Senate Committee Passes NSF Reauthorization Bill
Senate Committee Passes NSF Reauthorization Bill

July 2016

On June 29, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee passed the
American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2016 (AICA), which reauthorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill passed on voice vote with only Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) voting against it.

The co-sponsors of the bill, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), actively engaged the scientific community, including AERA, during the drafting of the bipartisan piece of legislation. Most important to the scientific community was the inclusion of authorization levels that provide a 4-percent increase in funding for the 2018 fiscal year.

The bill contains several other important provisions that underscore the value of NSF-supported research:

  • Supports all scientific disciplines, unlike the House version
  • Reaffirms NSF’s merit-based peer review process
  • Underscores the importance of broadening participation of women and underrepresented minorities in the STEM disciplines
  • Addresses regulatory burden, by calling for more time to be spent by grantees to conduct research and less on overly-burdensome administrative work

AERA joined with the Coalition for National Science Funding on a letter to all members of the Senate that strongly supported the legislation.

Given the limited number of days remaining in this session and the pressing need to address appropriations for FY 2017—not to mention the distractions of the upcoming election, gun control proposals, and legislative efforts to address the spread of Zika—the bill is unlikely to receive time on the Senate floor for a vote. It is even more unlikely that the calendar will allow for the House and Senate to reconcile the dramatically different versions of legislation to reauthorize NSF before the 114th Congress adjourns. 

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