The National Science Board, the oversight advisory board of the National Science Foundation (NSF), recently released a statement in opposition to the FIRST Act, which is under consideration in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. The FIRST Act aims to reauthorize programs at NSF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the White House Office of Standards and Technology (OSTP), and is a follow-up to the America COMPETES Act, of which SWE has been a strong supporter.
This is a rare public response to a piece of legislation currently under consideration by Congress.
Signed by 23 members of the NSB, who are mostly university scientists and administrators, the statement begins, “The National Science Board (NSB) appreciates the historic strong commitment of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and to the research that NSF supports. In the face of global challenges to our Nation’s scientific leadership, NSF must maintain an unwavering focus on enabling scientific breakthroughs and on supporting the next generation of scientists. These scientists’ discoveries will underpin the health of the United States long into the future, especially with respect to its economic growth, prosperity and security.
However, we are concerned that elements of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act do not advance those goals. In fact, some of its provisions and tone suggest that Congress intends to impose constraints that would compromise NSF’s ability to fulfill its statutory purpose. Some elements of the bill would also impose significant new burdens on scientists that would not be offset by gains to the nation. Our greatest concern is that the bill's specification of budget allocations to each NSF Directorate would significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas in fulfillment of its mission to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes.”
To read the statement in its entirety, please visit the National Science Board website.
In his response to media sources looking for comment, House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) remained adamant, saying the NSF’s "last-minute" promises of improved transparency and accountability were "too little, too late."