Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Early-Career Researchers Act Is Amended to Increase Diversity

As the Senate worked on final passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (H.R. 1319), the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee marked up H.R. 144, Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act. All amendments proposed by committee members were adopted. The amendments focused on ensuring that the National Science Foundation (NSF) pilot program for such researchers could improve national security, give U.S. citizens and permanent residents priority for participation, expand the pool of applicants, and require a report to Congress upon conclusion of the pilot for further decision-making.

Representative Mike Garcia (R-CA) offered the first amendment to secure America’s defense with early-career researchers playing a critical role in the development of advanced technologies to maintain military superiority. The additional amendments reiterated the definition of a Qualified Institution of Higher Education and mandated that the NSF Director select grantees from among U.S. citizens, nationals, and lawfully admitted permanent resident aliens.

Another amendment directed the NSF Director to conduct program outreach to recruit fellowship applicants from all regions of the country; from historically underrepresented populations in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; and who graduate from or intend to carry out research at a variety of types of higher education institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and higher education institutions that are not among the top 50 institutions in annual federal funding for research. It was also recommended that NSF should give special consideration to applicants graduating from or intending to carry out research at an institution of the type previously listed.

In the last amendment, a report to Congress was ordered after the conclusion of the second year of the pilot program that includes statistical summary data on fellowship awardees disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, age, years since completion of doctoral degree, and institution type; an assessment, drawing on feedback from the research community and other sources of information, of the effectiveness of the pilot program for mitigating the loss of research talent due to the pandemic; and, if determined effective, a plan for permanent implementation of the pilot program.