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Bill That Would Boost NSF Funding Not Dead Yet

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The jobs and science funding America Competes Act has stalled out in the House of Representatives after being beaten back twice in the past two weeks.

Last week the bi-partisan bill was temporarily killed through a parliamentary tactic called a motion to recommit, and this week it was voted down because the procedure used to bring it to vote required two-thirds support for its passage.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D -Md.) said in a statement Wednesday that he plans to bring the bill back soon using a more standard procedure that would not require the two-thirds majority.

Among other things, the HR 5325 bill, or the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, would boost funding for the National Science Foundation and would fund genomics research at the Department of Energy.

After the motion to recommit procedure last week, Representative Bart Gordon (D – Tenn.) who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology, agreed to make changes sought by Republicans. Those chances included a reduction of the authorization of the bill from five years to three years, and language that would ban the use of authorized funds to pay the salary of federal employees who were disciplined for looking at pornography at work.

"I'm disappointed, but not deterred," Gordon said in a statement on Wednesday, in which he called the bill "too important to let [it] fall by the wayside."

"More than half of our economic growth since World War II can be directly attributed to development and adoption of new technologies. The path is simple: research leads to innovation; innovation leads to economic development and good paying jobs," he added.

As GenomeWeb Daily News reported recently, the bill includes plans to start a genomic sequencing user facility for climate change research, plans for using synthetic biology in energy research, includes a mandate for bioenergy research centers, and it would support development of systems biology in biomass research.

If it passes, the act could have a large impact on the NSF.

The new bill would increase funding for NSF between 2011 and 2013, and give the foundation $8.2 billion for fiscal 2011, compared to the $7.4 billion originally sought by the White House for next year. The bill also would support incremental increases at NSF over the next three years.

These NSF budgets also would be broken down into funding areas. For example, in 2011 the bill would mandate that $6.6 billion go to research and related activities, $1.4 billion would go to education and human resources, $166 million would be tabbed for equipment and facilities construction, $330 million would be for management, and so on.

The bill also specifically states that the NSF director would establish a policy requiring the foundation to use at least five percent of its research budget for basic, high-risk, high-reward research proposals.

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