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house Bill H.R. 1806

In the Name of Science: Is $32B Worth Reauthorizing the Big America COMPETES Act?

Argument in favor

This bill appropriates funds for anything and everything related to science: STEM education—particularly for underrepresented communities, collaboration with the private sector, investment in alternative energy, cross-agency collaboration. There’s something there for everyone.

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05/19/2015
Having read through the summarized bulletin points I have to agree yes with this vote. Is it industry and commercial specific? Yes. But the appropriations to solar, to fusion, to the study of space, matter and time, cleaner versions of fossil fuel and the reduction of our dependency for fossil fuel to foreign countries greatly exceeds my caution. The worst that can happen that we all envision: Ossis fuel research finds new oil or new ways of extracting fossil fuel that severely pollute. This makes sense but 600 million is allocated to fossil fuel research whereas 1billion is allocated to solar power research. The best that can happen: solar energy reaches another great step in viability. Fusion becomes within our reach. Space matter and time develop further enough for our culture to understand better means of interstellar travel and communication. Let's authorize this baby.
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NACSP's Opinion
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03/16/2016
The government should be interested in the promotion of science that benefits the security and well-being of the nation as a whole. Other sciences should remain out of the sphere of government influence, which may be a good thing for them as it removes tedious oversights and regulations.
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05/18/2015
This bill will most likely spark serious research into renewable energy through competition, which may streamline the integration process of such technologies so that we may have access to them in the near future. We need such an initiative.
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Argument opposed

Science education, research, and development are essential — but there’s too much wrong with this bill to pass it. It’s commercially oriented, cuts tons of grant programs, focuses on corporate research interests (like crude oil), and keeps funding decisions out of scientists hands.

andrewbraj's Opinion
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05/18/2015
This narrowly defines science and allows congress to define it. This bill needs to include social sciences and it also needs to take out the national security and economic prosperity bits -- science should be knowledge based, not a means to an end.
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Jim's Opinion
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05/19/2015
Loathed as I am to vote against this, the stink of government interference and commercial viability are overpowering. Members of Congress are happy to say "I'm no scientist," yet they want to dictate directions of NSF focus? Programs should benefit industry? That's what corporate R&D budgets are for. Part of that can be mitigated by sharing research with private industry. I better stop here.
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Xn's Opinion
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05/18/2015
No more money for fossil fuels! Leave it in the ground where it belongs!
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
  • The house Passed May 20th, 2015
    Roll Call Vote 217 Yea / 205 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Education and Labor
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
      Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
    IntroducedApril 15th, 2015

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What is House Bill H.R. 1806?

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.


Appropriations

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.

Programs

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.

Oversight

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.

Studies

Not only does this bill give the Department of Energy a mission statement: to “advance the energy, economic, and national security of the United States” and some $5 billion for 2016 and 2017 each — but it also orders several new studies and programs. They include:

  • 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.
Miscellaneous 

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

Impact

The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, scientists, students (pretty much all of them), technology industry.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1806

$32.00 Billion
This bill authorizes about $33 billion in funding for 2016-2020. Assuming the money is available, the CBO estimates that implementing the reauthorization would cost about $32 billion over the 2016-2020 period.

More Information

Of Note: Science might seem like a hard thing to squabble over — but — not only does this bill not have bipartisan support, it’s pretty controversial. The bill’s explanation of what research should d— you’ll recall from above that it should boost industry, increase scientific literacy and increase the U.S.’s national security —means a squeeze on research. There’s also way less funding in this bill for social sciences and geoscience. 

The regulations placed on large facilities, critic claim, will make them harder to build. The language of the bill also grants more power to lawmakers to determine NSF funding, which researchers are none too happy about.

When Republicans took back the House in 2014, scientists were wary of what that might mean for science. While Republicans like Rep. Smith insist that these changes are about increasing government accountability, scientists see legislation like this as part of a rising anti-science sentiment.  


In Depth:

The America COMPETES Act was first signed into law by President Bush in 2007. In 2011, President Obama reauthorized it. But unlike those bills, which were popular on both sides of the aisle, this version of the bill, passed by the Republican-controlled House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has only Republican-sponsors.


Media:


Summary by James Helmsworth 

(Photo Credit: Flickr user NASA Goddard Photo and Video

AKA

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015

Official Title

To provide for technological innovation through the prioritization of Federal investment in basic research, fundamental scientific discovery, and development to improve the competitiveness of the United States, and for other purposes.

    Having read through the summarized bulletin points I have to agree yes with this vote. Is it industry and commercial specific? Yes. But the appropriations to solar, to fusion, to the study of space, matter and time, cleaner versions of fossil fuel and the reduction of our dependency for fossil fuel to foreign countries greatly exceeds my caution. The worst that can happen that we all envision: Ossis fuel research finds new oil or new ways of extracting fossil fuel that severely pollute. This makes sense but 600 million is allocated to fossil fuel research whereas 1billion is allocated to solar power research. The best that can happen: solar energy reaches another great step in viability. Fusion becomes within our reach. Space matter and time develop further enough for our culture to understand better means of interstellar travel and communication. Let's authorize this baby.
    Like (9)
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    This narrowly defines science and allows congress to define it. This bill needs to include social sciences and it also needs to take out the national security and economic prosperity bits -- science should be knowledge based, not a means to an end.
    Like (39)
    Follow
    Share
    Loathed as I am to vote against this, the stink of government interference and commercial viability are overpowering. Members of Congress are happy to say "I'm no scientist," yet they want to dictate directions of NSF focus? Programs should benefit industry? That's what corporate R&D budgets are for. Part of that can be mitigated by sharing research with private industry. I better stop here.
    Like (26)
    Follow
    Share
    No more money for fossil fuels! Leave it in the ground where it belongs!
    Like (17)
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    Far be it from me to oppose a multi-billion spending bill, but no. Much of science is not results-based, it is research base, to expand our knowledge, which then might be applied down the road. This bill would cut much of that science out, to our own detriment.
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    Money should be set aside for education. However, STEM leaves out an integral part of American Education...the Arts. This bill would draw funding away from the arts into the sciences, something that we do not need.
    Like (7)
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    I hate to vote against sciences funding, but congress has reached too far, asserting themselves into issues they genuinely don't understand. Their job is to support our nation's scientific endeavors, not to strangle research that goes against their fundamentalism and force their ideology into scientific circles.
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    It is simply not the role of the government to "stimulate" innovation. Since when has the government been a leader in that area, anyway?
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    Scientists should be the ones to evaluate science, that's why we have peer review. It is not for politicians to step into specific decisions that they do not understand.
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    Equal focus on all disciplines is important. We need to see students in the humanities and arts just as much as the sciences.
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    This bill takes $$$ and decisions away from scientists & feeds corporate power & greed. If you want to pass a science bill, then propose a science bill. If you want to feed the lobbying folks more $$$, then construct an honest bill. Otherwise, back off!
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    This is money the government doesn't have. It is too favorable to the science aspect of education and also a power the federal government does not have!
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    If you want America to compete, get rid of the unions who demand ridiculous wages, lower corporate taxes so jobs will come home, and FORGET ABOUT A BIG MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE. Liberals want to pay someone asking "you want fries with that?" more than my son who's a combat medic. THEIR lack of preparation for self support shouldn't mean I should have to cover them. NO ONE will pay $12- for a Big Mac combo. You know what happens then? Major chains, along with the jobs they provide, disappear. Do you really think that makes us more competitive?
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    This bill means well but is actually hiding a bunch of anti-science sentiment. I'd rather have $32 billion given directly to schools/NSF and they can allocate it as they see fit without congress trying to police what is and isn't worthy of 'science'.
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    The government should be interested in the promotion of science that benefits the security and well-being of the nation as a whole. Other sciences should remain out of the sphere of government influence, which may be a good thing for them as it removes tedious oversights and regulations.
    Like (2)
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    This bill is "results based" while most of our beneficial research is done to expand knowledge. it leaves out the humanities which are essential for developing our creative skills and it leaves too much control over scientific research in the hands of our elected officials who are mostly nonscientists.
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    This bill should have never made it to the floor if our congress actually represented our interests instead of those of big business. My congressman is joke for voting in favor for it, but it doesn't surprise me since he votes for what his party wants and not what the people who elected him want.
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    The U.S. needs boosting in math and science. Taxes should not be increased by this bill though.
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    Big America? Big international (foreign) non-U.S. Tax paying job out sourcing UnAmerican corporations who are trying to cut our benefits and pay us less than minimum wage? Absolutely not another bill for big business interests is the last kind-of-"science" we need. How long did it take for cigarette companies "research labs" to find a link between smoking and cancer.
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    This bill will most likely spark serious research into renewable energy through competition, which may streamline the integration process of such technologies so that we may have access to them in the near future. We need such an initiative.
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