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Posted by on May 1, 2013

Draft Legislation Would Alter the National Science Foundation’s Peer Review Process

Multiple websites have reported on draft legislation that would alter the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) grant award process. According to the reports, Congressman Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, is drafting legislation that would require the Director of NSF to certify each awarded project:

  • is in the interest of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
  • is the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and
  • is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.

Critics claim the draft legislation represents an undue congressional and political intrusion and would undermine the peer review process. Congressman Smith released a statement maintaining the draft legislation would serve the interest of taxpayers by requiring the NSF to prioritize funding to the highest-quality research and by enhancing accountability of the awards process.

The draft bill, which was leaked to media outlets, can be found here. The Ranking Member on the Committee, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, released a letter critical of the attempts to alter NSF’s award procedures. Congresswoman Johnson’s letter can be found here.

Included in the draft legislation is a provision that would require the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to analyze how the certification requirements could be implemented by other federal science agencies. Agencies that could potentially be affected included NASA, the Department of Energy, the EPA, and FEMA.

The proposal is still in the initial steps of the legislative process, and Congressman Smith has not yet introduced the bill.

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