House Passes Controversial NSF Grant Certification Bill

By | February 18, 2016

On February 10, the House of Representatives passed Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293) by margin of 236-178 along a nearly party-line vote. The bill would place new, stricter requirements on the grant-making processes at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Specifically, the legislation mandates that the Foundation certify each grant to be “worthy of Federal funding” and fulfill other specific criteria in order to be awarded. The House passed legislation with similar requirements for NSF in May in the American COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806)

In response to the bill’s passage, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy indicating the President’s intention to veto the bill should it be presented to him. John Holdren, PhD, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, also issued a comment strongly criticizing the legislation for the potential harm it could inflict on the nation’s scientific enterprise. Holdren offered an eloquent defense of NSF’s existing merit review processes and the fundamental importance of basic research funded by NSF.

The Senate has yet to take up a version of the COMPETES bill or any similar legislation.