Bill to bolster undergrad science and math education also approved

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After hearing unanimous praise from a panel of academic researchers, the Science Committee’s Research Subcommittee passed by voice vote a bill that would place the National Science Foundation (NSF) on a track to double the agency’s budget in five years. The panel adopted one amendment by voice vote, renaming H.R. 4664 the “Investing in America’s Future Act.”

“While I generally maintain a philosophy of limited government and I intend to continue to push for increased private investment in research, I think tax funded basic research has been a very worthwhile investment,” said Subcommittee Chairman Nick Smith (R-MI), the bill’s sponsor. “Continuing our support of basic research forms the building blocks for the applied research that keeps our security, health, and economy strong.”

“In moving toward doubling, we are returning to the vision that Vannevar Bush laid out in the 1940s, when he proposed a science agency that would be the preeminent funder of science for the federal government, with responsibilities across many areas of inquiry and application. Fifty-two years later, NSF is honorably attempting to fulfill that vision. We need to ensure that it succeeds,” said Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).

Subcommittee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) added, “Many of today’s scientific breakthroughs are the direct result of investments made in basic research decades ago.ÊÊ If we want future Americans to enjoy the pace of progress that we are blessed with today, it is imperative that we bolster funding for our nation’s premier basic research agency, the National Science Foundation. H.R. 4664 makes a strong statement about our commitment to invest in America’s future, and I am pleased to see the Research Subcommittee endorsing an initiative I have advocated for some time.”

Witnesses at a hearing on the bill echoed Dr. Jerome Friedman from MIT who said, “I believe that this subcommittee is showing great wisdom by supporting a 15 percent increase for the NSF budget in each of the next three years.”Ê

The Subcommittee also approved by voice vote H.R. 3130, the Undergraduate Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education Improvement Act. An amendment was adopted that builds on the “Tech Talent Act” (H.R. 3130 as introduced) and establishes or enhances programs at NSF to expand the number of U.S. students pursuing science, math, engineering and technology education. Among other things, the bill creates grants to increase the number and quality of graduates in these fields, encourages institutional reform at schools to place a higher value on faculty participation in undergraduate education and establishes grants for undergrad institutions to purchase research-grade equipment.

Rep. Johnson said, “A serious concern that motivated this legislation is that too few students are moving toward careers in science and technology, and that the trend for the future is for flat or declining numbers of students in fields that are important to the economy. One important component for dealing with this problem for the long-term, which H.R. 3130 addresses, is to increase participation in science, math and engineering by minorities now underrepresented in these career fields.

“The Tech Talent Act will address a problem that has been brought to my attention countless times by constituents, university professors, high-tech industry executives, government officials and numerous individuals: that in this country, the pipeline which pumps talented and imaginative minds and skills and connects them to the needs of the country’s socio-economic and security enterprise is broken. The pipeline is broken and it threatens the competitive edge we enjoy in the business of technological innovation. This bill will help fix that pipeline by spurring anew the interest of our youth in selecting fields that will propel the future growth of this country,” said Rep. John Larson (D-CT).

The measures are now cleared for consideration by the Full Committee, which plans to take up the bills before Memorial Day.

Witness testimony, bill information and an archived web cast of the hearing and mark-up can be found at the Science Committee website at