“National Interest” Bill Passes the House
Despite opposition from many in the scientific community and a veto-threat from the White House, the House of Representatives passed the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293) on February 10 by a vote of 236-178. The bill, which is sponsored by Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Lamar Smith (R-TX), seeks to set a definition for federally-funded research conducted in the “national interest.” The language of the bill was derived from Sec. 106 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806), which passed the House in May despite wide-spread, vocal opposition from the broad scientific research community. Smith has argued that his bill is intended to ensure that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding “only high priority research.” While the bill text itself is benign, the intent of the legislation, as exemplified by the press release issued alongside it and subsequent remarks from the Chairman, is to continue singling out grants that Smith deems unworthy of taxpayer support, many in the social sciences. While the bill has now passed in the House, there is no indication that it will be considered this year in the Senate. COSSA issued a statement on the bill in July.