House Science Committee Leaders Introduce Bipartisan NSF Reauthorization Bill

March 2021

On March 26, House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), along with Chairwoman Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Ranking Member Michael Waltz (R-FL) of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology introduced the National Science Foundation for the Future Act.

The bill would reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF), providing for a doubling of the federal investment in the agency above the FY 2021 level of nearly $8.5 billion to $18.3 billion by FY 2026. As part of the increased authorizations for NSF overall, the bill would establish a Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions included in the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account. This directorate would be charged with supporting use-inspired and translational research. The initial authorization for the newly created directorate would be $1 billion in FY 2022, increasing each year to the level of $5 billion in FY 2026. In addition, the bill would authorize funding directly for Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure.

The legislation would also provide the authority for a range of activities that would support the conduct and dissemination of STEM education research from PK–12 through graduate education. Under this bill, NSF would be charged with working with the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on a Decadal Survey of STEM Education Research in PK–12 education, establishing at least three multidisciplinary Centers for Transformative Education Research and Translation, funding research on STEM education and workforce needs, and awarding grants focused on research on the graduate education system and outcomes of various interventions and policies. By FY 2026, the Education and Human Resources Directorate would be authorized at $1.6 billion in funding, an increase over the current FY 2021 appropriations of $968 million.

The National Science Foundation for the Future Act would also establish a graduate education funding study that would examine the role NSF has played in supporting graduate student education and the impact of different funding models on students’ experiences and outcomes, including by population subgroups.

In addition, the bill includes a directive for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) to conduct a feasibility study to examine emerging data, with a report to Congress and to the National Science Board a year after enactment. Topics for new data fields in NCSES surveys include the skilled technical workforce, working conditions and work-life balance, harassment and discrimination, sexual orientation and gender identity, and immigration and emigration.

Programs at NSF that work toward broadening participation in STEM, such as NSF INCLUDES and the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, are also highlighted in the bill. Activities to promote data sharing, including through NSF support of data repositories and mechanisms to encourage research reproducibility, are also included in the legislation.

The bill also would authorize NSF to support research on violence, including for understanding the nature, scope, causes, consequences, prevention, and responses to all forms of violence.

The National Science Foundation for the Future Act seeks to address the nation’s commitment to investing in scientific research, especially as China and other countries have increased investments over the past decade. The bill comes on the heels of remarks by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on his plans to introduce a bill focused on competitiveness, modeled on a bill he and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) introduced last year, the Endless Frontier Act. That bill also included language that would have provided a significant boost of funding to NSF.

“There is a great deal to read and study in this bill,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “It is refreshing to see a commitment to basic science, including education research; appreciation of the need for expanded statistics and data regarding science and the scientific workforce; and a fundamental understanding of why the National Science Foundation was created and the importance of substantial investment in its mission and leadership for advancing science and our larger society.”