Quick Update: Science Laureate Bill Stalled in House

Even legislation with bipartisan backing takes a beating when science is involved.

In May, I wrote about legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to create the position of  “Science Laureate of the United States.” Between one and three scientists would hold the (unpaid) position and would each serve as a “spokesperson who can embody, demonstrate, and articulate the importance and excitement of scientific research and education” in order to help “improve the current and future state of science” in the U.S.

The bill’s sponsors were so sure of passage that they bypassed committees altogether, with the hope of passing it on the floor of the House by a two-thirds majority vote. However, the bill was yanked off the schedule this week by Republican leadership, after a conservative organization lobbied against the legislation. The group expressed concerns that the science laureates would probably talk about climate change, among other things. Jeffrey Mervis of ScienceInsider has written a good piece that gives detailed coverage of recent activity on the bill.

Since climate change is a global challenge and the scientific community is virtually unanimous in agreeing that human activity contributes to climate change, any science laureate would almost certainly talk about it. Alas, the GOP strategy appears to be that if they ignore the science it will go away.

The legislation’s chances of passage are unclear, but I’m not optimistic.

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