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. They also provide funding and policy direction to the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
In a section entitled “Office of Science and Technology Policy” on pages 102-104 of the Senate committee report, appropriators comment on the Obama Administration’s proposal to consolidate federal STEM education programs. Appropriators also state their views on public access and their requirement for an OSTP report on this subject.
Selections from the committee’s report follow. Conflicts in policy recommendations in the House and Senate versions will be resolved in a conference committee.
“Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education -
“The Committee has encouraged OTSP in prior fiscal year appropriation acts to report on the duplication of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM] education programs with an emphasis on coordinating with agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of STEM education programs. Within the fiscal year 2014 budget request, the administration, led by OSTP, has proposed a government-wide consolidation of STEM education programs and a transfer of responsibilities across several agencies.
“While the Committee maintains its support of greater efficiencies and consolidation - as evident by adopting some of the STEM consolidation recommendations made by the administration's budget request - the Committee has concerns that the proposal as a whole has not been thoroughly vetted with the education community or congressional authorizing committees, and lacks thorough guidance and input from Federal agencies affected by this proposal, from both those that stand to lose education and outreach programs and from those that stand to gain them. The administration has yet to provide a viable plan ensuring that the new lead STEM institutions - the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and the Smithsonian Institution - can support the unique fellowship, training, and outreach programs now managed by other agencies. Conversely, what is proposed as a consolidation of existing STEM programs from NOAA, NASA, and NIST into the new lead STEM agencies is really the elimination of many proven and successful programs with no evaluation on why they were deemed duplicative or ineffective.
“The proposal also lacks clarity on how it will meet the goals of the Federal STEM Education Five Year Strategic Plan mandated by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-358) which was only recently delivered to Congress on May 31, 2013, a month after the budget request submission. The budget request appears to prevent the new plan from assessing and evaluating Federal investments and developing STEM program guidance with significant agency input.
“Therefore, the Committee continues to support effective mission-oriented STEM education programs at NASA, NOAA, and NIST within this bill, and defers action on the consolidation proposal until such time that OSTP, in working with these and other Federal science agencies, finalizes the STEM program assessments as required by America COMPETES. OSTP is also required to work with the non-Federal education and outreach communities to present a proposal that garners wider support since these external partners often serve as the real bridge between Federal science content and our communities and schools. In seeking efficiencies for STEM programs, OSTP and its partners should be mindful of ensuring that scientists supported by the Federal Government are not absolved of responsibility to educate and train the next generation. OSTP should also take care to preserve effective training and education programs designed to directly fulfill the unique STEM needs of the agencies administering them.”
“Open Access to Federal Research –
“The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act established a working group under the National Science and Technology Council [NSTC] charged with coordinating ‘Federal science agency research and policies related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of unclassified’ federally funded research. The working group was charged with establishing ‘priorities for coordinating the development of any Federal science agency policies related to public access to the results of federally funded research’ and to report to Congress within one year after passage of the act on the status of any Federal science agency policies related to public access. That report was issued in March of 2012 and stated that NSTC groups continued to review public comments on the matter to make a final decision. Once reached, the final decision will be presented to the NSTC Committee on Science which will in turn, consider implementation options.
“The Committee is disappointed that more than one year after NSTC issued its report no measurable action has been taken with respect to open access policies for federally funded research. It is the Committee's understanding that the Office of Science and Technology Policy [OSTP] has undertaken an effort - working with the Department of Commerce, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other Federal science agencies who have more than $100,000,000 in annual research and development expenditures - to develop a Federal research public access policy. However, absent a formal plan, the Committee and the science community remain concerned that a practicable, reasonable, and agreeable policy can be developed. Furthermore, there is additional congressional interest in enacting open access policies by statute.
“Thus, the Committee directs OSTP to report to the Committee on Appropriations and the appropriate authorizing committees within 45 days of enactment of this act regarding the administration's coordinated plan to support increased public access to federally funded research based on the feedback OSTP received from the science agencies as well as implementation guidelines across the myriad of agencies and scientific disciplines effected by the plan.”