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A New NSF?

A new bill would provide additional funding for the US National Science Foundation, but would also reshape — and rename — the agency, Science reports.

It adds that Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced the bill S.3832, also known as the Endless Frontiers Act, last week along with co-sponsor Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.). The bill would establish a new technology directorate under the auspices of NSF, which would be renamed the National Science and Technology Foundation. According to the text of the bill, the new directorate would promote research and education in key technological areas. It would in particular begin by focusing on artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, and genomics, biotechnology, and synthetic biology, among other areas. The bill would further provide the agency $100 billion in funding over five years. A similar bill was introduced into the House of Representatives.

Science notes that while a number of researchers welcome the additional funding, some worry that the expanded scope of the agency would erode its traditional focus on fundamental research.

"Investments in innovative technology research at federal research centers, universities, and not-for-profit institutes to meet federal agency mission requirements should be kept separate from NSF appropriations," Arden Bement, a former NSF and a former National Institute of Standards and Technology director, tells Science.