House Bill Requires that NSF Grants Further “National Interest”

February 2016

On February 10, the House of Representations voted 236—178 to pass the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (HR 3293). The bill would require the National Science Foundation to provide justification that each grant the agency awards is in the national interest.

The bill language was initially included in Section 106 of the America COMPETES Act of 2015 (HR 1806), which the House passed in April 2015. AERA wrote in opposition to HR 1806 when the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee first considered that legislation last April. The association is concerned about how any such overlay of “national interest” could lead to a narrow conception of valuable science and, in the end, undermines the national interest that NSF and taxpayer dollars serve. AERA also raised concerns this past August in submitting comments to Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) on maximizing the impact on basic research.

Prior to the House vote, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy indicating that President Barack Obama would veto HR 3293 if it arrives at his desk.

The bill was referred to the Senate for consideration. Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is working on bipartisan legislation to reauthorize America COMPETES. The scientific community is advocating against including similar language to HR 3293 in a Senate bill.