In the Washington Watch article in the June 2007 issue of BioScience, Holly Menninger reports on recent congressional deliberations and initiatives to reauthorize the National Science Foundation. This and prior Washington Watch articles may be viewed for free at

The following is an excerpt from “Congress considers NSF authorization.”

Washington, DC, is abuzz with talk about innovation. Leaders in government, business, education, and science are calling for action to enhance the US science and technology enterprise for the 21st century. Both the White House and Congress-the former through the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), the latter through numerous legislative proposals-have proffered plans to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education; increase investments in research and development; and authorize federal research programs. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said, “To meet the challenges of today and to create the jobs and economic security of tomorrow, the time to act is now.”

Given that 68 percent of basic biological sciences research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), biologists are taking note that reauthorization of NSF is included in innovation measures moving through Congress. Nearly five years ago, Congress passed legislation that President Bush signed into law authorizing appropriations for NSF through fiscal year (FY) 2007. The National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-368) provided a bold framework for doubling funding from the $4.8 billion that NSF was appropriated in FY 2002 to $9.8 billion in FY 2007. As most biologists who have applied for NSF research funds are keenly aware, the agency’s budget-although faring better than those of many federal agencies-has not enjoyed that promised growth. Nevertheless, many in Congress continue to advocate for increased funding for NSF, and are using the need for reauthorization as a vehicle to press for new investments in NSF.

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