The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has approved a bill that many in the scientific community have expressed deep concerns about. The “Frontiers in Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014” was passed on 28 May 2014.

The bill would reauthorize programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), as well as implement new policies. Some of these new policy provisions are worrisome to scientific societies and to universities, including:

  • The overall authorization for NSF of $7.3 billion in fiscal year 2015. This is roughly $120 million less than the funding level recently passed by the House of Representatives.
  • The specification of funding levels for each research directorate at NSF. Congress has not traditionally specified this amount of detail in past authorization bills or in annual appropriation bills.
  • Cuts the funding authorization for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorate to $150 million, which about 40 percent less than the 2014 enacted level.
  • Makes it more difficult for scientists who have received more than five years of NSF support to receive new grants.
  • New requirement for researchers funded by NSF to not falsify or fabricate data or plagiarize others’ work. (The concern here is that the provision signals a fundamental mistrust of scientists and that the requirement is duplicative of existing federal authority.)

Democrats on the committee offered numerous amendments to remove or modify the most controversial provisions of H.R. 4186, but these amendments were defeated.

 


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