Last week, Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, released a discussion draft of anticipated legislation entitled the High Quality Research Act. While the title appears supportive of research, the text conveys an intent to alter the well established peer review system of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill establishes new criteria for the awarding of NSF grants:
(1) is in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
(2) is the finest quality, is ground breaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and
(3) is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.
Further, the legislation would require that, prior to making a grant award, the Director of the NSF publish a statement on the web that the above criteria has been met. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy would be required to report to the House on the potential for applying the new criteria in other federal research agencies.
AADR joined 109 organizations in a letter expressing concern to the Committee that the draft legislation undermines the peer review process and shifts the criteria for grants away from scientific merit as a primary goal.