Science Committee Releases NSF Reauthorization Proposal

On March 26, the House Science Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released the text of the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, its proposed reauthorization legislation for the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bipartisan bill was introduced by Science Committee Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), along with Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Michael Waltz (R-FL), the Chair and Ranking Member respectively of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology.

Although Rep. Lucas had previously introduced a competing bill, the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act, in the press release accompanying the Committee’s bill, he thanked Rep. Johnson for “working with me to craft a bipartisan bill” and for “including provisions on research security, which has been a growing concern for Republicans on our Committee.”

The Science Committee’s bill would set funding targets for the NSF’s budget over the course of the next five fiscal years (FY), bringing the agency’s overall budget from its current $8.5 billion to $18.3 billion by FY 2026. However, as an authorization bill, the legislation can only identify desired targets; Congressional appropriators would still need to act each year to enact funding increases for the agency. The bill would also establish a new research directorate within NSF, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions (SES), which, according to the Committee’s press release would enable NSF to “take big risks and experiment with new approaches to accelerating the translation of science and technology into solutions to society’s major challenges.” While in some ways similar to the Technology Directorate proposed in the Endless Frontier Act introduced in the previous Congress, the scale of the SES Directorate’s budget would be more proportionate to NSF’s overall budget (as opposed to being multiple times larger) and the Directorate would set its own scientific priorities rather than adhering to a list set by Congress.

The NSF for the Future Act includes a number of provisions that would affect the social science community, including language that the social, behavioral, and economic sciences (SBE) should be actively included in NSF cross-cutting and interdisciplinary activities like the Convergence Accelerators, Big Ideas, and Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure. COSSA will release a full analysis of the bill and its potential impact on the social sciences to COSSA members later this week.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 30), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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