House moves ahead with bill funding NSF in FY2015

Behavioral and social sciences may face negative amendments.

On May 8, 2014 the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill (H.R. 4660) funding the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other related agencies. The legislation is expected to come to the House floor for consideration on May 26. The House bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion, a slight increase over both the FY 2014 and administration request levels. An amendment from Reps. David Price, D-N.C., and Jim Moran, D-Va., to substantially increase NSF funding was withdrawn due to lack of support.

Signaling that ongoing threats to social and behavioral sciences exist in the Appropriations Committee as well as the House Science, Space and Technology committee (which has advanced the FIRST Act of 2014 cutting allocations for the NSF Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences [SBE] Directorate), the committee noted in accompanying report language that "any increases provided above the request and not otherwise specified below shall be applied to math and physical sciences; computer and information science and engineering; engineering; and biological sciences."

Social and behavioral sciences (and geosciences) do not appear in this list, and language in another section of the accompanying report notes that “[l]ongstanding congressional concerns persist about the merit of activities funded through NSF's SBE Directorate. In order to address these concerns, NSF must ensure that SBE awards are consistent with NSF's scientific quality standards and aligned to national interests. The committee recognizes the intrinsic value in SBE sciences and the direct responsiveness of SBE activities to committee priorities, including studies on the effects of youth exposure to media violence and the collection of data for STEM education indicators.”

The American Psychological Association continues to oppose the FIRST Act and will monitor H.R. 4660 closely for unfriendly amendments as it heads to the House floor.