(Washington, DC) – Supporting innovation and competitiveness through improved basic research; science and math education; and technology development and transfer was the focus as the House Committee on Science & Technology reported bills today reauthorizing both the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“Each of these bills addresses issues at the core of our economic health and prosperity,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “I’m glad my colleagues understand the important role that both of these agencies play in our nation’s ability to innovate and to inspire future generations of innovators.” 

H.R. 1867, the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007, authorizes $21 billion for the National Science Foundation for FY08-FY10.

The bill would:

  • Keep NSF on a 10-year doubling path;
  • Establish a pilot program of one-year seed grants for new investigators to help improve funding rates for young investigators and stimulate higher-risk research;
  • Encourage NSF to foster relationships between academia and industry in order to spawn U.S. competitiveness; and
  • Further the agency’s traditions of education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields by increasing funding for certain NSF education programs including programs authorized under H.R. 362, “10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds” Math and Science Scholarship Act.”

  “As we see high-paying jobs outsourced, our children graduating high school well behind their international peers in understanding of basic science, China surging ahead in export of high-tech products – it has finally sunk in.  Funding basic research and teaching our kids math and science has a huge impact on our economy, on our competitiveness, on the wellbeing of our population, and on national security,” said Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education which reported H.R. 1867 on April 19.

The following amendments to H.R. 1867 were offered and adopted by the Committee:

– A Manager’s amendment by Rep. Baird – containing clarifying changes as well as the following:

  • Adds permission in Sec. 3 for a waiver of cost-sharing on MRI grants for consortia of institutions that include at least one undergraduate institution;
  • Adds eligibility for Centers in Sec. 4 for certain nonprofit organizations;
  • Allows the Director to award up to three Waterman Awards per year;
  • Clarifies charge to National Academy of Sciences in Sec. 18 report on minorities in STEM fields.

– An amendment by Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) to set the cap on MRI awards under Sec. 3(d) at $4 million, or $6 million if the total MRI program budget exceeds $125 million.

– An amendment by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) to strike specific allocation in Sec. 3 for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, instead requiring increases for REU in proportion to the total research budget.

The NSF is unique among the federal government’s scientific research agencies in that it supports science and engineering across all disciplines. Each year, NSF supports an average of about 200,000 scientists, engineers, educators and students at universities, laboratories and field sites all over the U.S. and throughout the world.

H.R. 1868, the Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act of 2007, is the first full reauthorization of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology since 1991. It authorizes $2.5 billion for NIST for FY08-FY10.

This bipartisan bill would:

  • Increase funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a public-private partnership which leverages federal, state and private investments to implement and stimulate new manufacturing processes and technologies.  Funding for MEP would be scheduled to double within 10 years;
  • Replace the Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which was eliminated from the President’s FY08 budget request, with the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), to better reflect global innovation competition by funding high-risk, high-reward, pre-competitive technology development, focusing on small and medium-sized companies;
  • Set the funding of research labs at NIST on a ten-year path to doubling;
  • Provide construction funding to complete much-needed lab upgrades.

  “For over 100 years, NIST has made important contributions to public safety, industrial competitiveness and economic growth through standards and measurements. This legislation will ensure that NIST remains a key part of American innovation in the next 100 years,” said Rep. David Wu (D-OR), who chairs the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Wu and Subcommittee Members approved H.R. 1868 on April 19.

The following amendments to H.R. 1868 were offered and adopted by the Committee:

– An amendment by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) clarifying that national laboratories and nonprofit research institutes may participate in Technology Innovation Program projects.

– An amendment by Rep. Gingrey to authorize NIST to enter into a limited number of personal services contracts to obtain scientific and technical staff on a temporary basis.

– An amendment by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Gingrey to raise the maximum number of awards under the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award Program to 18 and eliminate category restrictions.

Members also cleared two commemoratives recognizing the achievements of scientific researchers.

The Committee passed H.Con.Res. 95, Honoring the career and research accomplishments of Frances E. Allen, the 2006 recipient of the A.M. Turing Award, introduced by Committee Member Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

In February 2007, Frances E. Allen became the first woman to receive the prestigious Turing Award for computing in its 40-year history. H.Con.Res. 95 recognizes her achievements in computer research and development while working at IBM Corporation, and salutes the Turing Award Committee for recognizing the contributions of women to the field of computing.

H.Res. 316, Recognizing the accomplishments of Roger D. Kornberg, Andrew Fire, Craig Mello, John C. Mather and George F. Smoot for being awarded Nobel Prizes in the fields of chemistry, physiology or medicine and physics, was introduced by Committee Member Jerry McNerney (D-CA).

In 2006, scientists from the United States swept the Nobel Prize science awards for the first time in 20 years. H.Res.316 recognizes and congratulates them for their significant achievements in their respective fields of scientific research.

These bills are expected to move to the full House for consideration in the coming weeks.