports policy reforms, research, and data collection to identify and lower barriers facing women, minorities, and other groups underrepresented in [STEM] studies and research careers.”
Some of the specific provisions that address these goals include the following:
- Government agencies will be required to collect comprehensive demographic data on the merit review process and on STEM faculty at U.S. colleges and universities
- Government agencies are to increase their efforts to ensure all researchers have equitable access to funding for their work
- Colleges and universities are to be supported in conducting research on participation and career trajectories and the implementation of best practices for increasing the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students and faculty
In addition, the act boosts funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by $81 billion and requires the agency to create a chief diversity officer position. NSF grants and other sources of federal support for STEM research have historically advantaged White men, but supporters of the new legislation say it will devote more funding for underrepresented scholars and Minority-Serving Institutions.
The bill also contains multiple programs designed to boost STEM participation and careers in underserved areas. “These spatially targeted initiatives seek to promote a more equitable geography of growth across the nation,” according to Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director for the Brookings Institution. Prior research by Brookings has revealed that half of all innovation jobs in the U.S. are located in just 41 counties, “underscoring the need to better distribute innovation inputs across the country,” he states.●
This article was published in our September 2022 issue.