Blog Archives

“National Interest” Bill Heads for House Vote

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.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Issue 3 (February 9), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

House Science Committee Advances “National Interest” Bill and Dyslexia Legislation

On October 8, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee advanced two bills that would impact the National Science Foundation (NSF): the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293) and the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia (READ) Act (H.R. 3033). Read on for details.

The Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, sponsored by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), 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.  H.R. 3293 seeks to set a definition for federally-funded research conducted in the “national interest.” As Chairman Smith noted during the mark up, the bill is intended to ensure that NSF is funding “only high priority research.”  He then included for the record a list of NSF grants that, despite making it through NSF’s highly regarded merit review process, the Chairman argued were not worth taxpayer support.

The bill passed by voice vote, but not before a number of Committee Democrats expressed their concern and opposition.  Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) asserted that the bill continues the majority’s “political review” of research projects at NSF and that the Chairman is using “his own subjective definition” of national interest.  She added that the bill sends a message to the scientific community: “don’t take risks.” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) also spoke in opposition to the bill, noting that “we [Members of Congress] are not the gold standard” when it comes to review of scientific research; that should be left to the NSF merit review process.  Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), the only scientist on the committee, added that the bill assumes that NSF’s merit review process is broken, which it is not.  COSSA issued a statement on the bill in July.

The Committee also passed the READ Act, which would require NSF to spend $5 million annually on the science of dyslexia using already appropriated funds.  An amendment was offered by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) to authorize $5 million in new funding as opposed to requiring funding from existing amounts, but the amendment failed by voice vote.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Issue 19 (October 20), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

COSSA Comments on NSF Reauthorization; Senate Seeks Input on STEM Workforce

As previously reported, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee spent the summer engaging with scientific stakeholders to inform possible reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, or legislation authorizing the National Science Foundation (NSF). In July, the Committee put out a request for input on the topic of “Maximizing the Impact of Basic Research.” COSSA submitted detailed comments to the Committee on August 14.

The Committee is now seeking input on the topic of “Building a STEM Workforce.” Interested parties are invited to comment on any/all of the following questions:

  1. How does the availability of STEM graduates affect corporate decision-making about where to conduct research and manufacture goods?
  2. To maximize the use of limited resources, how can the Federal Government, in coordination with the private sector and academia, best prioritize STEM education investments and help respond to shifting academic and private sector workforce needs?
  3. What factors should Federal agencies consider to measure the impact and success of the Federal STEM education portfolio and to decide whether to expand, modify, or replace individual programs, given limited resources?
  4. How can Federal agencies best identify and encourage implementation of promising, research-driven STEM education teaching models and best practices?
  5. What actions can the Federal Government, private sector, and academia pursue to broaden STEM participation and provide education and research opportunities to students from all backgrounds?

Comments can be sent directly to the Commerce Committee at No deadline has been given for this round of comments.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Issue 16 (September 8), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Senate Committee Seeks Comments on COMPETES Revision

On July 8, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee issued a press release requesting public input to help guide the Committee’s development of America COMPETES Act reauthorization legislation. A follow-up release was issued last week providing additional details on the Committee’s plans. COMPETES is legislation originally enacted in 2007 that sought to ensure U.S. leadership in science and technology by making targeted investments at U.S. basic science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF).

As COSSA has been reporting, the House introduced and ultimately passed its version of COMPETES legislation earlier this year with steep proposed cuts to social science research, despite ardent objection from the broad scientific community. The Senate has chosen a different approach for developing its NSF legislation this year, which according to the press release and discussions with Senate staff will include significant stakeholder involvement. Interested organizations are invited to submit written comment by August 21 addressing specific questions posed by the Committee.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Issue 14 (July 28), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House Advances Bills to Cut Social Science Funding

As we have been reporting over the last several weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives has been busy considering legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, landmark legislation first enacted in 2007 to reignite U.S. investment in scientific research.  It serves as authorizing legislation for the National Science Foundation (NSF), among other agencies.  The House version of COMPETES reauthorization is a major departure from earlier versions, garnering deep opposition from the broader scientific community, including from COSSA. Among the many problematic provisions in the bill is language to cut NSF’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate by half.  Despite widespread opposition, the House passed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806) on May 20 by a narrow margin (217-205).  The COMPETES bill now heads to the Senate, where we don’t expect to see any action until later in the summer or fall. (more…)

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Issue 10 (June 2), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House to vote on COMPETES Act

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806) tomorrow, May 20. The bill, which authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other science agencies, has faced criticism from the scientific community. COSSA has published an analysis of the bill, as well as a statement opposing it. Click here to read all of our COMPETES coverage.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Issue 9 (May 19), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Anti-Science COMPETES Bill Heads to House Floor

On April 23, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed along party lines (19 Republicans to 16 Democrats) the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806).  According to Committee Chairman and sponsor of the legislation Lamar Smith (R-TX), H.R. 1806 is a “pro-science and fiscally responsible bill.”  It prioritizes basic research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), while keeping funding levels within Congressionally-set discretionary spending limits.  For NSF, the bill would increase funding for the Biological Sciences (BIO), Engineering (ENG), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), and Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorates at the expense of other NSF accounts, including Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) and Geosciences (GEO).  See COSSA’s analysis of H.R. 1806 for more information.

COSSA strongly opposes H.R. 1806 and issued a statement expressing our concerns.

Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) had harsh words for the bill during the more than five hour-long markup, noting that H.R. 1806 is the “combination of two bad bills” from last year, becoming a “doubly bad bill.”  Further, she noted that the original America COMPETES Act enacted in 2007 and its reauthorization in 2010 were “landmark” pieces of legislation, vetted by dozens of scientific stakeholders through a transparent process.  In contrast, H.R. 1806 was developed by Committee Republicans behind closed doors without federal agency or stakeholder input.  In addition, while the previous two COMPETES bills aimed to ensure America’s preeminence in science and engineering, Johnson continued, the bill before the Committee “questions the motives of NSF and the integrity of scientists.”  She expressed her embarrassment over the Committee’s consideration of the bill, noting that the nation would be better off with no bill than with H.R. 1806.

Johnson entered into the Committee record 30 letters (including COSSA’s) raising opposition or serious concerns with the legislation.  In contrast, she noted that the previous COMPETES bills received hundreds of endorsements.

Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) called the targeting of SBE and GEO within H.R. 1806 a “partisan distraction” from what could otherwise be an important message on science, adding that the cuts to social science would be detrimental.  He expressed his commitment to finding a bipartisan compromise, but added that he is unsure how to get there with this bill.

The Committee considered more than 30 amendments during the markup, most from the Committee’s Democratic members.  About half of the amendments addressed concerns within the NSF title of the bill, including an amendment by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) that would have struck the specific authorizations for NSF’s individual directorates, and amendments that would delete language tying NSF research to issues of “national interest” and misrepresentation of research results.  These amendments were defeated along party lines.

Of particular note was an amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Ranking Member Johnson, which took the form of a Democratic alternative bill to H.R. 1806 that was introduced on April 21, also called the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1898).  Every Democratic member of Science Committee signed on to H.R. 1898 as original cosponsors.

Like the Republican bill that passed through the Committee today, the Johnson bill would authorize research efforts at NSF, DOE’s Office of Science, and NIST.  However, that is where the similarities end.

The Johnson bill would authorize NSF for fiscal years (FY) 2016 through 2020; the Smith bill only provides authorizations for FY 2016-2017, requiring that the Committee turn back to NSF reauthorization in a year or so.  In addition, the Democrats’ bill sets much more ambitious and sustained funding levels for the agency, with nearly 5 percent growth each year:

COMPETES 2015 markup

Further, the Johnson bill does not provide specific authorizations for NSF’s research directorates.  Instead, it keeps with the current practice of providing an authorization for Research and Related Activities, Education and Human Resources, and other high-level accounts, and maintains NSF’s flexibility for determining how best to prioritize research funding.

The Johnson amendment in the nature of a substitute was defeated along party lines.  Further the Science Committee is not expected to take up the Johnson COMPETES bill as a standalone measure.

H.R. 1806 now heads to the House floor for a vote.  The bill’s predecessor, known as the FIRST Act in 2014, never received a floor vote. However, reports indicate that Chairman Smith is hoping to bring the bill to the floor in the near future, potentially as soon as next week.

Meanwhile, the Senate has not yet introduced COMPETES reauthorization legislation this year.  However, Smith and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) issued a joint statement earlier today expressing their intent to work together on a COMPETES bill this year.

COSSA members and others can continue to weigh in on H.R. 1806 by writing to your Congressperson, especially as we head toward a potential floor vote in May.

Follow the action: #NOtoHR1806#Stand4Science@COSSADC


Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Issue 8 (May 5), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

House COMPETES Bill Targets Social Science

On April 15, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith introduced the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806). This is legislation to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill is scheduled for a markup by the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Wednesday, April 22.

While there are some noticeable changes from the bill that the scientific community rallied against last year (known as the FIRST Act), the new bill, authored by Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, continues to challenge the value of social and behavioral science research and restricts NSF’s ability to drive its own research agenda.  COSSA strongly opposes this legislation and released a statement on April 17 detailing its objections.

COSSA’s full analysis of the bill can be found here.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Issue 7 (April 21), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Coalition for National Science Funding Endorses Senate COMPETES Bill

The Coalition for National Science Funding, of which COSSA is a member, has issued a statement in support of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014 (S. 2757), which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) in July. As the statement reads, “The upward funding trajectory for [the National Science Foundation] provided in this bill would go a long way toward closing the innovation deficit that has been building with recent stagnant U.S. research budgets.” COSSA issued its own statement in support of the bill in August.

More information on the America COMPETES Act can be found in COSSA’s analysis. While NSF reauthorization legislation is not expected to become law this year, the Senate bill provides an important marker for consideration in 2015.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 33 (2014)


Click here to subscribe to the COSSA Washington Update, our biweekly newsletter.


Looking for something from a previous issue of the COSSA Washington Update? Try our archive.


Browse by Month