House and Senate Appropriations Committees approve NSF funding bills for FY19

Bills provide funding boosts for NSF research

As the fiscal year 2019 (FY19) appropriations process continues, lawmakers continue their work towards passage of the twelve appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government. In line with the increased budget caps for discretionary spending allowed by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, lawmakers have additional flexibility in FY19 appropriations.  

From the House Committee on Appropriations, the National Science Foundation (NSF) was allocated $8.2 billion, which is $408 million (5.2%) above the FY18 enacted level and $704 million (9.4%) above the President’s Budget request. Research and related activities are funded at $6.7 billion, $317 million (5%) above the current level ($6.3 billion). According to language accompanying the bill, Members specified that such funding is aimed at “fostering innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.”

Accompanying language also reiterates Members’ desire to see abstracts convey the broader impacts of the funded research to inexpert audiences, an ongoing priority for many House members. Further, the report language emphasizes that abstracts should address potential benefits of the research to national priorities, such as increasing economic competitiveness, advancing the health and welfare of the American public, or supporting the national defense.

From the Senate Committee on Appropriations, NSF was allocated 8.1 billion, or $301 million (3.9%) above the FY18 enacted level and $597 million (8%) above the President’s Budget request. Research and related activities are funded at $6.6 billion, $222 million (3.5%) above the current level ($6.3 billion). According to language accompanying the bill, this funding “will allow NSF to provide more grants to highly competitive research projects and help provide opportunities to prepare the next generation of STEM leaders.”

Importantly, the Senate bill also clarifies that funding for the 10 Big Ideas -- NSF’s long-term research initiatives focused on addressing vital national priorities and promoting interdisciplinary work, increasingly framed as “convergence” -- should not take funding from NSF’s existing core programmatic research. Appropriators specify that “NSF shall maintain its core research at levels not less than those provided in fiscal year 2017. Additional funds provided for fiscal year 2019 are more than adequate to continue basic research and allow NSF to position the United States to continue as a global science and engineering leader using the 10 Big Ideas framework.”

In both the House and Senate bills, the National Science Board, the National Science Foundation’s governing body and an independent adviser to the President and Congress on science policy, is allocated $4.4 million, the same as the FY18 enacted level and $50,000 above the President’s Budget request.

The next step for each bill is a floor vote from each chamber. If each bill passes its relevant chamber, members from each chamber will work on a conference bill merging the priorities from each. Given the strong support for NSF from each chamber of Congress in response to science community advocacy and increased fiscal flexibility, NSF is well-positioned to see significant increases in research funding which will result in increased grant opportunities for investigators under both existing and new funding opportunities from NSF.  

During this process, government relations staff of the American Psychological Association continue to communicate frequently with lawmakers and their staff to convey the importance of NSF funding, particularly for the essential basic research being done by academic psychologists across the nation seeking to further our fundamental knowledge of human behavior.

For more information on APA’s advocacy for NSF funding, please contact Steve Newell of APA’s Science Government Relations Office.