The U.S. Congress this week got its first chance to weigh in on proposals to expand the mission and massively boost the budget of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the initial response was positive.
During three committee hearings, most legislators seemed to like the idea, although some expressed reservations about its size and scope—up to $100 billion over 5 years, with half going to a new technology directorate. And everybody wanted more details.
Supporters said a budget boost at the $8.5 billion agency would reverse years of underfunding and help the country develop the emerging technologies needed to outinnovate China and other economic competitors. Opponents questioned whether NSF could handle such rapid growth and whether an agency that mostly funds academic research is also the best home for efforts to commercialize those discoveries. Some legislators worried that too much of that research could wind up in the hands of China because of lax safeguards against espionage.