ASM Backs National Science Foundation for the Future Act

May 11, 2021

ASM issued the following letter to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on May 10, 2021. 

Dear Chairwoman Johnson and Ranking Member Lucas:

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), one of the oldest and largest life science societies, is pleased to support the National Science Foundation for the Future Act. As a global society whose mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences, ASM appreciates your leadership and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s bipartisan commitment to basic, translational and applied research and the infrastructure needed to support that research.

ASM is especially pleased that that bill would authorize robust and sustained funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to achieve a funding level of $13.5 billion by 2026. Microbes are the foundation of scientific discovery, and the NSF is a key supporter of microbial science research. NSF funding has supported fundamental research into microbiomes, discovery of emerging pathogens, and the promotion of global collaboration. The NSF for the Future Act affirms the committee’s commitment to maintaining American leadership in science and technology.

Promoting Innovation

The National Science Foundation is a leader in bold and innovative thinking on future directions for science and ASM supports this legislation’s creation of a new directorate at NSF, with appropriate safeguards for existing directorates. Harnessing the innovation mindset is key to moving forward with this new directorate, and it should be provided with a coherent and sustainable strategy that allows for broad collaboration on ongoing and emerging societal challenges with regular, periodic updating of the key focus areas by NSF with robust stakeholder input.

NSF is well-suited to coordinate forward-thinking multidisciplinary research. Microbiome science is one example of solutions-focused research that aims to advance understanding of microbial communities (microbiomes). Microbiome research presents unique opportunities to address the world’s toughest scientific and technological challenges in energy, food, health and environmental security and sustainability. Successfully leveraging these opportunities requires a robust and sustained federal investment in microbiome research—far beyond what has been envisioned to date. Increased funding for NSF research will catalyze further microbe-powered solutions.

Fostering a Scientific Workforce for the Future

ASM applauds the Committee’s continued efforts strengthen STEM education and build a workforce capable of tackling current and future challenges, as well as the Committee’s ongoing efforts to tackle the pervasive problem of harassment and discrimination in STEM fields. As the NSF for the Future Act moves forward, ASM requests that the Committee include the following legislation to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM:
  • The Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act, which addresses the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in academia;
  • STEM Opportunities Act, which provides guidance, data collection, and grants for groups historically underrepresented in STEM education at institutions of higher education (IHEs) and at federal science agencies
  • MSI STEM Achievement Act, which supports efforts to increase STEM education at minorityserving institutions of higher education.
Federal science agencies must embrace and promote diversity, equity and inclusion in science because doing so leads to better science and greater scientific advancement. We are particularly pleased to see the authorization of the NSF INCLUDES Program and updates to the Graduate Research Fellowship Program in this legislation.

Balancing Access, Security and Ethical Stewardship of Research Data

We appreciate the Committee’s approach to access, security and ethical stewardship of NSF-funded research. There is an urgent need for investments at the federal level to create sustainable crossdisciplinary repositories of information and to provide a space for researchers to communicate about ongoing bench work that cuts across agencies and funding streams. ASM supports the Committee’s efforts to ensure that NSF coordinates with the stakeholder community in developing trusted open repositories, accounting for discipline-specific needs and with necessary protections for sensitive information.

For 70 years, the NSF has invested in basic research and education at the frontiers of science and engineering, including high risk and transformative research not supported by other funding sources. This work, which is funded across several NSF programs and directorates, is integral to the growing bioeconomy.

As we continue to grapple with a deadly pandemic and face daunting challenges such as global climate change, ASM applauds efforts to restore science to its rightful place in the development and implementation of policies that affect human health and the world around us. A viable future for our planet depends on science and technology, and microbiologists will play a key role. On behalf of ASM and its members, thank you again for introducing this important legislation, and the Society stands ready to assist you as the legislative process moves forward.

ASM is pleased to offer the opportunity for individual scientists and researchers to show their support for NSF by adding their names to a sign-on letter organized by the American Physical Society.

Author: ASM Advocacy

ASM Advocacy
ASM Advocacy is making it easy and providing opportunities for members to advocate for evidence-based scientific policy.