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HOT TOPIC: Competing Visions – The NSF for the Future Act and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

In June 2021, the House and Senate advanced separate versions of legislation to enhance U.S. innovation and global competitiveness. The approaches taken by the two bills, however, differ dramatically. The Senate bill focuses squarely on ways to harness and in some cases alter the nation’s scientific assets to better compete with China. The House bill, on the other hand, doubles down on the nation’s existing, proven scientific leadership and proposes additional investments to push the U.S. research enterprise—particularly the National Science Foundation—into new directions.

Despite the many differences between them, some parallels can be found; for example, both propose establishing a new directorate at the National Science Foundation focused on technology development and translational research, and both measures include substantive provisions related to research security and STEM education. Beyond that, though, many unresolved differences remain.

Read on for COSSA’s in-depth analysis and comparison of provisions in the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) that are of most relevance to the social and behavioral science community.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 6), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

July Headlines to Feature Deep Dive on NSF Legislation

headlines bannerCOSSA members can sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat to catch up on the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer your questions. Stick around for our deep dive discussion as we break down the House and Senate’s competing NSF reauthorization bills and what they could mean for the social and behavioral sciences. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 6), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Senate Passes Sweeping U.S. Competitiveness Legislation, Includes Endless Frontier Act

On June 8, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) (S. 1260). The 2,300 page bill was originally introduced in the spring as the Endless Frontier Act, which sought to shore up U.S. leadership in key technology areas—specifically with respect to China—and to enhance “tech transfer” for scientific research funded by the federal government. Since then, hundreds of amendments have been offered, resulting in a substantially altered package that now incorporates several additional, far-reaching bills.

The original proposal authorized $100 billion over five years specifically for a new Technology and Innovation Directorate at the National Science Foundation. The Senate-passed version now includes a total of $29 billion over five years for the directorate and also includes authorized funding increases for NSF’s budget overall (the original bill only included funding for the new directorate, which concerned many in the research community). The substantial decrease in funding to the proposed directorate is the result of several successful amendments seeking to more widely distribute funding to other federal agencies with missions related to key technological advancement, particularly the Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Department of Defense. The massive USICA bill now includes provisions pertaining to NSF, DOE, DOD, Department of Education, Department of Commerce, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, and others.

The NSF provisions of the USICA attempt to bridge some of the divide between the Senate proposal and the NSF for the Future Act that is currently workings its way through the House (see related article). For example, the amended Senate bill includes similar language related to research capacity building for “developing universities,” including minority-serving institutions, promoting STEM education in rural areas, and supporting early-career researchers, among other provisions. However, the two bills remain far apart in their general handling of NSF funding and policy directions. It remains to be seen whether a conference between the House and Senate will be attempted or if another path forward will emerge.

COSSA will be producing an in-depth analysis of the two competing NSF bills. Check back for details.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 22), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Science Committee Advances NSF Legislation

On June 15, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee advanced the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Future Act (H.R. 2225). The next stop for the legislation is consideration by the full House of Representatives, which as of this writing has not been scheduled.

As previously reported, the NSF for the Future Act is sweeping legislation to reauthorization NSF through 2026. Most notably, the bill includes the establishment of a new research directorate, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions. COSSA issued a statement in support of the NSF for the Future Act on May 7, applauding the bill for its comprehensive approach to strengthening NSF, enhancing its budget, and preserving its role as the premier U.S. basic science agency.

The bill as advanced by the Committee includes several changes from the version originally introduced earlier in the spring, most notably to the levels of authorized funding. Amendments were passed increasing funding for the agency overall as well as altering the budget of the new directorate. For example, the original bill proposed that the budget of the new Science and Engineering Solutions (SES) Directorate grow to 33 percent of NSF’s total research budget by FY 2026; the revision slows the growth of the new directorate to 23 percent of total NSF research expenditures. This welcomed change would allow for additional funds to be authorized for other activities, including STEM education.

Additional provisions were added to address ongoing concerns about research security, especially with respect to China. New provisions include a prohibition on “malign federal talent recruitment programs,” development of research security training modules for federal grantees, and increased disclosure from universities around researchers’ foreign appointments, employment, and other activities.

Also of note, the House bill now includes the creation of a National Secure Data Service within NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. The bill would authorize $9 million to establish a demonstration project to develop, refine, and test models to inform the creation of government-wide data linkage and access infrastructure for statistical activities, as recommended by the U.S. Commission on Evidence Based Policy Making.

Several additional provisions were added related to STEM education, fostering a more diverse research enterprise, and authorization of research in areas of particular interest to Committee members, such as agriculture, clean water, wildfires, and others.

The latest version of the NSF for the Future Act can be viewed on the Committee website here along with all of the passed amendments. COSSA will continue to report on the progress of H.R. 2225 and other NSF-related legislation (see related article).

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 22), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House Science Committee Discusses NSF’s Future

As previously reported, leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee introduced the National Science Foundation for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) earlier this spring. Over the last several weeks, the Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a series of hearings to discuss the bill and, more generally, “Advancing Research for the Future of U.S. Innovation.” On April 28, the hearing featured NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan and Chair of the National Science Board Ellen Ochoa. A second hearing featuring stakeholders of NSF funding, including representatives from research universities and the private sector, occurred on May 6. COSSA issued a statement in support of the NSF for the Future Act on May 7, applauding the bill for its comprehensive approach to strengthening NSF, enhancing its budget, and preserving its role as the premier U.S. basic science agency.

Throughout both hearings, Subcommittee members from both parties expressed strong bipartisan support for NSF and especially its basic science mission. The NSF for the Future Act proposes creation of a new Science and Engineering Solutions Directorate, which would be tasked with supporting more “use-inspired” research and translating basic research findings into solutions to address societal challenges. Both Democratic and Republican members of the Subcommittee stressed the importance of taking a careful and deliberate approach in setting up a new function so as to not harm NSF’s gold-standard basic research activities. Several members made references to the very different approach being taken in the Senate with the Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260), which is seeking to invest $100 billion directly into a new technology-focused directorate while making few other investments in the agency. See COSSA’s full coverage for details. Subcommittee Chair Haley Stevens (D-MI) made special note of the unique opportunity before us in which there is strong bipartisan support for significantly enhancing NSF’s budget.

Over the two hearings, Republican lawmakers focused their remarks and questions on the need to enhance competition with China and address research security concerns. Several argued that the best way to do that is through regular, strategic investments over the long term as opposed to a one-time infusion of funding that will be impossible to sustain, again a nod to the Endless Frontier Act.

In addition, several lawmakers discussed the need to enhance the U.S. scientific workforce and asked about NSF’s efforts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many also discussed the need for additional investment in STEM education at the elementary level and for better mentoring and graduate training.

Recordings of both Science Committee hearings are available on the committee’s website. The Research and Technology Subcommittee plans to mark up the NSF for the Future Act on May 13, after which it will go to the full committee for consideration. In addition, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a markup of the Endless Frontier Act for May 12. It remains unclear how or if the relevant sides plan to work out the differences between their respective bills. Stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage for more as these bills move forward.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 11), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Competing NSF Bills Introduced in House and Senate

As previously reported, leadership of the House Science Committee introduced the NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) on March 26. The bill seeks to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) through FY 2026 and proposes more than doubling the agency’s budget over that period. The legislation also proposes the creation of a new research directorate, the Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions (SES), which 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” (see press release).

Meanwhile, competing legislation has been reintroduced in the Senate. The Endless Frontier Act (S. 1260), legislation that originally surfaced in 2020 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), was reintroduced on April 20. While this bill also seeks to create a new directorate at NSF, that is largely where the similarities end between the two bills. The primary purpose of the Endless Frontier Act is to shore up U.S. leadership in key technology areas—specifically with respect to China—and to enhance “tech transfer” for scientific research funded by the federal government. To accomplish these goals, the bill would authorize $100 billion over five years for a new Technology and Innovation Directorate at NSF. Unlike the House bill, S. 1260 would not provide an overall authorization or increased funding for NSF, just the new directorate.

COSSA has prepared a side-by-side comparison of provisions relevant to the social sciences in the two bills, which is available here.

The Endless Frontier Act is scheduled for mark up by the Senate Commerce Committee on April 28. At this time, it remains unclear if or how the differences between the bills will be reconciled or whether either will advance any further. COSSA is closely monitoring the legislation and will report on new developments. In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about either bill.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 27), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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)

House Republicans Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Science Agencies

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act (H.R. 5685), a bill to reauthorize science agencies, on January 29. Science Committee Democrats are working on their own science agency reauthorization legislation, but details have not yet been released for the agencies most important to the social sciences. COSSA will report on the majority’s proposals when they are released.

The Republicans’ legislation proposes doubling basic research funding over the next ten years at the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The legislation also includes support for clean energy infrastructure, resources for growing the STEM workforce, and modernization of Antarctic science and conservation programs.

The minority’s bill would increase NSF’s budget, which is currently just over $8 billion, to more than $14 billion by 2029 and recognizes the importance of the agency’s support for fundamental research across all disciplines of science and engineering. Additionally, the bill directs NSF to undergo several specific activities including, developing ethics and security plans for research, supporting more mid-scale research infrastructure, and awarding grants to support research and training related to scientific reproducibility. The bill also proposes an external review of NSF’s structure and support for cross-disciplinary research.

While the bill includes several marked changes from Republican science reauthorization proposals of the past, it is not likely to be taken up by the Science, Space, and Technology Committee or the full House of Representatives, which are both under Democratic control. However, it is possible that provisions from the Republican bill could make it into legislation developed by the Democrats. More information about the bill and a copy of the legislation, can be viewed on the Science Committee Republican’s website.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NSF Announces new STEM Education Advisory Panel

The National Science Foundation (NSF), along with the Department of Education, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the appointment of 18 members of the new science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education advisory panel on July 11. The panel, authorized by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, was created to encourage U.S. scientific and technological innovations in education.  Gabriela Gonzalez, deputy director of the Intel Foundation at the Intel Corporation, will chair the panel and David Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, will serve as vice chair. More information and a complete list of panel members can be found on the NSF website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 24), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Commerce Committee Hears Updates from NSF, NIST Leaders

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation featured Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Dr. Walter Copan, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in a hearing on January 30 to examine the implementation of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA). AICA was signed into law during the final days of the Obama Administration in January 2017. AICA’s priorities included maximizing basic research, improving STEM education, and encouraging commercialization and technology transfer opportunities. Both NSF and NIST have taken many steps toward implementing the law including increasing oversight and accountability at both agencies and emphasizing the priorities of the act at their agencies. Dr. Córdova’s written testimony included a complete analysis of the steps NSF has taken to comply with the policy directives in the AICA.

During the hearing, Senators from both parties expressed concern about the U.S. being surpassed by China and other countries in terms of funding for science and innovation and called for continued diligence on the part of Congress and federal science agencies to maintain the U.S.’s position as the world’s leading innovator. Many Senators also discussed the importance of extending research opportunities and STEM education to diverse populations including community colleges, colleges and universities in EPSCoR states, minority communities, and women.

Back to this issue’s table of contents.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 6), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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