On May 20, the US House of Representatives is scheduled to consider the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2015. the bill, introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) on April 15, would reauthorize the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Office of Science and Technology Policy for FY 2016 and 2017. The full Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved the bill on a party line vote on Wednesday, April 22.
The intent of the original America Competes bill was to bolster the U.S.’s position in the world and increase its investment in science and technology, including basic research and STEM education. The bill was based on a National Academy of Sciences report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, which received bipartisan support in Congress when it was released in 2007. A follow up report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited, was published in 2010 and expressed concern that the U.S .was not acting quickly or strongly enough to maintain its position as a global leader in science and technology.
While the reauthorization bill currently under consideration would provide small increases for some research, it includes several provisions that the Biophysical Society finds troubling. Specifically, the bill funds NSF by directorate rather than as a whole, allowing Congress to direct funding to areas of science that it finds most worthy. In the case if this reauthorization bill, it significantly cuts funding for social and behavioral science and geophysical science research at the NSF. The bill also requires NSF to explain how each individual grant funded by the agency is in the national interest. At the Department of Energy, funding is to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) would be cut significantly.
The Biophysical Society sent letters to Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), as well leaders of the House, opposing the bill as written. The Coalition for National Science Funding and the Energy Sciences Coalition, both coalitions of which the Society is a member, also released statements opposing the bill.
The individuals Congress really needs to hear from though, are its constituent scientists. Please take this opportunity to let your Congressman/woman know you oppose this legislation. You can do so here.