National Science Board Warns FIRST Act Would Undercut Science Innovation

April 2014

In a rare public statement on pending legislation, the National Science Board (NSB) criticized the proposed Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, currently under consideration in the House of Representatives, saying “its provisions and tone suggest that Congress intends to impose constraints that would compromise [the ability of the National Science Foundation (NSF)] to fulfill its statutory purpose.”

The NSB statement continued, “Our greatest concern is that the bill’s specification of budget allocations to each NSF Directorate would significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas in fulfillment of its mission to ‘promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes.’”

AERA strongly opposes the FIRST Act.

After the bill was passed by the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology in March, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine said, “The FIRST Act sadly falls short of meeting the objectives of a sound reauthorization bill for NSF. The bill signals a micromanagement of NSF by Congress and a failure to acknowledge the importance of social science in the family of sciences. Overall, this bill does not take into account how federal investment in all of the sciences has fostered innovation and the significant role of NSF in driving discoveries.

“It is highly unusual for the National Science Board to make this kind of public statement, and it speaks volumes about the damage the bill would wreak on science integrity and innovation in the United States,” added Levine.

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is expected to take up the FIRST Act soon.