Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) issued the following statement in response to misinformation regarding draft legislation that improves accountability for the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant process. At a recent Science Committee hearing, White House Office of Science and Technology Director John Holdren testified that there is "room for improvement" in how NSF prioritizes research initiatives. In an effort to improve NSF research grants, Chairman Smith circulated draft legislation for discussion to Science Committee Democratic staff, the NSF and the Obama Administration.
The two-and-a-half page draft legislation helps ensure that taxpayer-funded research projects are of high quality and benefit the American people. The Committee will continue to seek input from stakeholders before the bill is introduced.
Chairman Smith: "As I said at our NSF budget hearing, Congress should not pick winners and losers by micromanaging grant decisions at the NSF. The draft bill does not make Congress "reviewers' of NSF grant proposals. It is the responsibility of the professionals at the NSF to exercise their best judgment and ensure that only proposals that benefit the taxpayer get funded. It is Congress' job to encourage accountability and make sure hard-earned taxpayers' dollars are spent in ways that benefit the American people.
"I support basic research, which can lead to discoveries that change our world, expand our horizons and save lives. For example, we should prioritize research projects like the brain mapping initiative that may help cure Alzheimer's, autism, epilepsy, and brain injuries.
"The draft bill maintains the current peer review process and improves on it by adding a layer of accountability. The intent of the draft legislation is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on the highest-quality research possible.
"The draft legislation was the result of bipartisan discussions about how NSF grants should be prioritized. It was circulated to Committee Democratic staff, the NSF and the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. This was a first step in what we hoped would be a bipartisan initiative to improve accountability of NSF grants.
"I circulated the draft legislation so we could have a meaningful discussion about how best to improve the NSF grant process. It is disappointing that instead of accepting the invitation to work together to prioritize the spending of taxpayer dollars, some have chosen to play politics and misrepresent the nature of the draft bill.
"Congress has a responsibility to review research paid for by hard-working American taxpayers. And I hope that both Committee Democrats and the Obama administration will work with me to ensure that taxpayer dollars fund highest-quality research."
Background: In an April 25 letter to Acting Director of the NSF, Dr. Cora Marrett, Chairman Smith asked for more information about five NSF grants. Specifically, Chairman Smith asked for an explanation about how the below grants adhere to NSF's "intellectual merit" guideline:
1. Award Abstract #1247824: "Picturing Animals in National Geographic, 1888-2008," March 15, 2013, ($227,437);
2. Award Abstract #1230911: "Comparative Histories of Scientific Conservation: Nature, Science, and Society in Patagonian and Amazonian South America," September 1, 2012 ($195,761);
3. Award Abstract #1230365: "The International Criminal Court and the Pursuit of Justice," August 15, 2012 ($260,001);
4. Award Abstract #1226483, "Comparative Network Analysis: Mapping Global Social Interactions," August 15, 2012, ($435,000); and
5. Award Abstract #1157551: "Regulating Accountability and Transparency in China's Dairy Industry," June 1, 2012 ($152,464).