American Jobs Plan Proposes Significant Investment in Federal Research

April 2021

On March 31, the Biden administration announced details of the American Jobs Plan, the first of two proposals on infrastructure. The American Jobs Plan would provide significant investments in federal research and development programs, including $50 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The American Jobs Plan also seeks to support $30 billion across federal agencies to enable job creation, $10 billion for research at minority serving institutions (MSIs) and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and $15 billion to create 200 research incubators at HBCUs and other MSIs. These centers of excellence would provide graduate fellowships and other opportunities for underserved populations in STEM, including through pre-college programs.

The NSF funding in the bill would include the establishment of a new technology directorate, with language similar to that in the Endless Frontier Act, one of three legislative proposals seeking to reauthorize NSF. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), and Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) led the re-introduction of the bill this month.

The Endless Frontier Act differs from the NSF for the Future Act, a bipartisan House Science Committee proposal to reauthorize NSF, in placing a strong emphasis on investing in technology. The NSF for the Future Act also includes a proposal to establish a new directorate, on Science and Engineering Solutions, which would work to leverage NSF-supported research for use-inspired and translational research to address societal challenges. Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of NSF, and Ellen Ochoa, chair of the National Science Board, appeared before the House Research and Technology subcommittee on April 28 to discuss their vision for the future of NSF.

AERA has been monitoring the development of the Endless Frontier Act and the NSF for the Future Act over many months. AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine emphasized, “Reauthorization is very important, and substantial investment in NSF as the driver science agency, including for foundational research on STEM education and learning and the STEM workforce, is essential. The House proposal is particularly innovative, flexible, and forward looking while also true to the mission and purposes of NSF to advance and ensure the well-being of U.S. science.”

In addition to the proposals provided in the American Jobs Plan, President Biden released details of the second piece of the infrastructure package, the American Families Plan, on April 28. While the plan does not contain research investments, it does detail several education proposals, including free community college, universal pre-kindergarten programs, an expansion of Pell grants, and investment in teacher preparation.