HR 1806: America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015

TITLE I–NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

(Sec. 101) Authorizes appropriations for FY2016-FY2017 for the National Science Foundation (NSF).

(Sec. 103) Specifies policy objectives for the NSF in allocating resources.

(Sec. 105) Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) sustained, predictable federal funding is essential to U.S. leadership in science and technology; (2) building understanding of and confidence in investments in basic research are essential to public support for sustained, predictable federal funding; and (3) the NSF should commit itself fully to transparency and accountability and to clear, consistent public communication regarding the national interest for each NSF-awarded grant and cooperative agreement.

(Sec. 106) Directs the NSF to award federal funding for basic research and education in the sciences through a new research grant or cooperative agreement only if it makes an affirmative determination, justified in writing, that the grant or agreement promotes the progress of science in the United States, is worthy of federal funding, and meets certain other criteria.

(Sec. 107) Prohibits the obligation of funds for an NSF construction project that has not commenced before enactment of this Act until 30 days after transmittal to Congress of the annual report on major research equipment and facilities construction.

(Sec. 108) Directs the NSF to maintain a Large Facilities Office within the Office of the NSF Director to support the research directorates in the development, implementation, and assessment of major multi-user research facilities.

Requires the NSF Director to appoint a senior agency official within the Office of the Director responsible for oversight of major multi-user research facilities.

Requires the NSF to study reforming the NSF policies on financial management of major multi-user research facilities.

Allows the NSF to provide management fees under an award only if the awardee has demonstrated that it has limited or no other financial resources available to cover the expenses for which the fees are sought.

Specifies prohibited uses of management fees.

(Sec. 109) Subjects the NSF to the prohibitions and requirements of the pilot program for the enhancement of contractor protection from reprisal for disclosure of certain information.

Requires the NSF to provide education and training to the NSF managers and staff on such prohibitions and requirements and to give information on the law to all grantees, contractors, and their employees.

(Sec. 110) Expresses the sense of Congress that the NSF Research Traineeship Program, formerly the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, (or any successor to it) should be maintained.

Directs the NSF to enter into an agreement with the National Research Council (NRC) to convene a workshop or roundtable to examine models of federal support for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduate students, including the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and comparable fellowship programs at other agencies, traineeship programs, and the research assistant model.

(Sec. 111) Permits the use of a grant made by the Education and Human Resources Directorate to support informal education to: (1) support the participation of underrepresented students in nonprofit competitions, out-of-school activities, and field experiences related to STEM subjects; and (2) broaden underrepresented secondary school students’ access to, and interest in, careers that require academic preparation in STEM subjects.

(Sec. 112) Directs the NSF, within the Education and Human Resources Directorate (or any successor to it), under existing programs targeting broadening participation, to provide grants on a merit-reviewed, competitive basis for research on programming that engages underrepresented students in grades kindergarten through 8 in STEM.

Requires the use of awarded grants for research to advance the engagement of underrepresented students in grades kindergarten through 8 in STEM through the implementation of innovative before-school, after-school, out-of-school, or summer activities.

(Sec. 113) Requires the NSF to review the NSF education programs in operation to determine: (1) whether any of these programs duplicates target groups, services provided, fields of focus, or objectives; and (2) how the programs are being evaluated and assessed for outcome-oriented effectiveness.

(Sec. 114) Instructs the NSF to ensure that the system for recompetition of Maintenance and Operations of facilities, equipment, and instrumentation is fair, consistent, and transparent and is applied in a manner that renews grants and awards in a timely manner.

(Sec. 115) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding industry’s involvement in STEM education.

(Sec. 116) Prohibits any falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism in the findings and conclusions of any article authored by a principal investigator receiving an the NSF research grant, using the results of the research conducted under the grant, that is published in a peer-reviewed publication, otherwise made publicly available, or incorporated in an application for a research grant or grant extension.

Instructs the NSF Director to make publicly available any finding that research misconduct has been committed, including the name of the principal investigator, within 30 days of final administration action.

(Sec. 117) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the reproduction and replication of published scientific research findings.

Requires the NSF Director to enter into an agreement with the NRC to assess research and data reproducibility and replicability issues in interdisciplinary research and make recommendations on how to improve rigor and transparency in scientific research.

(Sec. 118) Directs the NSF to establish procedures to ensure that specified requirements are met with respect to research grants awarded by the NSF.

(Sec. 119) Directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the use of scientific computing resources funded by the NSF at institutions of higher education.

(Sec. 120) Instructs the NSF to place a high priority on designing and administering pilot programs for scientific breakthrough prizes, in conjunction with private entities, for technological breakthroughs of strategic importance to the United States that have the capacity to spur new economic growth.

(Sec. 121) Requires NSF reports to Congress on individuals employed pursuant to the Intergovernmental Personnel Act of 1970.

(Sec. 122) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the NSF’s Innovation Corps. Declares that the I-Corps should continue to promote a strong innovation system by investing in and supporting female entreprenuers, who are historically underrepresented in entrepreneurial fields, through mentorship, education, and training.

(Sec. 123) Directs the NSF to support research activities related to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, encouraging it to work with the Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience to determine how to use the NSF and other agency data infrastructures to help neuroscientists collect, standardize, manage, and analyze large amounts of data.

(Sec. 124) Amends the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 to allow the award of the NSF Master Teaching Fellowships to mathematics and science teachers who possess a bachelor’s degree in their field (currently limited to those with a master’s degree).

Makes teachers with bachelor’s degrees in their field and working towards a master’s degree eligible for a one-year NSF Master Teaching Fellowship.

Makes elementary or secondary school computer science teachers eligible for teacher recruiting and training grants under the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program.

(Sec. 125) Requires the NSF Director to continue to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants to support: (1) research and development of innovative out-of-school STEM learning and emerging STEM learning environments, and (2) research that advances the field of informal STEM education.

(Sec. 126) Requires the NSF to continue to operate the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Urges the NSF to make this program a high priority.

(Sec. 127) Directs the NSF, within 120 days of enactment of this Act, to establish the Hispanic-serving institutions undergraduate program described in the America COMPETES Act for Hispanic-serving institutions of higher education.

TITLE II–SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS

(Sec. 201) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding federal STEM programs.

(Sec. 202) Directs the President to establish or designate a 15-member STEM Education Advisory Panel, co-chaired by members of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

(Sec. 203) Amends the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 to require the Committee on STEM Education to: (1) collaborate with the STEM Education Advisory Panel and other outside stakeholders to ensure the engagement of the STEM education community, and (2) review evaluation measures used for federal STEM education programs.

(Sec. 204) Requires the NSF to establish within the Directorate for Education and Human Resources a STEM Education Coordinating Office to:

  • give technical and administrative support to the Committee on STEM Education, the Advisory Panel, and federal agencies with STEM education programs;
  • update periodically an inventory of federally sponsored STEM education programs and activities, and arrange dissemination of information on federal STEM education programs and activities to stakeholders in academia, industry, nonprofits with expertise in STEM education, state and local education agencies, and other STEM stakeholders.

TITLE III–OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY

(Sec. 301) Authorizes appropriations for FY2016-FY2017 for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

(Sec. 302) Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the administrative burdens and costs in federal research administration.

Requires the OSTP Director to establish a working group under the authority of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) that includes the Office of Management and Budget.

Makes this working group responsible for reviewing federal regulations affecting research and research universities and making recommendations on how to: (1) harmonize, streamline, and eliminate duplicative federal regulations and reporting requirements; (2) minimize the regulatory burden on U.S. institutions of higher education performing federally funded research while maintaining accountability for federal tax dollars; and (3) identify and update specific regulations to refocus on performance-based goals rather than on process while still meeting the desired outcome.

(Sec. 303) Requires the OSTP to establish under the NSTC a body, co-chaired by senior level officials from OSTP and the Department of State, to identify and coordinate international science and technology cooperation that can strengthen U.S. science and technology enterprise, improve economic and national security, and support U.S. foreign policy goals.

(Sec. 304) Directs specified federal science agencies to conduct pilot programs to validate alternative research funding models, including: (1) scientific breakthrough prize programs of strategic importance to the nation with the capacity to spur new economic growth; and (2) novel mechanisms of funding.

States that judges for prize competitions carried out under this section shall not be required to be federal employees.

Requires a judge for a prize competition with a total purse of $10,000 or more, or for an aggregate of prize competitions with a total purse of $50,000 or more, to disclose all personal financial interests.

(Sec. 305) Amends the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 regarding prize competitions, allowing an agency to waive liability insurance requirements for participants.

Allows an agency to enter into a grant, contract, cooperative agreement, or other agreement with a private sector for-profit as well as a nonprofit entity (as under current law) to administer a prize competition.

Permits the use of funds from private sector for-profit entities to support a prize competition, as well as federal agency funds made available to the extent provided by appropriations acts.

Prohibits an agency from giving special consideration to any private sector for-profit entity in return for a donation.

Limits the use of federal funds to those made available by appropriations Acts.

(Sec. 306) Authorizes the President to appoint a United States Chief Technology Officer, who shall be one of the Associate Directors of the OSTP, to:

  • advise the President and the OSTP Director on federal information systems, technology, data, and innovation policies and initiatives;
  • promote the use of innovative technological approaches across the federal government to ensure a modern information technology infrastructure; and
  • work with the Chief Technology Officers and Chief Information Officers of all federal agencies to ensure the use of the best technologies and security practices for information systems.

(Sec. 307) Directs OSTP to arrange with the NRC to review technologies employed at institutions of higher education in order to provide notifications to students, faculty, and other personnel during emergency situations.

TITLE IV–NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY

TITLE V–DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY SCIENCE

(Sec. 501) Amends the Department of Energy Organization Act to declare that the mission of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science shall be the delivery of scientific discoveries, capabilities, and major scientific tools to transform the understanding of nature and to advance the energy, economic, and national security of the United States.

Directs the Office of Science, in support of such mission, to carry out programs on basic energy sciences, advanced scientific computing research, high energy physics, biological and environmental research, fusion energy sciences, and nuclear physics through activities focused on:

  • fundamental scientific discoveries through the study of matter and energy;
  • science in the national interest; and
  • national scientific user facilities to deliver the 21st century tools of science, engineering, and technology and provide U.S. researchers with the most advanced tools of modern science.

(Sec. 505) Directs the Office of Science to carry out a program of research and development in the areas of biological systems science and climate and environmental science to support the energy and environmental missions of DOE.

Directs GAO to identify climate science-related initiatives under this section that overlap or duplicate those of other federal agencies.

Prohibits the Office of Science from approving new climate science-related initiatives without first determining that such work is unique and not duplicative of work by other federal agencies. Requires the the Office to cease those overlapping or duplicative initiatives , unless justified as critical to achieving American energy security.

Requires the Office of Science to carry out a research program on low dose radiation to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation.

Requires the Office of Science to enter into an agreement with the National Academies to assess the current status and development of a long-term strategy for low dose radiation research.

Directs DOE to deliver to Congress a five-year research plan responding to the assessment’s findings and recommendations.

Makes DOE’s limitation on biomedical and human cell and human subject research inapplicable to research under this section.

(Sec. 510) Authorizes appropriations for FY2016-FY2017 for the Office of Science.

Subtitle F–Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy

(Sec. 671) Amends the America COMPETES Act to revise ARPA-E goals to repeal specifications for:

  • reductions of imports of energy from foreign sources;
  • reductions of energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases; and
  • improvement in the energy efficiency of all economic sectors.

Bars ARPA-E from providing funding for a project unless the prospective grantee demonstrates sufficient attempts to secure private financing or indicates that the project is not independently commercially viable.

Requires DOE, once every six years after the sixth year ARPA-E has been in operation, to offer to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate how well ARPA-E is achieving its goals and mission.

Declares that specified categories of proprietary information collected by ARPA-E from recipients of financial assistance awards from ARPA-E shall be considered as privileged and confidential and not subject to disclosure pursuant to the FOIA.

TITLE VIII–SENSE OF CONGRESS

(Sec. 801) Expresses the sense of Congress that climate change is real.

HR 1806 is sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith. It passed the House on May 20, 2015.