On Friday (March 26), the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology introduced a bipartisan bill that outlines plans to more than double the National Science Foundation’s budget and create a new technology directorate.
“As countries around the world increase investments in research and STEM education, United States global leadership in science and engineering is eroding, posing significant risks to economic competitiveness, national security, and public well-being,” the bill states. “To address major societal challenges and sustain United States leadership in innovation, the Federal Government must increase investments in research.”
In 2021, the NSF received $8.5 billion to fund its seven directorates. The new legislation proposes to increase the agency’s annual budget up to $18.3 billion by 2026, part of which would go toward a new initiative called Science and Engineering Solutions. With a focus on turning basic research into new technologies and commercial products that would address societal issues and drive economic growth, the new directorate would receive $1 billion in 2022, growing to $5 billion per year by 2026, according to Science.
“To fully realize the potential of science to benefit society, we must fund more research on the questions that matter to the American people,” Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the science committee chair, says in a statement. “Our competitiveness with China and other nations drives much of the national discourse around innovation because our economic and national security depend on our leadership in science and technology. However, competitiveness with China will not be possible if we do not unleash our nation’s STEM talent on the full range of challenges we face.”
In some ways, the new bill is similar to the Endless Frontier Act introduced in June last year that sought to quadruple the NSF’s budget and redirect the agency toward “industries of the future,” such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, Science reported at the time.
While the National Science Foundation for the Future Act introduced by Johnson supports innovation in these industries through the proposed technology directorate, it also proposes to boost funding for all scientific disciplines that the agency supports and outlines measures to prevent funding tradeoffs between the new directorate and other NSF divisions, a concern of researchers who rely on NSF funding, according to Science last week.