NSF Update June 14, 1995 (FWD)

Anthro-l Listowners & JWA Editors (ANTOWNER@UBVM.BITNET)
Tue, 20 Jun 1995 10:00:26 EDT

*********Forwarded Message Follows
The Basic Research Subcommittee of the House Science Committee
completed action on the NSF authorization this morning and passed the
bill on to the full committee which is slated to take action on June 22,
the same day the VA HUD and Independent Agencies Subcommittee of the
Appropriations Committee is set to take action on the NSF appropriation.
The behavioral and social sciences were not singled out for extraordinary
cuts. Their cut is proportional to their size. The Chairman of the
Subcommittee, Steven Schiff noted that a great many letters and telephone
calls raising concern about the behavioral and social sciences had been
received and that the Subcommittee would not treat these sciences
differently from the other sciences in the bill. (Thank all of you again
for your efforts in this respect.) BUT, Schiff said, he did intend to
exercise oversight over the behavioral and social sciences. He did not
explain the specific meaning of his statement. One staffer suggested
after the markup that the statement at least sets the stage for further
action on the behavioral and social sciences.
Meanwhile, Howard Silver of the Consortium of Social Science
Associations received word yesterday that an amendment is being drafted
for Robert Walker regarding the social, behavioral, and economic
sciences. It was speculated that Mr. Walker might offer the amendment
this morning, but, while he did participate in the markup, he did not
offer the amendment. The latest word is that the amendment is not yet in
its final form. So there is much guessing about what it will contain.
Based on the issues he has raised in recent conversations and public
discussions, it seems likely that Mr. Walker's amendment may abolish the
Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate but keep the
programs contained in the Directorate, either farming them out to other
directorates through the amendment or allowing NSF to do so. This option
has been discussed by majority staff members. And Walker has hinted that
he thinks there are management problems in the Directorate, that peer
review within the Directorate may not be as value free as is the case in
the other Directorates, and that, as a result, some proposals are funded
that are not truly basic research proposals. The concerns he raised are
not supported by the evidence: In fact, there has been nothing but
praise for the management of the Directorate. The success rate for
proposals submitted to the Directorate is 28% at best, and is as low as
18% in some programs, which would suggest that even many of the most
outstanding proposals are not funded--a reality that is inconsistent with
any contention that less than the best proposals are being funded.
Moreover, most proposals submitted to the Directorate undergo two levels
of review (ad hoc and study section) rather than one. In that sense, the
review process in SBE is even more rigorous than in some of the other
Directorates where the two-level review is not the routine practice. It
would seem, therefore, that Walker is choosing criticisms that,
regardless of evidence to support their validity, do make a case for
giving the programs over to directorates that would allegedly manage them
more responsibly.
In meetings with Republican staff, Washington representatives for
the behavioral and social sciences have been advised that it would be
prudent to accept the Walker amendment at the full committee because it
would fulfill Walker's need to do something to implement at least the
spirit of the Budget Resolution report language. He might leave the
matter at that. Thus, there would be no extraordinary cut (that is, no
cut beyond the levels other sciences are being cut) to the authorized
funding level for behavioral and social science research. Aside from
avoiding such a cut, the main reason to go along with the amendment is
that it would lessen the likelihood the issue of behavioral and social
science funding would arise when the measure goes to the full House for
consideration. In this respect, the majority staffers are right. The
last thing we want is to have the matter opened up on the House floor
because there are many House members who would happily eliminate not just
the organizational structure but also the funding for these sciences. At
least on the Science Committee the members value science. The price for
going along with the amendment, however, is likely to be that the
programs of SBE would become auxiliary programs in the other
directorates. For example, Human Cognition and Perception might
logically be placed in the Directorate for Computer and Information
Sciences and Engineering. It would then become a subdivision of computer
science. Among other things, it is that loss of character of the
programs and their taking on the research priorities of other
directorates rather than the research priorities of the disciplines they
now fund that makes the Walker amendment difficult to swallow.
So, how to address the expected Walker amendment is a critical
question. The best thing that could happen would be to find someone who
Walker respects who could convince him to let the matter lie. We
(Washington reps. for the behavioral and social sciences) are trying to
find such a person. We have also been giving Rep. George Brown materials
to bolster an argument against the amendment and to support a possible
counter or substitute amendment. Mr. Brown, however, will lose since
there are not enough Democratic votes on the Science Committee to
counteract a party line vote by the Republicans. In the markup today,
all Democratic amendments lost by party-line votes, and all Republican
amendments, save one that would have changed the name of the National
Science Foundation to the National Science and Engineering Foundation,
won on essentially party-line votes. Another consideration is that the
Senate is likely not to change the structure of NSF in its authorization.
Banking on that, we could 1) try to get Walker not to offer the
amendment, 2) fight it in committee if he offers it anyway, 3) take our
chances on the floor, and 4) work with the Senate to have the adverse
actions of the House taken out of the bill in conference with the Senate,
or, alternatively, 5) argue that the Senate should pass no authorization
bill at all but rather simply extend the previous authorization for
another year. (Lack of action in the Senate would neutralize whatever
might happen in the House authorization and leave NSF with a higher
authorization level than would be the case were the House authorization
bill levels to be approved.) Those are the items the Washington
representatives will be discussing to try to arrive at a prudent course
of action.
Here is a synopsis of the NSF authorization bill as it stands now:
The overall authorization level for NSF is $3,126,000,000--$148,932,000
less than APPROPRIATED for the current fiscal year and $234,000,000 less
than requested by the President for fiscal year 1996. Research and
related activities would be authorized at $2,236,300,000--$46,597,000
less than FY95. And within research and related activities, SBE research
would be authorized at $111,300,000--$2,490,000 less than FY95, and
$11,570,000 less than requested by the President. The authorization is
for two years. Figures are not given by directorate for FY97. But the
overall authorization level is $3,171,400,000. Research and related
activities is set at $2,286,200,000. In addition to funding levels, the
bill deals with several policy items: The bill requires NSF to continue
with its strategic planning process and submit reports on these plans to
Congress and the President. NSF is directed to take measures to link
research more closely to teaching. This may mean that future grant
proposals will need to explain how teaching is incorporated into the
proposed research. Matching funds required under the Academic Research
Facilities Modernization Act of 1988 are not to be considered facilities
costs for purposes of determining indirect cost rates. Persons working
temporarily at NSF will need to disclose their finances in the same way
permanent employees are now required to disclose them. Universities are
required under the bill to give students in the National Guard military
leaves of absence if they are called to active duty other than active
duty for training. NSF grant money may not be used for lobbying.
Finally, the bill renames the Critical Technologies Institute. It is to
be called the Science and Technology Policy Institute.
*********End of Forwarded