This bill appropriates a bunch of money for a wide range of scientific endeavors, united under the goal of increasing the U.S.’s competitiveness in global industry. It’s huge, especially for a reauthorization bill: 28,000-ish words, over 189 pages, divided into 731 sections, spread over seven titles. Hold my hand and we’ll get through this together.
The bill begins with allocations: $7.5 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) for 2016 and 2017 each. Around a billion would be allocated to the United States Arctic Commission, the Mathematical and Physical Science Directorate, the Geosciences Directorate, the Engineering Directorate and the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate.
Next, the bill explains the criteria for federal funding. Programs should boost industry, increase scientific literacy and the U.S.’s national security. Accompanying these goals are a series of guidelines about auditing cost proposals: any project over $50 million would have to go through an audit, and could expect any issues corrected and sent to Congress. It also makes clear what federal funding cannot be used for. It’s the usual suspects: sports games, booze and lobbying.
After that, the bill explains the kinds of studies and programming that the NSF can fund. This bill licenses funding for:
- A study on how to best fund graduate student programs;
- Informal programs like competitions geared at introducing underrepresented populations to STEM fields;
- Before-school or after-school programs designed to encourage underrepresented populations.
It also licenses giving out prizes for scientific breakthroughs and authorizes funding for National Science Foundation Master Teacher Fellows. The bill also creates a system for managing large research facilities. It creates a “large facility director” who would manage national, multi-use facilities.
Next, the bill establishes some oversight rulings. It demands that the NSF come up with ways to ensure that work isn’t being duplicated or misrepresented by people applying for grants. The National Research Council (NRC) also has to do a report on the reproducibility of studies.
The bill also allocates $4.5 million for the Office of Science and Technology Policy and compels them to put together a group to streamline the grant application process and another to put it in line with policy goals. It also compels them to conduct a study on national emergency alert systems.
- Building a “basic energy science” program to support developing new energy technology;
- Creating a facility to study solar energy;
- A research program “on the fundamental constituents of matter and energy and the nature of space and time”;
- A research program on biological systems, and another on fusion energy;
- Research on energy grids, civilian use of nuclear power, biofuels, fossil fuels, including how to decrease their environmental impact and how to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil;
- A study on the relationship between energy, water and land use;
- Identifying areas for collaboration with the private sector;
- A program to ensure that nuclear reactors are up to standard.
Finally, the bill also:
- Allocates $900 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, $504 million for nuclear research, $1 billion for renewable energy research, and $600 million for fossil fuel research.
- Creates the position of Chief Technology Officer, to advise the government on how best to use technology.
- Compels the NSF to make funds available for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, facilitates the transfer of technology from scientists to businesses
- Makes it so that the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy doesn’t have to disclose private investors or commercial plans