On the heels of legislation to improve K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education (H.R. 362) and strengthen support for basic research (H.R. 363), the House of Representatives approved two bills authorizing appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Science and Technology (NIST) through fiscal year (FY) 2010.

The National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1867), which passed 399-17, would authorize NSF from $6.5 billion in FY 2008 to $7.5 billion in FY 2010. Twelve amendments were considered during debate on the House floor 2 May 2007. Of the few amendments adopted by the House was a measure from Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) to allow NSF to develop K-12 educational materials about global warming and climate science and another from Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) that would permit the NSF to augment IGERT grants to train graduate students in communicating the results of their research to non-scientific audiences. Congressional observers will note that the Matsui amendment is similar to H.R. 1453, a bill introduced by Rep. Matsui on 9 March 2007 to support communications training for science graduate students. Amendments by Reps. John Campbell (R-CA) and Scott Garrett (R-NJ) to prohibit funding to nine already funded grants in the Social, Behavior, and Economics (SBE) directorate- including those related to research on the accuracy of cross-cultural understanding of other’s emotions, bison hunting on the late prehistoric Great Plains, and the social relationships and reproductive strategies of Phayre’s Leaf Monkeys - were defeated.

According to House Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA), “With passage of this bill, the House of Representatives took an important step to ensure that we increase job opportunities here at home; promote new technologies; bolster research opportunities; and prevent our country falling further and further behind.”

On 3 May 2007, the Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act of 2007 (H.R. 1868) passed the House by a vote of 385-23. H.R. 1868 is the first full reauthorization bill for NIST since 1992. The bill would authorize NIST from $803 million in FY 2008 to $890 million in FY 2010. Specifically, H.R. 1868 would set funding for NIST labs on a 10-year doubling path and fund upgrades for laboratory facilities. Additionally, the bill would increase support for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program and replace the Advanced Technology Program with the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), a cost-sharing program intended to promote high-risk, high-reward research. In response to criticism expressed by the White House in a Statement of Administration Policy, a Manager’s amendment was offered by Rep. David Wu (D-OR), Chairman of the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee, and accepted by voice vote on the House floor to ensure that the TIP program would award grants for research that “addresses critical national needs.”

The challenge for Congress will be reconciling differences between the related science and innovation bills recently passed in the House (H.R. 362, H.R. 363, H.R. 1867, H.R. 1868) with the single bill, America COMPETES (S. 761), passed by the Senate on 25 April 2007; See http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/20070430.html.

 


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