Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Agreement Ahead?

The post has been updated to clarify that Lamar Smith, not Lamar Alexander, is the House science committee chair.

After years of back-and-forth between Congress and the National Science Foundation, ScienceInsider reports that a ceasefire might be in the offing.

The science committee of the US House of Representatives has repeatedly considered legislation that would increase its oversight of NSF and require the agency to spell out how each grant it funds is "in the national interest." These bills have been spearheaded by committee chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who has said he wants to ensure that taxpayer's money is well spent. Smith has also taken aim at some specific grants NSF has awarded, particularly ones conducted outside the US or ones funded by NSF's social, behavioral, and economic sciences section. Democrats on the science committee have said Smith is targeting grants he doesn't like.

But ScienceInsider says that the final text of the bill to reauthorize the 2010 America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act might smooth out the situation. According to ScienceInsider the final version of the bill supports the criteria NSF uses in its funding decisions, namely basing its decisions on the "intellectual merit" and "broader impacts" of the proposed work. But it adds that the categories that Smith says would fulfill his "national interest" criterion — such as increasing economic competitiveness, bolstering national security, and boosting partnerships between academia and industry, among others — are given as examples for fulfilling that "broader impacts" standard.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.