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Senate Considers NSF Reauthorization, AERA Offers Comments; House Bill Requires NSF Grants in the “National Interest”
 
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August 2015

 

Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, are leading the charge in developing a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the National Science Foundation and are reaching out to the science community for input by inviting comments on the working group discussions on federal research and development priorities.

AERA submitted comments on the initial meeting—“Maximizing the Impact of Basic Research”—held on July 21, and is currently working on comments in response to working group discussions on improving STEM education research and teaching practices for students that was held on July 29. The third discussion group, on translating federal research results into innovation, is expected to be held in September.

The forthcoming Senate bill to reauthorize the National Science Foundation is not expected to resemble the controversial House version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act that passed the House in May. Fortunately, President Obama has already issued a Statement of Administration Policy indicating that he would veto the bill, which would establish NSF authorization levels for the Education and Human Resources Directorate; the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate; and other directorates well below the funding levels proposed in the President’s budget.

On July 29, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced HR 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, derived from Section 106 of the House COMPETES act.

HR 3293 would require that grants that are awarded by NSF be determined to be worthy of federal funding and in the national interest after they have met NSF’s Merit and Broader Impacts criteria. The bill would also require a written justification of how each award is in the national interest. Scientific associations, including COSSA, of which AERA is a member, have been issuing statements opposing the bill. “AERA, too, has concerns about the bill,” noted Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “Overlays of additional criteria could be misconstrued. Simply put, scientific research of the highest quality is in the national interest. The United States will simply not continue to lead internationally if the best of science across all fields is not funded.” AERA’s letter to Senators Gardner and Peters commented on HR 3293.

In introducing the bill, Rep. Smith issued a press release that questioned NSF’s funding of certain grants and whether they were made in the national interest. The continued attacks on individual grants are of concern to the scientific community.

 
 
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