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[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]


114th Congress     }                                   {      Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session        }                                   {       114-412
======================================================================



 
            SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST ACT

                                _______
                                

February 2, 2016.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

     Mr. Smith of Texas, from the Committee on Science, Space, and 
                  Technology, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                             MINORITY VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 3293]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, to whom 
was referred the bill (H.R. 3293) to provide for greater 
accountability in Federal funding for scientific research, to 
promote the progress of science in the United States that 
serves that national interest, having considered the same, 
reports favorably thereon without amendment and recommends that 
the bill do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Committee Statement and Views....................................     2
Section-by-Section...............................................     2
Explanation of Amendments........................................     3
Committee Consideration..........................................     3
Application of Law to the Legislative Branch.....................     3
Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the 
  Committee......................................................     3
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     3
Duplication of Federal Programs..................................     4
Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings..............................     4
Federal Advisory Committee Act...................................     4
Unfunded Mandate Statement.......................................     4
Earmark Identification...........................................     4
Committee Estimate...............................................     4
Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate...     4
Minority Views...................................................     6

                     Committee Statement and Views


                          PURPOSE AND SUMMARY

    H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest 
Act, is sponsored by Representative Lamar Smith, Chairman of 
the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. The purpose 
of the bill is to provide for greater accountability in Federal 
funding for scientific research at the National Science 
Foundation and to promote the progress of science in the United 
States that serves the national interest.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    Throughout its history, the NSF has played an integral role 
in funding breakthrough discoveries in fields as diverse as 
mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, engineering 
and biology. However, the Committee has expressed concern that 
the NSF has approved a number of grants for which the 
scientific merits and national interest are questionable, or at 
least not obvious.
    The NSF has recognized the need for increased transparency 
and accountability and in January 2015 established a policy 
requiring clear, non-technical explanations of each research 
grant and an explanation of how it supports the national 
interest. H.R. 3293 makes that commitment permanent and 
explicit.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    On May 20, 2015, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 
1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 by a 
vote of 217-205, which included the text of H.R. 3293 as 
section 106. On October 8, 2015, the House Science, Space and 
Technology Committee passed H.R. 3293 by voice vote.

                            COMMITTEE VIEWS

    The Committee believes that H.R. 3293 is consistent with 
the policy announced by the NSF in January 2015, emphasizing 
that the title and abstract for each funded grant should act as 
the public justification for NSF funding.
    The Committee recognizes the NSF's commitment to improving 
transparency, and believes that H.R. 3293 further ensures that 
NSF research funding is accountable to the American taxpayer by 
requiring that the NSF's public announcement of a grant award 
be accompanied by a non-technical explanation of the project's 
scientific merits and how it serves the national interest 
according to specific criteria.
    The Committee believes that H.R. 3293 does not change the 
Foundation's merit review process, as the bill states: 
``Nothing in this section shall be construed as altering the 
Foundation's intellectual merit or broader impacts criteria for 
evaluating grant applications.''

                           Section-by-Section


Section 1. Short title

    Scientific Research in the National Interest Act

Section 2. Greater accountability in Federal funding for research

    This section requires that the National Science Foundation 
make a determination that every research grant or cooperative 
agreement is worthy of Federal funding and is in the national 
interest as indicated by having the potential to achieve: 
promotion of the progress of science for the United States; 
increased economic competitiveness in the United States; 
advancement of the health and welfare of the American public; 
development of an American STEM workforce that is globally 
competitive; increased public scientific literacy and public 
engagement with science and technology in the United States; 
increased partnerships between academia and industry in the 
United States; or support for the national defense of the 
United States.
    This section requires that the public announcement of each 
award of Federal funding must include a written justification 
from the responsible Foundation official as to how a grant or 
cooperative agreement meets the accountability requirements.
    This section also instructs that nothing in the section 
shall be misconstrued as altering the Foundation's intellectual 
merit or broader impacts criteria for evaluating grant 
applications.

                       Explanation of Amendments

    No amendments were adopted.

                        Committee Consideration

    On October 8, 2015, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered reported favorably the bill, H.R. 3293, by voice vote, 
a quorum being present.

              Application of Law to the Legislative Branch

    Section 102(b)(3) of Public Law 104-1 requires a 
description of the application of this bill to the legislative 
branch where the bill relates to the terms and conditions of 
employment or access to public services and accommodations. 
This bill requires that the National Science Foundation make a 
determination that every research grant or cooperative 
agreement is worthy of Federal funding and is in the national 
interest. As such this bill does not relate to employment or 
access to public services and accommodations.

  Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the Committee

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest 
Act, would provide for greater accountability in Federal 
funding for scientific research at the National Science 
Foundation and promote the progress of science in the United 
States that serves the national interest.

                    Duplication of Federal Programs

    No provision of H.R. 3293 establishes or reauthorizes a 
program of the Federal Government known to be duplicative of 
another Federal program, a program that was included in any 
report from the Government Accountability Office to Congress 
pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139, or a program 
related to a program identified in the most recent Catalog of 
Federal Domestic Assistance.

                  Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings

    The Committee estimates that enacting H.R. 3293 does not 
direct the completion of any specific rule makings within the 
meaning of 5 U.S.C. 551.

                     Federal Advisory Committee Act

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not establish 
or authorize the establishment of an advisory committee within 
the definition of 5 U.S.C. App., Section 5(b).

                       Unfunded Mandate Statement

    Section 423 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment 
Control Act (as amended by Section 101(a)(2) of the Unfunded 
Mandate Reform Act, P.L. 104-4) requires a statement as to 
whether the provisions of the reported include unfunded 
mandates. In compliance with this requirement the Committee has 
received a letter from the Congressional Budget Office included 
herein.

                         Earmark Identification

    H.R. 3293 does not include any congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in 
clause 9 of rule XXI.

                           Committee Estimate

    Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the 
Committee of the costs that would be incurred in carrying out 
H.R. 3293. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) of that rule provides 
that this requirement does not apply when the Committee has 
included in its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the 
bill prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act.

     Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect 
to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has received 
the following cost estimate for H.R. 3293 from the Director of 
Congressional Budget Office:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                 Washington, DC, November 17, 2015.
Hon. Lamar Smith,
Chairman, Committee on Science, Space and Technology,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 3293, the 
Scientific Research in the National Interest Act.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Marin 
Burnett.
            Sincerely,
                                                        Keith Hall.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 3293--Scientific Research in the National Interest Act

    H.R. 3293 would require that new National Science 
Foundation (NSF) grants advance the national interest, as 
defined in the bill, before funding may be awarded by the 
agency. Examples of advancing the national interest would 
include increasing economic competitiveness, advancing the 
health and welfare of the public, or supporting the national 
defense of the United States. Under the legislation, NSF also 
would be required to make a public announcement of each award 
of federal funding and explain how it would advance those 
interests.
    The legislation would not change NSF's authority to make 
grants and, based on information from NSF, CBO expects that 
explaining how the agency's grants advance the national 
interest would not increase the foundation's administrative 
expenses.
    Enacting H.R. 3293 would not affect direct spending or 
revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. CBO 
estimates that enacting H.R. 3293 would not increase net direct 
spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 
10-year periods beginning in 2026.
    H.R. 3293 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Marin Burnett. 
The estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                             MINORITY VIEWS

    H.R. 3293 continues the Majority's efforts to impose a 
layer of political review on NSF's gold-standard merit-review 
system. Many in the Majority have been clear in their own 
belief that many grants that have successfully passed merit-
review are not worthy of federal funding, according to each of 
their own subjective definitions of ``worthy.'' And that 
determination most often seems to be based on how silly the 
title of a research grant seems to such Members.
    As the Ranking Democratic Member of the Committee on 
Science, Space, and Technology, I feel it is not our job nor 
our intent to defend every NSF grant. Most Members of Congress 
lack the relevant expertise to fairly evaluate the merits or 
value of any particular grant. We cannot state with certainty 
that every one of the 11,000 NSF grants awarded each year is 
worthy by any and all definitions, and, there may be room for 
debate on a few of those 11,000. However, the appropriate forum 
for that debate is the NSF's world renowned, and much 
replicated merit-review process, not the halls of Congress. If 
we do not trust the Nation's scientific experts to make that 
judgment on whether a scientific grant is worthy of funding or 
not, then who are we to trust? The clear intent of this bill is 
to change how NSF makes funding decisions, according to what 
some Majority Members believe should or shouldn't be funded.
    I also remain concerned that another, perhaps unintended 
consequence, of this bill will be to inhibit high-risk, high-
reward research in all fields. We've heard from many scientists 
who are concerned that NSF, because of political pressures and 
budget constraints, is already pushing scientists to justify 
everything according to short-term return. This will 
necessarily reduce the ability of NSF and U.S. scientists to 
conduct truly transformative research. Whatever pressure NSF 
may already feel from this Committee and others in Congress, 
this bill only reinforces that pressure many-fold. The message 
this bill is sending to every single scientist applying for NSF 
funding, every single scientist sitting on a review panel is, 
don't take risks, because anything you do that invites any 
attention from Congress will lead to significant and undeserved 
harassment, and may even endanger your career. What this bill 
may really do is squelch creativity, risk-taking, critical 
thinking, and the open exchange of ideas.
    Further, the Majority is pushing this agenda in the 
complete absence of any actual problem being identified with 
NSF's current policy, with which this bill is supposedly 
aligned. If the existing policy is working, we question the 
need to move forward with the bill. We are unaware of any 
scientific society, research university, or member of the 
National Science Board that has recommended the language in 
this bill, and most have expressed concerns. Yet again, this 
Committee, under Republican leadership, is ignoring the 
scientific community we are supposedly here to support.
    In staff-level discussions leading up to the markup, 
Democratic Members made an offer of a simple 31-word addition 
to the bill which would have made this bill palatable. One 
change would have allowed the ``national interest'' review to 
occur at the portfolio level rather than at the individual 
grant level. The notion that every single narrowly focused, and 
sometimes esoteric research project must, by itself, be 
justified by a ``national interest'' criterion, is antithetical 
to how basic research works. Another change would have 
connected the requirement for every grant to be certified as 
``worthy of federal funding'' directly to the NSF merit-review 
process, rather than leaving it in the hands of Congress to be 
the final arbiter of what grants are or are not ``worthy.'' 
Both changes were unfortunately rejected by the Majority. Such 
a simple 31-word addition to the bill would have sent a clear 
signal to the scientific community that it is not the intent of 
this Committee to politicize grant-making at NSF. The rejection 
of such an addition lays bare the true intent of the Majority.
    I would be remiss not to remind our colleagues and the 
American public that many grants that were once mocked in the 
halls of Congress, or that might otherwise have been deemed 
``silly'' or ``unworthy of federal funding'' led eventually to 
tremendous economic, health, national security, and/or other 
benefits for our nation. Here are few such examples:
           In 1955, the U.S. Department of Agriculture 
        funded a study named, ``The Sex Life of the 
        Screwworm.'' This grant was mocked on the Senate floor 
        as an example of government waste, and instigated the 
        creation of a ``Golden Fleece Award.'' Screwworms feed 
        on living tissue, often killing the host, and were a 
        huge menace in the cattle industry. The initial grant 
        was for $250,000. The outcome of that grant saved the 
        cattle industry $20 billion in the U.S. alone, 
        resulting in a 5 percent reduction in the price of 
        beef. The Senator who mocked the grant later 
        apologized.
           In the early 1960's NSF and NIH funded a 
        marine biologist to study why jellyfish glow green, a 
        topic that would surely have caught the attention of 
        our Majority as being ``unworthy'' of federal funding. 
        When this biologist, who was just following his 
        scientific curiosity, isolated the green fluorescent 
        protein from jellyfish in 1962, neither he nor his 
        funders had any idea that his work would one day lead 
        to advances in genetics, cell biology, developmental 
        biology, and neurobiology, to a better understanding of 
        cancer, brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, and other 
        human diseases, and methods used widely by the 
        pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. In 2008, 
        this work won a Nobel Prize.
           In 2006, NSF funded a $147,000 study named, 
        ``Accuracy in the Cross-Cultural Understanding of 
        Others' Emotions.'' In 2007, this grant was mocked on 
        the House Floor as an example of government waste. In 
        notable contrast, the Department of Defense and the 
        Department of Homeland Security were both keenly 
        interested in this research because of its application 
        to soldiers operating among potentially hostile foreign 
        populations, and to Transportation Security agents 
        trying to detect any potential terrorists among 
        travelers coming from all over the world. The scientist 
        behind this work has been invited to speak to officials 
        at both agencies many times.
    Regarding these and many other ``silly science'' examples, 
who's laughing now? The whole idea of basic research is that 
the potential outcomes are largely unknown and often 
unpredictable. The idea is that we fund our greatest scientific 
minds to follow their curiosity, often to paths unknown, and 
that in the aggregate, our investment will pay off 
exponentially. That promise has become reality ever since the 
federal government began investing heavily in academic research 
at the end of WWII.
    Democratic Members agree entirely with the requirement that 
NSF publish more clearly written abstracts of its funded work 
in order to better communicate to the public how taxpayer 
dollars are being spent. The NSF should be fully transparent in 
what it funds. The good news is that anyone can already go to 
NSF's website to read about every single one of the 11,000 
awards made every year. That has been the case for many years. 
And, in recent years, NSF has made significant progress toward 
making sure all of those 11,000 abstracts are written clearly, 
with the general public in mind. To the extent that the bill 
requires clearly written abstracts, we can agree. However, this 
is where the agreement with the Majority ends. I, along with 
many Democratic Members of this Committee, simply cannot 
support an effort that politicizes NSF funded science, and 
undermines the very notion of basic research.

                                     Eddie Bernice Johnson,
                                           Ranking Minority Member.

                                  [all]