Washington D.C. – Today in a hearing of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France Córdova declared her support for a legislative effort to promote a “national interest standard” for taxpayer-funded research grants that is aligned with the original 1950 legislation that created the NSF. The hearing also focused broadly on the fiscal year 2016 budget proposals for NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Our challenge is to set funding priorities that ensure America remains first in the global marketplace of ideas and products, without misusing the American people’s hard-earned tax dollars. I applaud the efforts by NSF to improve transparency and accountability. It appears the new NSF policy parallels a significant provision of the FIRST Act approved by this Committee last fall.”

The FIRST Act provision would require NSF to publish a justification for each funded grant that sets forth the project’s scientific merit and national interest. NSF’s new policy acknowledges the need for agency to communicate clearly and in non-technical terms when the agency describes the research projects it funds. The new policy also emphasizes that the title and abstract for each funded grant should act as the public justification for NSF funding.

In a question posed to Dr. Córdova, Chairman Smith asked if she supported a legislative effort that would create a “national interest standard” for taxpayer-funded research grants. Dr. Córdova said the national interest provision in the FIRST Act is “very similar and compatible with NSF’s internal guidelines.” 

Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.): “Basic research is about good jobs and a secure future.  We want to be strong advocates for federal support of basic research that advances science in the national interest. But in this budget environment, just maintaining the current level of basic research support is a big challenge. We have a constitutional obligation and a responsibility to ensure every dollar allocated for scientific research is spent as effectively and efficiently as possible.

“This Committee has a long, bipartisan record of support for NIST and its contributions to research and development.  Just last year the House passed a bipartisan reauthorization of the Institute.  But a 30 percent increase will be difficult to achieve and would require significant changes in other areas.”

The fiscal year 2016 budget request for NSF totals $7.7 billion, an increase of five percent over the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. The fiscal year 2016 budget request for NIST totals $1.1 billion, an increase of $255 million or almost 30 percent from the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. The requested increase at NIST would be devoted in large part to bolster advanced manufacturing initiatives.

For more information on today’s hearing, including witness testimony and a link to the archived webcast, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website