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  • Volunteers Urge Congress to Boost Photonics Support
Mar 2013
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2013 — Volunteers were on Capitol Hill last week urging Congressional representatives to boost support for the photonics industry through a national initiative and thanking them for the recent photonics R&D funding. They were among more than 250 scientists, engineers and business leaders visiting the Capitol on March 12-13 for a Congressional Visits Day (CVD) sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology (SET) Work Group.

The volunteers focused primarily on garnering support for a National Photonics Initiative (NPI), overhauling export controls and eliminating restrictions on government employee travel to scientific conferences. The NPI — being forwarded by a coalition of professional societies including SPIE, the Laser Institute of America, IEEE Photonics Society, The Optical Society (OSA) and the American Physical Society — will foster increased collaboration and coordination between industry, government and academia to identify and advance the areas of photonics that are critical for maintaining US competitiveness and national security.

The volunteers said they were pleased with the results of their visits and the reception they received on Capitol Hill. Members and staff were generally in agreement that now is the time for the US to prioritize investments in science and innovation and that, while control of spending is important, funding for R&D and for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education are important ways to grow the economy.

Ben Franta, a Harvard University student, called the event "an eye-opening experience. In the same way that being a scientist or engineer is very different from what most other people imagine it to be, our government operates in a way that's different from what we might expect by watching or reading the news."

The CVD program was "a valuable opportunity to engage with our lawmakers in a way that can lead to real results,” Franta said. “To me, the fact that SPIE makes such great use of this opportunity — both to communicate with Congress and to educate students like me — shows a forward-looking approach to promoting technologies in optics and photonics in this country and throughout the world."

OSA members also met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill for the annual CVD event. (See: OSA, Scientists, Engineers Meet with Lawmakers)

An evening reception provided an informal opportunity for CVD participants to talk with Congressional members and staff, and included an exhibition in which company representatives demonstrated products based on discoveries and innovations resulting from federal R&D funding. The event also included the presentation of the SET George E. Brown Award to Reps. Mike Honda and Richard Hanna for their efforts to advance and promote science, engineering and technology on Capitol Hill.

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