The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is currently considering legislation to reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF). Although past efforts by Congress regarding innovation have largely been non-contentious and bipartisan, the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act of 2013” has been received with some concern by the research community.

For one, the draft bill put forth by the panel’s majority members would require the director of NSF to certify that new grants are in the national interest, worthy of federal funding, and achieve one of six broad goals, which range from advancing the progress of science to increased partnerships with industry to support for the national defense. Dr. Richard Buckius, Vice President for Research at Purdue University, expressed concern about this provision at a Science Committee’s hearing last week. He said that one person is not all knowing enough to make this determination. Another witness at the hearing, Dr. Daniel Sarewitz, Co-Director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University, feared that the program officer or NSF director would become a “rubber stamp” for making these determinations.

NSF would also be required to publish online a written justification for the funding and the name of the employee who made the determination.

Other policy provisions in the bill indicate a fundamental level of mistrust of scientists. One provision of concern to researchers is a requirement that each principle investigator would have to sign a statement certifying that publications will be based on “an accurate and truthful representation of the research results.” Another draft policy would limit funding for scientists who have received more than five years of NSF funding after their training was completed; these researchers would only be able to receive new funding from NSF if “they will be contributing substantial original research under the grant.” Lastly, peer review panels would be limited to considering only five citations to articles per grant.

Research Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN) made assurances at the hearing that he would take “a true bipartisan approach” to improving the legislation.


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