As previously reported, lawmakers worked in the final weeks of 2016 to find common ground on research innovation legislation, known as the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084), before adjourning for the year. The bill passed the Senate in early December, but did not get a House vote before lawmakers headed home for the holidays. However, given that the House had not yet officially adjourned for the year, the bill was quietly passed on December 16 in pro forma session along with a number of other bills under suspension of the rules. President Obama signed the bill into law on January 6, 2017.
The resulting law includes variety of science policy provisions covering topics such as the National Science Foundation’s merit review process, STEM education, and administrative burden, among others. In general, it is a positive bill for research, especially compared to earlier versions considered in the House. It is important to note, however, that while the original purpose of earlier legislation in the House and Senate was to authorize funding for NSF for the years ahead, agreement could not be reached on overall levels and therefore negotiators elected to keep numbers out the bill. That means that NSF’s authorization is still expired (since 2013) and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (under the leadership of Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX)) may very well introduce another NSF authorization bill in the new Congress. COSSA will continue to follow such efforts.