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In Your Interest Only

In a bill proposed this week, the US House of Representatives is reiterating a previous warning to the National Science Foundation that each of its grants must be in "the national interest," ScienceInsider reports.

HR3292, also known as the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, has been introduced into the House, and it includes a controversial bit of legislation that also cropped up last year in HR 1806, or the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. America COMPETES bill was passed by the House, but wasn't taken up by the Senate; a new version is being drafted, ScienceInsider notes.

HR3292 defines studies that are in the "national interest" as ones that benefit the US economy, advance the health of the public, support national defense, increase scientific literacy, promote the progress of science, increase partnerships between academia and industry, or develop a US STEM workforce that is globally competitive.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the House science committee and the bill's sponsor, says that the bill merely codifies what NSF already does.

Critics, however, are skeptical and suspicious that it would actually apply a "political litmus test" that could be used "to trim research by social scientists and those studying climate change," ScienceInsider says.

"The clear intent of the bill is to change how NSF makes funding decision, according to what some majority members believe should or shouldn't be funded," says Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the top Democrat on the science committee.