Commerce Committee Approves Gardner-Peters Bill to Keep America Competitive

June 29, 2016

Washington, DC – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today approved the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, legislation introduced by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) along with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), leaders of the Committee’s innovation and competitiveness working group on federal science and technology research policies.

The bipartisan American Innovation and Competitiveness Act 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. The legislation includes a four percent increase in National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) authorization levels for FY 2018 over FY 2017, and it most directly affects programs within NSF, NIST, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

“I’m pleased the Commerce Committee acted expediently to advance this important, bipartisan bill through the legislative process,” said Gardner. “The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act is essential to ensuring our science and research communities and the next generation of leaders have the resources necessary to keep America competitive. I thank Chairman Thune for his leadership as well as Ranking Member Nelson and Senator Peters who have contributed throughout this process, which included multiple roundtables and working groups over the past year and a half. When America competes, new opportunities are unlocked and this legislation supports the entrepreneurial spirit that makes America so great.”

“Basic science research is the foundation of our economy, creating jobs and new opportunities for researchers to discover and entrepreneurs to innovate,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. “The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act will help invest in basic research, encourage stronger education efforts to train the next generation of workers and capitalize on new discoveries that will strengthen American competitiveness. I am proud to have worked with Senator Gardner, Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson to craft this bipartisan legislation that will help ensure America remains at the forefront of an increasingly high-tech global marketplace.”

Last July, Sens. Gardner and Peters kicked off efforts to build a consensus way forward for federal research policies. Their innovation and 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. Former National Science Board official Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier stated, “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.”

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.