CHIPS and Science Act authorizes significant investment in STEM

Earlier today, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act (H.R. 4346) into law, a sweeping piece of legislation impacting the country’s scientific enterprise. ASTC’s President and CEO Christofer Nelson was honored to be on the South Lawn of the White House for the signing.

President Biden at bill signing for CHIPS and Science Act
White House photo

The CHIPS and Science Act brings together elements of several bills that have been under discussion by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate for more than two years, including the America COMPETES Act of 2022, United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA), and the Endless Frontier Act. The final bipartisan votes were 64–33 in the Senate and 243–187 in the House.

And all the young people out there today who have an idea, that spark of imagination to solve a problem they see, to cure a disease they have, to dream to make the impossible possible — this law is for them.

President Joe Biden, August 9, 2022

The 1000-page bill provides authorizing language for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Energy Office of Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology. It sets budget authorization levels, but not appropriations, for those agencies.

Here’s a rundown of many of the provisions of interest to the ASTC community in this important legislation.

The bill authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) to:

  • Double the NSF budget over five years, including $13 billion for STEM education.
  • Formally establish NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships to foster use-inspired and translational research and provides an authorization of $20 billion over five years. The bill identifies an initial list of societal, national, and geostrategic challenges—including “inequitable access to education, opportunity, or other services”—and establishes ten key areas of technology for the directorate. It also establishes Regional Innovation Engines, which are encouraged to partner with other organizations to inform research directions and account for the societal implications of the research. This may be a potential opportunity for ASTC members.
  • Support PreK–12 informal STEM opportunities, such as awards for “research on effective approaches to engaging students in PreK–12, including students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM and rural students” with a focus on “innovative before-school, after-school, out-of-school, and summer activities that are designed to encourage interest, engagement, and skills development in STEM.” We would expect ASTC members to be involved with these activities.
  • Scale innovations in PreK–12 STEM education by establishing Centers for Transformative Education Research and Translation that bring together partners to facilitate the widespread and sustained implementation of promising, evidence-based STEM education practices. This may be a potential opportunity for ASTC members.
  • Waive cost-sharing requirements for the Major Research Instrumentation and Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship programs for the next five years. This is a win for the ASTC community as some of our member organizations have declined applying for or even accepting awards from these programs as a result of the need for cost-sharing.
  • Call for an independent assessment of NSF’s Broader Impacts review criterion and supports activities that will improve its implementation, such as training and workshops for program officers and merit review panelists, repositories for sharing best practices, and tools for evaluating and documenting societal impacts of research. In addition to their own grants, many ASTC members advance Broader Impacts on awards led by others.
  • Highlight the importance of biological research collections, including a request to facilitate coordination and data sharing among communities of practice, such as by establishing an Action Center for Biological Collections. Many ASTC members hold valuable research collections.
  • Increase efforts to advance rural STEM education including funds to support engaging rural educators, conducting research on effective STEM teaching in rural settings, leveraging community assets to support in-place learning in rural areas, and to support online STEM education for rural communities. This may be a potential opportunity for ASTC members.
  • Emphasize the importance of research ethics including a requirement for NSF to, within two years, incorporate applicable ethical and societal considerations as part of the proposal process—including steps to mitigate any potential risks or harm.
  • Enact research security provisions to protect Federal investments, including steps to identify potential security risks, train researchers on best practices, prohibit foreign recruitment programs, and ensure transparency.
  • Define a STEM ecosystem; rename the INCLUDES Initiative in honor of retiring House Science, Space, and Technology chair Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); establish a Chief Diversity Officer position at NSF; push for open data repositories; and encourage the addition of art and design to STEM curricula to promote creativity and innovation.

The bill authorizes NASA to:

  • Officially establish the Artemis program to return the U.S. to the moon and make progress on efforts to achieve human presence on Mars, including establishment of the Moon to Mars Program. It continues U.S. participation in the International Space Station through at least September 2030.
  • Codify the Office of STEM Engagement to promote STEM literacy and workforce development.

The bill also calls for the establishment of a National Engineering Biology Research and Development Initiative under the auspices of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy “to advance societal well-being, national security, sustainability, and economic productivity and competitiveness.” Among the areas of focus for the initiative are improving understanding of engineering biology by the lay pubic and supporting evidence-based public discourse about its benefits and risks—and supporting related to the risks and benefits of engineering biology. A major component of the initiative is consideration of ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and other societal issues—including a call for convening regular and ongoing public discussions.

Although less directly relevant to the ASTC community, there’s one major piece of direct spending in the bill: $52 billion to strengthen semiconductor manufacturing in the United States—along with $24 billion in tax credits for high-tech manufacturers.

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