Senate Science and Technology Leaders Introduce the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act

Commerce Committee to consider bipartisan science bill on June 29

June 23, 2016

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), leaders of the Commerce Committee’s innovation and competitiveness working group on federal science and technology research policies, along with Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) who serve respectively as the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, last night introduced S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act. The bipartisan bill maximizes basic research by reducing administrative burdens for researchers, enhancing agency oversight, improving research dissemination, and reforming federal science agencies to increase the impact of taxpayer-funded research.

“Our country is at its best when the entrepreneurial spirit has the ability to thrive and Americans have the tools they need to succeed,” said Gardner. “In order for America to remain competitive, it’s essential that we efficiently and effectively invest in research so that our country’s brightest minds can create and develop. It’s also critical that we expand educational opportunities and recognize the importance of equipping the next generation of leaders with STEM skills so that America not only keeps pace with the rest of the world, but remains the leading innovator. I was proud to lead multiple roundtables and working groups and gather crucial feedback from the science, education, and business communities in order to develop comprehensive science and technology policy that will strengthen our economy and create good-paying jobs. The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act is the product of a strong, bipartisan effort that I was proud to champion, and I thank Chairman Thune for his leadership and Senator Peters and Ranking Member Nelson for their support and hard work throughout this process. This legislation is a positive step toward keeping America competitive, and I look forward to a full and open debate.”
“Federal investments in research and development help spur innovation and drive the new industries that will discover the next big thing,” said Peters, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan bill that promotes science and research, strengthens innovation and advanced manufacturing, grows our skilled workforce and enhances American competitiveness around the world.”
“The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act gives new direction to maximize returns on federal research,” said Thune. “Sen. Gardner and Sen. Peters rolled up their sleeves to gather necessary input for a pro-science, pro-taxpayer bill. I’m pleased the committee will soon have an opportunity to consider this important legislation.”
“Scientific research fuels our imagination and energizes the American economy," said Nelson. "This legislation will help keep our federal science agencies on track toward the next amazing scientific discovery."

S. 3084 most directly affects programs within the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Last July, Sens. Gardner and Peters kicked off efforts to build a consensus way forward for federal research policies. Their competitiveness working group held three roundtables with research community stakeholders and collected hundreds of submissions and comments sent to to inform the group’s work.

In May, the Commerce Committee held a formal hearing with research community witnesses who praised the committee for its efforts to build a bipartisan consensus. Said former National Science Board official Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier in hearing testimony:

“This committee has already addressed one of the greatest long-term threats to American innovation: You’ve made science bipartisan again, countering rhetoric that has at times made the research community feel under siege.”

S. 3084 will be considered by the Commerce Committee at a markup scheduled for June 29, 2016, at 10:00 a.m.

Click here for the text of S. 3084 as introduced.

Highlights of S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act

Maximizing Basic Research

- Peer review – Reaffirms the NSF’s merit-based peer review process for determining grants.

- Broadening research opportunities – Updates and renames NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for underutilized regions to reflect its established record.

- Cybersecurity research – Directs research to help better protect computer systems from cyber threats.

- Transparency and accountability – Codifies reforms to increase transparency and accountability in the National Science Foundation (NSF) grantmaking process.

- Oversight implementation – Requires NSF to address concerns about waste and abuse by improving oversight of large research facility construction, updates a conflicts of interest policy, and reforms management of the Antarctic research program.

Reducing Regulatory Burdens

- Interagency working group – Establishes an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and OSTP-led interagency working group to reduce administrative burdens on federally-funded researchers.

- Obsolete reporting requirements – Repeals obsolete federal agency reporting requirements as well as previous authorizations for programs that have not been implemented.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) Education

- Outside advisory panel – Authorizes a STEM education advisory panel of outside experts to help guide federal STEM education program decision making.

- Expands opportunities for women – Expands NSF grant programs to increase participation and expand STEM opportunities to women and other under-represented groups.

Manufacturing, Commercialization, and Leveraging the Private Sector

- Crowdsourcing Science – Expands opportunities for crowdsourcing research input and citizen science participation by organizations and individuals.

- Manufacturing – Updates NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program for small and medium sized businesses by adjusting the federal cost-share requirement and implementing new accountability and oversight requirements.

- Promoting entrepreneurship – Authorizes and expands NSF’s Innovation Corps program to promote entrepreneurship and commercialization education, training, and mentoring of federally-funded researchers.

- Commercialization grants – Authorizes and expands grants to promote the commercialization of federally-funded research.