Dear Speaker Pelosi, House Minority Leader McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader McConnell:
The Coalition for the Life Sciences (CLS) applauds Congress for reaffirming the Nation’s commitment to science, research, and innovation by considering legislation—the Endless Frontier’s Act (EFA) in the Senate and the NSF for the Future Act (NFA) in the House— that advances the mission of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
For over 70 years, NSF has been a world leader in discovery and innovation. It has invested in all fields of science and engineering and has supported STEM education. We are pleased that Congress is supporting NSF’s mission and seeking ways to expand our scientific knowledge base. While both bills have merit, they are quite distinct. The House NFA seeks to expand NSF’s STEM education efforts and it creates a new Science and Engineering-based Solutions Directorate (SES) focused on technologies to address societal challenges. In contrast, the primary goals of the Senate EFA bill are to bolster US competitiveness, especially with China, and to develop new technologies that enable application of basic discoveries.
CLS supports the broad vision for NSF embodied in the House NFA, with its comprehensive authorization that would double NSF’s budget in five years, providing support for longstanding societal and education challenges by scaling up Pre-K-12 STEM education and addressing disparities, and for the SES Directorate. While both the House and Senate bills propose new technologies directorates, the House NFA would fund its new entity at a level that aligns with the rest of NSF, enhancing and coordinating with the agency’s primary mission.
To be clear, CLS approves of the underlying goal of the new Directorate for Technology and Innovation established in the Senate EFA. There is wisdom in deploying our continuously evolving technological capabilities to develop applications for fundamental discoveries. Moreover, it is important to safeguard the US from foreign efforts to undermine the openness and collaboration of our enterprise and the value of our intellectual property. However, the CLS has some significant concerns about the Senate EFA, which we urge Congress address as it deliberates this bill.
We firmly believe that the new Directorate and its technology hubs should be managed solely by NSF, not run jointly with the Department of Commerce. Also, the new directorate should not be authorized at $100 billion over 5 years when the whole of NSF has a current annual appropriation of $8.5 billion. This severe imbalance would threaten NSF’s fundamental discovery mission and culture, centered on merit-based, curiosity- driven research. Finally, we urge Congress to be strategic and deliberate in crafting legislation to shield US research from foreign influence, as science and technology are increasingly global endeavors, and dramatic breakthroughs in the US will continue to be commonly made by foreign-born researchers and trainees.
We strongly urge Congress to build on the best of these two bills. Any final bill should advance all of NSF, promote a diverse workforce of researchers, and advance fundamental discovery as the essential base for translational research and its applications. Doing so will strengthen the Nation’s investment in transformative science and unleash the potential for technological innovation and practical applications.
Keith R. Yamamoto
Chair, Coalition for the Life Sciences
Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, UCSF Director, UCSF Precision Medicine
Vice Dean for Research, School of Medicine Professor, Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology