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NSF & Congress

NSF FY 2017 Budget Request, National Interest Legislation, and the Detection of Gravitational Waves

February 12, 2016

U.S. Capitol
NSF Director France Córdova on Feb. 9 presented an overview of the President's fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request for the agency of $7.964 billion, an increase of $500.53 million (6.7 percent) over the FY 2016 Estimate. The request includes $7.56 billion in discretionary budget authority and $400 million in new mandatory budget authority. This supports research into critical national issues, including clean energy technologies, food sustainability, disaster response and education. See our FY 2017 budget website for further information. NSF followed the budget roll out with briefings on Capitol Hill.

On Feb. 10, the House passed legislation that would require NSF to certify that the grants it makes are for research that is in the national interest. The vote was 236 to 178. H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act, would require the agency to provide a written justification for every award explaining that it is worthy of federal funding and that it meets the national interest by having the potential to achieve: (A) increased economic competitiveness in the United States; (B) advancement of the health and welfare of the American public; (C) development of an American STEM workforce that is globally competitive; (D) increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology in the United States; (E) increased partnerships between academia and industry in the United States; (F) support for the national defense of the United States; or (G) promotion of the progress of science for the United States.

Meanwhile, H.R. 3033, the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia, or READ, Act that was passed by Congress last week, awaits the President’s signature.

Finally, on Feb. 11, the research collaboration using the NSF-supported Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the first ever observation of gravitational waves – ripples in the fabric of space-time first predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago in the theory of general relativity. The gravitational waves were observed on Sept. 14, 2015, by the twin LIGO detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The LIGO observatories are funded by NSF and were conceived, built and are operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The discovery opens a new window on understanding the Universe. Read more about it in this special report.


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