Last week Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California introduced a bill establishing a science laureate. This marks the second attempt by Rep. Lofgren in as many years to set up a national science spokesman-at-large. The last one was taken off the fast track in the House due to concerns that it would be used to advance climate change policy. Like a Senate bill introduced around the same time, the House measure went nowhere.
The new bill is similar to the previous legislation. The major differences are in who would appoint the science laureate and how many could be appointed. This time the National Academy of Sciences would appoint the laureate, rather than reviewing candidates for the President to choose from. While both bills indicate there would be one laureate at a time serving a one-year term (which could be renewed), the previous bill allowed the President to appoint up to three laureates.
As these appear to be the only changes from last year’s bill, I’m not sure that the fate of this legislation will be any different from its predecessors. As science issues in Congress continue to be the stalking horse for other concerns (the recent NIH pediatric research bill is a classic example), bills that are focused first on the scientific and technological enterprise will continue to die from lack of interest.