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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.