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OK, So We'll Do This and This

While the US National Science Foundation's new director has made an effort to reach out to Congress, Nature reports that some of that outreach may be in vain.

Republican lawmakers, it notes, have focused on NSF and its grant-funding process as a source of potential wasteful spending and have presented legislation to have the agency certify that grants is does fund are in the national interest.

France Córdova, who has been the NSF director for about a year, has invited congressional aides to the NSF facility in Antarctica and put in place guidelines aimed at making grant summaries easier to understand, Nature reports.

But, it adds, this has not stemmed efforts by, for instance, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, to examine confidential information about individual grants.

"Congress absolutely has the right to request whatever materials for oversight they want," Córdova says. "Just because we're not used to it doesn't mean it's a violation." 

Others, though, Nature says, worry that she's been too quick to compromise.

"If the NSF is funding a grant, it should by definition be in the national interest," John Bruer, the president emeritus of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, says. "When you add stuff about the national interest, you are potentially inviting criteria apart from judging the best science."