Congressional Attack on National Science Foundation Funding: FIRST Act Moves To Next Phase

by Eden Burgess

On March 13, 2014, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology Act, or FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), was referred to the full Committee on Science, Space, and Technology for the next phase towards passage by the House.

The FIRST Act, introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the Committee, and Larry Bucshon (R-IN), addresses funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The bill particularly targets social science funding, originally proposing 42% cuts to the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE). Amendments made during markup softened the cuts to the SBE somewhat, reducing funding (to $200M) by 22% from FY14 levels. The SBE Directorate supports “research that builds fundamental knowledge of human behavior, interaction, and social and economic systems, organizations and institutions.” Archaeological projects typically fall within SBE’s purview.

NSF’s Board took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing the pending legislation, saying in a statement released on April 24 that “some of its provisions and tone suggest that Congress intends to impose constraints that would compromise NSF’s ability to fulfill its statutory purpose.”

SHA has already taken steps to oppose cuts like those proposed in the FIRST Act, circulating a change.org petition in December 2013 asking that signers express their support for public funding of archaeological research. In April, before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s hearing “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments,” SHA submitted testimony expressing its support for NSF funding. We believe that archaeological research funded by NSF and other public organizations:

  • Brings together the economic benefits of preservation, heritage tourism, and job opportunities in  a variety of fields (cultural resources management, museums, academia and others)
  • Provides unique educational and enrichment opportunities for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds
  • Gives voice to everyday Americans who may not otherwise appear in mainstream historical narratives
  • Promotes career paths in the sciences

Urge your Representative to vote against the FIRST Act, and tell him/her that Archaeology Matters! (Find your Rep here.)