Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Thursday, May 12, 2022
Hearings Explore National Science Foundation’s Fiscal Year 2023 Funding Request 

This month, a series of hearings began on Capitol Hill in defense of the president’s budget for fiscal year 2023 as a lead up to appropriations subcommittees and full committee markups in both chambers expected this summer. Of particular interest to FASEB was the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) presentation before the Senate Appropriations Committee Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (CJS). Written testimony from NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, PhD,  was further elucidated by probing questions. Sen. Braun (R-IN) was particularly concerned about how the United States was protecting research from China. Panchananthan said he was very sensitive to this issue and has been partnering with the intelligence agencies and other agencies like NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for an all-of-government approach. In fact, NSF coordinates with DOE, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and National Institutes of Health to make sure that policies that are established are consistent across the board for all researchers in institutions. Additionally, NSF has developed analytic software that can make sure funded investigators are declaring their conflicts.

CJS Subcommittee Chair Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) was assured that EPSCoR states will be part of NSF's large-scale programs like science and technology centers, engineering research centers, midscale, infrastructure, and AI institutes. With the funding proposed by the president’s budget, NSF could increase its average grant size from $200,000 to $240,000. However, NSF has a goal of growing its average grant to $300,000. Additionally, NSF could fund 2,800 more proposals with the amount requested in the president’s budget. The director saw this inability to fund worthy proposals as a national security issue, not merely one of leaving curiosity driven research unfunded. Sen. Moran (R-KS), ranking member of CJS, brought up how the NSF budget proposes $880 million for the continued establishment of the Technology, Innovation, Partnership (TIP) directorate, which is now about 20 percent of the total amount that is being requested for research. He wanted to know whether NSF was balancing the creation of the TIP directorate while preserving its basic research foundation. Panchanathan said that the translation work of the TIP directorate is complementary to the exploratory science of NSF with each enhancing the growth of the other, comparing it to the two sides of DNA, where one side is translational and the other exploratory. He did not see it as taking away from basic research funded by NSF.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Subcommittee held a hearing with the acting director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the directors of selected institutes (NICHHD, NIAID, NHLBI, NCI, NIDA) on May 11. Also, Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) announced NIH would come before the Senate Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee on May 17 at 10 am.