Controversial Congressional Science Funding Legislation Moves Forward
The science committee of the US House of Representatives has voted down amendments that would have softened restrictions and funding cuts in the FIRST Act.
May 29, 2014
On Wednesday evening, the House Science Space and Technology committee advanced a controversial piece of science legislation. The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act of 2014, known as the FIRST Act, would authorize a slight one-year increase in funding for the National Science Foundation, NIST, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, but imposes a number of new restrictions on the NSF's grant awarding process and cuts funding for the social sciences.
Numerous science advocates and scientific societies, including the APS, have criticized the proposed legislation for its new restrictions and cuts. According to the bill, scientists applying for an NSF grant will have to demonstrate how their research benefits the economy or protects the national security of the United States. In addition, the bill would limit the number of times a researcher can receive an NSF grant, the duration of the grant, and how many research citations a scientist can use in their grant application.
At the markup session Wednesday night, Democrats on the committee offered a number of amendments attempting to soften many of these controversial provisions, but all were voted down along party lines. The bill was reported favorably out of committee by a voice vote.
The committee adopted an amendment offered by republican Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) that cut an additional $50 million from the NSF's directorate for social, behavioral, and economic science, in addition to the $56 million reduction already in the bill. The directorate's current budget is $256 million.
Right now, there are no votes scheduled in the full House on the bill and it is unclear if there will be one scheduled before the end of the year. There is no directly corresponding bill in the Democrat-controlled Senate where the legislation would be unable to gain much traction.