FIRST Act, Slashing SBE Funding, Moves to House Floor

May 2014

Despite strong opposition from the National Science Board and most science and higher education organizations, the House Science Committee passed the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act on May 28.

The bill, which reauthorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) and several other federal science programs, reduces authorized funding levels for the Social, Behavioral & Economic (SBE) Sciences Directorate at NSF by 42 percent.

The reduced SBE funding level would be devastating to scientists. Many scientific societies, including AERA, issued action alerts prior to the committee vote. During markup of the bill, committee Republicans questioned a number of grants funded by SBE, despite their approval under merit review. Republican representatives were also adamant that NSF’s priorities as a basic science agency should be focused on the physical sciences and other areas of science that show a bigger return on investment.

AERA and fellow science advocates will continue to monitor the bill and be prepared for any action on the House floor. The implications of a potential House-passed authorization bill that provides lower funding levels for SBE than the just-passed House CJS bill is unclear. Presumably, SBE would receive only the lower authorized level of funding, meaning funding for the directorate could be reduced by 42 percent.