by Kris Johnson
Jeffrey Mervis reported in Science last week that the National Science Board, a presidentially appointed board that has oversight to the NSF, has released a response to the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act (FIRST). The NSB’s comments are in response to a bill (HR 4186) proposed by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) which imposes requirements to tell NSF how to review grant proposals and make NSF more accountable and transparent. The NSB argues that FIRST will impede NSF’s ability to be flexible in funding projects central to its mission. Effectively the FIRST bill is step by which Congress can specify budget allocations to specific directorates potentially defunding research not felt to be important by the congressional science committee. The NSB identifies new processes and procedures to enhance transparency that have been adopted by the NSB and NSF. This public statement is unique in the history of the NSB which customarily does not have public comment.