Washington Update

FASEB Submits Comments to Congress on NSF Reauthorization Bills

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, July 22, 2021

In response to the work of the House Science, Commerce, and Transportation Committee, as well as various Senate committees, to not only reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) but also to enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. globally, the FASEB Board approved a letter on July 6 that offered recommendations for improving the proposed legislation. NSF provides approximately 25 percent of the federal support for basic research conducted at academic institutions. It is also the only agency in the federal research ecosystem that bridges multiple scientific and behavioral disciplines.

Areas of the broader bills addressed in FASEB’s letter included the establishment of a new directorate at NSF with a translational focus; capacity building for developing universities through partnerships; research reproducibility and replicability; training for faculty in support of student success; foreign talent recruitment; graduate research fellowship and education; combatting sexual harassment in science; administrative burden on researchers; data management; and the creation of a chief diversity officer position. It also applauded the inclusion of other bills FASEB has supported, such as the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act, which establishes a NSF pilot program to support early-career researchers. However, FASEB’s letter noted that the broader bill did not include the $250 million authorized appropriation proposed in the Early-Career Researchers Act and urged that this funding be added to any conferenced version. The Research Investment to Spark the Economy Act of 2021 was added too.  Policymakers were advised that the Senate bill, S. 1260, the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA), did not provide authorized funding levels where the stand alone bills H.R. 869  and its companion S. 289 did. This supplemental funding is needed to support researchers impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency whose research was detrimentally impacted due to lab and university shutdowns.

Each NSF-focused bill, H.R. 2225, National Science Foundation for the Future Act  and the Senate Commerce, Space and Transportation Committee’s S. 1260, USICA, have been voted on in their respective chambers. The expectation is that there will be a bill that combines various features of each bill into one that both chambers can agree on during the fall legislative session.