By Penny Riggs, ASAS Public Policy Committee Chair
August 29, 2016 – To invest in innovation through research and development, and to improve the competitiveness of the United States, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, S. 3084, was introduced in the Senate in June, with support of Senators Cory Gardner (R–CO), Gary Peters (D–MI), John Thune (R–SD), and Bill Nelson (D–FL). The bill was quickly passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation with strong bipartisan support. This important bill would benefit scientific research through language to maximize basic research and reform federal science agencies. By reducing administrative burdens for researchers, enhancing agency oversight, and improving research dissemination, this legislation aims to increase the return on investment for taxpayer-funded research.
As previously described in Taking Stock, the 2010 America COMPETES Act expired in 2013. The prior House version was called the FIRST Act. The current bill retains the existing peer review process of the National Science Foundation (NSF). As noted in Science, the inclusion of language to ease administrative burdens on campus-based research is “music to the ears of university officials,” as well as research faculty. Amendments added in committee to the current bill would authorize funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Other components of the bill call for awards for excellence in STEM mentoring, improved undergraduate STEM opportunities, and additional leveraging of private sector resources.
Although it is uncertain whether the bill will make it to the Senate floor this fall, American investment in basic scientific research clearly remains a critical need. As noted in this article in Taking Stock, research outcomes that enhance agricultural productivity are essential. Agricultural research can benefit from increased support of funding and fewer regulatory burdens across multiple federal research agencies.