The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved their versions of the FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bills. These bills provide funding to the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The House Appropriations Committee has just released the final version of its report accompanying its bill. In a section entitled “Office of Science and Technology Policy” on pages 59 - 60 of the House committee report, appropriators comment on the Obama Administration’s proposal to consolidate federal STEM education programs, public access, rare earth materials, and neuroscience.
Selections from the committee’s report follow. Conflicts in policy recommendations in the House and Senate versions will be resolved in a conference committee. See FYI #126 for comparable Senate language. The House report language follows:
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education -
"The National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC) Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) issued a progress report last year outlining the goals and objectives for a forthcoming government-wide STEM education strategic plan. Unfortunately, the strategic plan that was ultimately submitted bears only a partial resemblance to the ideas from the progress report. After many months of interagency development, the strategic plan appears to have been modified at the last minute to bring it into conformance with the Administration's STEM education budget proposal. In the process, some key elements of the progress report were lost or diluted. Most important to the Committee, the progress report's promise of a ‘coordinated and robust strategy for dissemination’ of STEM education research and findings has been replaced with a limited initiative in the Smithsonian Institution that would be funded by eliminating many of the programs whose content was to be disseminated and which would not capture all potential inputs from across government.
“The Committee directs OSTP to reconsider how to create a single, truly comprehensive ‘one stop’-style website where findings from Federal research on STEM education, Federally developed STEM curricula and other related materials could be consolidated. OSTP shall report to the Committee no later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act describing the funding, authorities and other resources that would be necessary to establish such a website in fiscal year 2015. [Note: also see below for additional language.]
"The Committee notes the contributions of the Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience (IWGN), established by OSTP under the auspices of the NSTC and consistent with language encouraging such an effort in the statement accompanying Public Law 112-55. The IWGN has helped coordinate, focus and enhance Federal efforts related to neuroscience, and significantly contributed to the development of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, which endeavors to revolutionize the scientific understanding of the brain and use that knowledge to improve childhood and adult learning and develop new treatments for brain injuries and neurological conditions. The Committee values the collaborative relationships and activities engendered through the IWGN among Federal neuroscience research agencies and urges OSTP and the NSTC to continue to support Federal agency collaboration on neuroscience, either through the IWGN or an appropriate successor forum. The Committee also encourages OSTP to report to the Committee semi-annually on its efforts in this area.
Public access to Federally-funded research -
"The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-358) tasked OSTP, through the NSTC, with coordinating agency policies relating to the dissemination of unclassified scientific research supported wholly or in part by Federal funds. In fulfillment of that directive, OSTP released a memo in February, 2013 requiring major Federal research agencies to produce a public access plan that conforms to general principles established by OSTP. Those plans are due by August, 2013, and regular progress updates are required for the first two years of each policy's implementation. The Committee directs OSTP to provide the Committee with semiannual reports on the status of agencies' plan development and implementation.
Rare Earth materials -
"The Committee understands that the NSTC Subcommittee on Critical and Strategic Mineral Supply Chains (CSMSC), which maintains a consolidated list of rare critical elements and minerals, is preparing a new effort to reassess and update the criticality of those materials based, in part, on in-depth supply chain studies. The Committee supports this work and directs OSTP to report on the results of the assessment no later than 90 days after its completion. The Committee also urges the CSMSC Subcommittee to leverage the results of its assessment into an interagency plan that will encourage domestic critical element and mineral production in order to reduce the dependence of the U.S. government and industry on foreign sources of such materials.”
Also, on page 8 in the introductory section of the House report, the appropriators again comment on STEM education:
“The President's budget request for fiscal year 2014 included a major restructuring of Federal STEM education programs, including the consolidation of many STEM education activities underway government-wide into the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education and the Smithsonian Institution. The Committee supports the concept of improving efficiency and effectiveness through streamlining and better coordination, but does not believe that this particular restructuring proposal achieves that goal. The ideas presented in the budget request lack any substantive implementation plan and have little support within the STEM education community. In addition, the request conflicts with several findings and activities of the National Science and Technology Council Committee on STEM Education, most notably on the question of whether agency mission-specific fellowship and scholarship programs are a viable target of interagency coordination efforts. For these reasons, the Committee's recommendation does not adopt the pending interagency restructuring, and no funds provided in this bill shall be used to implement that proposal. Individual components of the request, such as the consolidation of programs within a particular agency or the termination of a program slated for consolidation, may be incorporated into the Committee's recommendation, but only on a case-by-case basis when such actions are independently justifiable. Details about any such instances can be found under the appropriate agency headings.”