Surprisingly, A GOP Bill Claims One Thing and Then Does the Opposite: The COMPETES Act Edition

Consider the NSF is a government agency, this is pretty harsh language about the COMPETES Act (boldface mine; emphasis original):

H.R. 1806 (Section 102) recognizes that “the Foundation has made major contributions for more than 60 years to strengthen and sustain the Nation’s academic research enterprise” and “carries out important functions by supporting basic research in all science and engineering disciplines and in supporting STEM education at all levels.”

It has been widely anticipated that a new authorizing act would enable actions to enhance the nation’s competitiveness through science and innovation. In fact, H.R. 1806 provides findings that support the major ingredients to achieve this–including interdisciplinary research, international partnerships, and the enhancement of a STEM workforce. Yet the specific actions H.R. 1806 proposes contradict these findings….

•H.R. 1806 (Section 102) states that “many of the complex problems and challenges facing the Nation increasingly require the collaboration of multiple scientific disciplines. The Foundation should continue to emphasize cross-directorate research collaboration and activities to address these issues and encourage interdisciplinary research.” This finding contradicts the specific authorizations of Section 101, which would significantly constrain interdisciplinary research. In this section, the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA) is hard hit with a proposed 18% decline from the request, which becomes even more severe if funding for EPSCoR (which would comprise 44% of the budget of OIA through H.R. 1806) is maintained. One of the main objectives of OIA is to fund interdisciplinary research, notably through Science and Technology Centers and Major Research Instrumentation across the disciplines. Both of these activities are essential to all of the fields that NSF supports.

•The U.S. can ill afford to lose its edge in educating a STEM workforce. H.R. 1806 (Section 103) includes “expanding the pool of scientists and engineers in the United States, including among segments of the populations that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields.” Section 112 of this bill is wholly devoted to “expanding STEM opportunities.” Yet H.R. 1806 would cut the budget line for the Directorate for Education and Human Resources by 10%. This is the Directorate which significantly funds the developing STEM workforce and STEM education, and drives new approaches that would broaden participation in STEM fields by people of all backgrounds. With this and the cut to OIA, more than 250 Graduate Research Fellowships are at risk, limiting support for students identified as the future innovators of the U.S.

I’m shocked that the Republicans would claim to support initiatives that they starve for funding. Then again, this is the party that doesn’t view geology as a core science, so it’s par for the course.

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