NSF Getting Smaller 2020 Raise Than Anticipated

Hopes were high that in the 2020 fiscal year the National Science Foundation would receive a substantial increase in funding, relative to both the current fiscal year or the recommendations of the Trump administration. The options seemed to be – based on precedent – the $8.45 billion suggested by the U.S. Senate, the $8.64 billion suggested by the U.S. House of Representatives, or most likely a figure in between the two.

The White House had sought $7.066 billion for the foundation, a figure that never really entered serious conversations. In the current year, NSF had been appropriated $8.075 billion.

The two “minibus” appropriations bills, totaling $1.37 trillion, worked out by both chambers settled the mystery Monday – NSF funding will be $8.278 billion, less than suggested by either chamber of the legislature. That’s a 2.5 percent increase over the current year.

Of that amount, $6.74 billion is set aside for the research and research-related activities, which funds grants for basic research. This amount is of prime importance to social scientists, since NSF is the largest source of federal government money for basic social and behavioral research in the U.S. The bill does not determine how much is allocated to each of the NSF’s research directorates, such as the social, behavioral and economic directorate that passes out most social science research grants.

The bills, which averts further drama in a Washington, D.C. obsessed with the impeachment of Donald Trump, are expected to be signed before the end of the week. Both bills have passed the House and Senate, with the bill containing the NSF appropriation receiving fewer votes in large part because it also contains funding for erecting barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border.

There is other research funding in the bill. Most notably, Congress is allowing research into gun violence, which while not explicitly outlawed had been forbidden since 1996 if the research could be used to support lobbying for gun control. The bill appropriates $12.5 million for both the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, for a total of $25 million, to do things like track death from firearms and examinations of violent incidents.

Other research agencies funded by the bill include the National Institutes for Health, which will receive a 7 percent increase in research funding, to $41.7 billion.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has been a much more quiescent organization under the Trump administration than it had been under President Obama, will receive $5.54 million, largely to focus on the “research integrity” policy largely aimed at concerns arising from China.

The agreement includes $7.56 billion for the Bureau of the Census, which is $3.7 billion above this year’s enacted level and reflects the fact that the decennial census occurs in 2020.

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