The Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293), sponsored by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), is legislation that seeks to set a definition for federally-funded research conducted in the “national interest.” The language of the bill was derived from Sec. 106 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806), which passed the House in May despite strong and vocal opposition from the broad scientific research community. Smith has argued that his bill is intended to ensure that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding “only high priority research.” While the bill text itself is rather benign, the intent of the legislation, as exemplified by the press release issued alongside it, is to continue singling out grants that Smith deems unworthy of taxpayer support, many in the social sciences. The bill will head to the House floor a vote this week. Companion legislation does not exist in the Senate.
COSSA issued a statement in July calling out the ideological motives behind the bill and urging that political review not become part of NSF’s merit review process.