Kasey White, GSA Director for Geoscience Policy
Two bills signed into law over the summer set new policy directions and funding for scientific agencies. The Inflation Reduction Act provides funding for research and facilities at several agencies, while the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 authorizes funding and policy changes focused on education, research, and expanding diversity in the sciences.
CHIPS AND SCIENCE ACT OF 2022
On 9 August, President Biden signed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 into law. While the bill is best known for its provisions supporting the semiconductor industry, the legislation authorizes funding and policy for many scientific agencies and programs, incorporating several pieces of legislation that had previously been considered. The authorizations are an important policy marker, but actual funding will be decided separately through the annual appropriations process.
National Science Foundation (NSF)
The act authorizes NSF’s annual budget to more than double from $8.8 billion in FY 2022 to $18.9 billion in FY 2027. The bill codifies and authorizes $20 billion over five years for a new NSF Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) that will focus on “societal, national, and geostrategic challenges” and “key technology focus areas.” The bill offers an initial list of challenges: “U.S. national security, U.S. manufacturing and industrial productivity, U.S. workforce development and skills gaps, climate change and environmental sustainability, and inequitable access to education, opportunity, or other services.” The legislation’s key technology list includes artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, data management, energy technology, and natural and anthropogenic disaster prevention or mitigation.
Within NSF’s Graduate STEM Education, the legislation requires funding proposals to include a mentoring plan for graduate students. In addition, it requires individual development plans for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers and provides support for them to explore career options. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program is authorized to increase the number of new graduate fellows supported annually to at least 3,000, increase the cost of education allowance, and recruit a more diverse pool of applicants.
Department of Energy (DOE)
The bill authorizes programs within DOE’s Office of Science and increases its authorization levels, culminating in a 50% increase to $10.8 billion in FY 2027. In addition, the bill authorizes $4 billion over the next five years for deferred maintenance and infrastructure improvements at DOE’s labs.
The bill establishes and authorizes $40.5 million for a Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation. This nonprofit foundation aims to attract private-sector investment and partnership to help support the creation, development, and commercialization of energy technologies. The bill also draws from the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act to establish a federal engineering biology research initiative with a strategy for investment and framework for interagency coordination.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
The bill authorizes, but does not provide funding levels for, NASA programs. Provisions include authorizing the Artemis Moon Program, maintaining the International Space Station through 2030, supporting a balanced science portfolio, including earth-science observations, and codifying the Office of STEM Engagement and the Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The bill contains many provisions for broadening participation in science to increase the STEM workforce and improve its diversity. It codifies a Chief Diversity Officer position at the NSF “responsible for providing advice on policy, oversight, guidance, and coordination with respect to matters of the Foundation related to diversity and inclusion.”
The legislation codifies the NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discovers in Engineering and Science) Initiative and renames it the “Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES Initiative.” It authorizes the NSF to issue awards “to carry out a comprehensive national initiative to facilitate the development of networks and partnerships to build on and scale up effective practices in broadening participation in STEM studies and careers of groups historically underrepresented in such studies and careers.”
The bill includes language from the STEM Opportunities Act focused on identifying and lowering barriers to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women, minorities, and other groups underrepresented in STEM. The bill requires agencies to collect comprehensive demographic data on the merit review process and on STEM faculty at U.S. universities. It directs the NSF to establish research and programs aimed at increasing the recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty.
From the Rural STEM Education Act, the bill authorizes research & development and resources for teachers to increase access to STEM education in rural schools, calls for expanded broadband accesses, and studies the engagement of rural populations in federal STEM programs.
The Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) STEM Achievement Act (H.R. 2027) directs federal science entities to undertake activities to enhance the research capacity and STEM education within Historically Black Colleges and Universities (BHCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and MSIs. The bill calls for research on the challenges and successes MSIs have had in contributing to the STEM workforce, and provides funding for institutional research capacity building activities, including support for MSI Centers of Innovation to help scale up successful practices. The bill directs federal agencies to “develop a uniform set of policy guidelines for Federal science agencies to carry out a sustained program of outreach activities to increase clarity, transparency, and accountability for Federal science agency investments in STEM education and research activities at HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs.”
From the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act, the bill calls for an interagency working group to set standards and guidelines and coordinate federal research agency efforts to reduce sexual harassment in STEM. It establishes a grant program at NSF for research to better understand sexual harassment in STEM and to develop effective interventions, in addition to other assessment measures.
The legislation requires the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OTSP) to develop guidance for all federal research agencies regarding foreign talent recruitment programs. NSF is directed to maintain a Research Security and Policy Office, create an online resource for institutions and researchers to receive NSF guidance and information on security risks and best practices, and require annual disclosures for NSF award recipients regarding foreign financial arrangements. The legislation creates a Research Security and Integrity Information Sharing Organization to serve as a center for gathering information and assessing risk.
INFLATION REDUCTION ACT
The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law on 16 August and best known for its climate, tax, and health provisions, provides funding for research and facilities at the Department of Energy (DOE), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The bill provides:
• $2 billion for DOE labs.
• $450 million for infrastructure and projects across DOE’s Offices of Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
• $23.5 million for the USGS “to produce, collect, disseminate, and use 3D elevation data,” helping the agency move forward to completing national coverage of high-resolution topographic data.
• $500 million for NOAA high-performance computing and data management; observations, modeling, forecasting, and information dissemination; hurricane hunter aircraft; and climate research grants.