On 15 July 2010, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced legislation that would reauthorize the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act. Like the measure passed by the House of Representatives in June (H.R. 5116), Rockefeller’s legislation (S. 3605) would seek to stimulate innovation and improve science education by increasing funding authorizations for federal agencies that support basic research. However, there are several differences between the House and Senate bills.

The current Senate legislation is broader in scope than H.R. 5116. Like H.R. 5116, the Rockefeller plan includes authorizations for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). However, S. 3605 also includes policy provisions regarding education programs at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Additionally, NOAA’s research and development program would be codified in law.

The Senate bill would authorize funding for a three year period, instead of the five years in H.R. 5116. Moreover, the funding path for NSF increases more rapidly in the Senate bill: $9.943 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2013 versus $10.161 billion in FY 2015 in the House’s version.

Notably for the natural science collections community, the Senate bill includes language regarding the management, use, and access to federal scientific collections. Like the House-passed legislation, S. 3605 would require the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a policy “to improve the quality, organization, access, including online access, and long-term preservation of [federally held] collections for the benefit of the scientific enterprise.” Significantly, the Senate bill would also require that the plan be developed in consultation with non-federal collections.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee could consider the legislation as early as this week. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee are also expected to contribute to the legislation.


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