In DepthScience Policy

Debate sharpens over proposed criteria for NSF grants

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Science  29 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6238, pp. 956
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6238.956

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The phrase "in the national interest" sounds innocuous, but it lies at the heart of a heated, 2-year debate between lawmakers and science advocates about how Congress should oversee research funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF). That debate was at full boil last week, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act, which sets policy for NSF and two other federal research agencies, and the House Appropriations Committee adopted a 2016 spending bill that includes NSF. Both actions aim to ensure that everything NSF funds will be "in the national interest," according to the influential Texas legislators behind the two bills, representatives Lamar Smith and John Culberson. But many scientists believe that the bills, if enacted without any changes, would have disastrous consequences.