The National Science Foundation (NSF) was able to receive an additional $ 600 million as part of the massive bill on coronavirus pandemic moving through Congress this week.
The money is not mentioned in the $ 1.9 trillion plan currently being taken up by the Budget Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. But ScienceInsider has learned that it is expected to be added to the legislation before the full house votes on the package later in the week. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive a one-time budget increase of $ 150 million. The money comes from an allocation of $ 750 million made available to the House Scientific Committee, chaired by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), for programs under its jurisdiction.
Under the terms of the overall emergency package, the two agencies would be required to use the one-off bonanza to help the nation recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, including damage to its scientific and technological activities. At NSF, whose current budget is $ 8.2 billion. Dollars, the new money is likely to be spent on more research into pandemic-related topics as well as more support for the education of the next generation of scientists and engineers. The funds for NIST, which now has a budget of $ 1 billion, are expected to strengthen its network of research institutes in production.
Lawyers for higher education have urged Congress to pay particular attention to researchers who have just begun their careers, citing the devastating effects of closed laboratories, employment freezes and travel restrictions on graduate students, postdocs and new faculty members. Last month, Johnson and the committee’s top Republican, Frank Lucas (R-OK), reintroduced a measure that would allow the NSF to spend $ 250 million a year on scholarships to support such early career researchers. This bill (HR 144) is not part of the COVID aid package, but its target group is expected to benefit from the inflow of money to the NSF.
NSF and NIST traditionally enjoy the support of both parties in Congress. Sources tell ScienceInsider that they expect the Senate Committee on Trade, Science and Transport, which oversees the same two agencies, to agree to a similar allocation when that body takes the overall emergency action in the coming weeks. Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Congress and President Joe Biden say their goal is to adopt the aid package by mid-March before the vacancy benefits and other provisions of previous legislation expire.