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Science and research could be big winners with proposed bill in Congress

Researchers at the MiGS lab, located in downtown Pittsburgh, are looking for any changes to the virus that could indicate there is a new strain of COVID-19.
Posted at 1:59 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 16:59:22-04

WASHINGTON — Science and technology are essential for the future.

Science and technology also don't come cheap.

That is where the federal government steps in.

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

In 1950, Congress came up with the National Science Foundation to encourage scientific innovation.

Currently, the organization has around an $8.5 billion annual budget with most of their resources handed out to organizations in the form of grants.

NSF grants contribute to around 25% of all the academic research happening in the United States.

PROPOSAL TO INCREASE FUNDING

This week, The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is expected to get a vote in the Senate.

The proposal would boost funding for NSF from $8.5 billion to anywhere between $29 - $100 billion annually. Funding would gradually increase over the next five years based on various proposals.

Technology and innovation hubs would be created throughout the country to ensure the money goes to more cities than just Silicon Valley.

"So far this has flown a bit under the radar, but it’s an incredibly important piece of legislation," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor this week.

Schumer has worked on this legislation with Republican senators, creating a rare moment of bipartisanship in the Senate.

WHAT'S DRIVING THIS?

A big reason this legislation has the interest of both Republicans and Democrats is China.

The World Intellectual Property Organization reported recently China was number one in new patents for the first time last year.

The U.S. was number two, previously the U.S. held the top spot every year since 1978.

"Advances in technology like artificial intelligence, and even the technologies that we cannot even conceive of, will impact the global balance of power for generations," Sethuraman Panchanathan, the Director of National Science Foundation, told Congress recently.

A number of amendments are being debated this week before a final vote is expected.