Legislation to Boost Investment in Science Agencies Advances on Capitol Hill

December 2021

AERA Joins Research Community in Voicing Support

On November 17, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced a bicameral agreement to move consideration of the United States Investment and Competition Act (USICA) to conference between the House and Senate. The action came after an unsuccessful attempt by Schumer to include the USICA as an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act.

USICA passed the Senate in June and includes legislation related to activities of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Endless Frontier Act (EFA). While EFA was also introduced in the House, the House advanced a bipartisan bill developed by the House Science Committee—the NSF for the Future Act—in June. As summarized in the May issue of AERA Highlights, the bills take different approaches to NSF in their priorities and in their establishment of a new directorate within the agency. The NSF for the Future Act would include a Directorate on Science and Engineering Solutions that would include the application of use-inspired and translational research to address societal challenges at the discretion of the NSF director. The USICA would include a Directorate on Technology and Innovation that would support 10 specified areas of technology in legislation.

The House also advanced bills separately from the NSF for the Future Act that are incorporated in the Senate USICA, including the Supporting Early Career Researchers Act and the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act. The Senate USICA also includes authorizing language from the Research Investment to Spark the Economy Act for scientific agencies to provide support for research affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but does not include the $25 billion authorization level for those activities.

In response, AERA joined two letters sent to congressional leadership highlighting the need to provide significant investment in NSF and to prioritize STEM education in a final conference bill and report language:

  • On November 23, AERA joined members of the Coalition for National Science Funding on a letter to congressional leadership urging that the final conference bill and report language between the NSF for the Future Act and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act include robust and sustained growth in funding.
  • On December 1, AERA joined a letter from the Science and Technology Action Committee to congressional leadership urging that a conference bill between the NSF for the Future Act and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act includes an infusion of resources and prioritizes STEM education.

Conference committee members have not yet been announced.