President signs the National Science Foundation Reauthorization Act
In a White House ceremony today, President Bush signed into law H.R. 4664, a five-year reauthorization bill for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which authorizes a doubling of the NSF budget over five years. NSF's last such authorization bill, for three years, was signed in 1998.
The new law does not provide funds, but does give NSF the authority to spend funds on specified activities. The act also directs NSF be more proactive in sustaining U.S. competitive advantage and to expand its role in increasing workforce skills in science and technology.
The act authorizes NSF funding increases from its current $4.79 billion in fiscal 2002 to $9.84 billion in fiscal 2007, which is slightly more than double the 2002 NSF budget. The last two years of the five-year authorization are contingent on NSF making satisfactory progress in meeting the goals of the President's Management Agenda. NSF is the only agency to have received green lights (in financial management and e-government) on the President's most recent Management Scorecard.
The 92-page document signed by the President includes portions of legislation previously passed by the House: the Math and Science Partnerships Act and the Undergraduate Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education Improvement Act. The act also authorizes funding in additional priority areas of Information Technology, Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and the Robert Noyce Scholarships program.
The reauthorization provides authority for NSF to establish Centers for Research on Mathematics and Science Learning and Education Improvement. Each center will focus on a different challenge faced by elementary and secondary math and science teachers.
The act also authorizes the establishment of a program to enhance the quality of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education at institutions of higher education serving Hispanics, Alaska Natives, and Hawaiian Natives and at other institutions serving a substantial number of minority students.
In addition to education and workforce priorities, the legislation also lists Plant Genome Research, Innovation Partnerships, Secondary School Systemic Initiative, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), Astronomical Research and Instrumentation and implementing the goals of the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act as priority areas for NSF.