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National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Political Science Program  funds an array of political science research on citizenship, government, and politics, including in subfields such as American government and politics, comparative government and politics, international relations, political behavior, political economy, and political institutions. In addition, the Political Science Program has supported undergraduate research and methodological innovations in the field. The NSF also funds multidisciplinary research projects.

FY18 NSF Appropriations

On May 23, 2017 the White House released the FY18 presidential budget request. The president’s budget reduces funding for the National Science Foundation by about 11 percent overall and at approximately 10.6 percent for research and development (compared to FY 2016 enacted levels) at the independent agency. The budget proposes cuts to all directorates within NSF, starting at a 7.1 percent cut for the Biological Sciences directorate and including a 10.4 percent cut to the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate. The NSF's requested FY18 overall budget is $6.653 billion, including $5.361 billion for research and related activities, and $244.02 million for the SBE directorate.

FY17 NSF Appropriations

On May 5, 2017 President Donald Trump signed into law an omnibus appropriations package for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year. The legislation, H.R. 244, funds the NSF at $7.5 billion, an increase of $8.7 million over the FY16 enacted amount. 

On December 9, Congress passed a continuing resolution that extends funding for the government at FY16 funding levels through April 28, 2017. The following day, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 2028, the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act, into law. The legislation follows an earlier continuing resolution passed in late September and leaves work on finalizing FY 2017 appropriations—including funding for programs that support political science and other academic research—to the incoming Congress

On May 24, 2016, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY17 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The legislation funds NSF at $7.4 billion, a decrease of $57 million compared to FY16 as enacted. NSF’s Research and Related Activities account is increased by $46 million above FY16 as enacted. Report language for the bill includes positive language in support of research “across all scientific disciplines,” and does not mention any directorates for specific funding levels or cuts. For more information, see an analysis of the bill from the Consortium of Social Science Associations.

On April 19, 2016, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies approved a FY17 spending bill which includes $7.509 billion for NSF. This figure represents roughly flat funding compared to FY16 levels as enacted. On April 21, 2016, the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill. A press release on the bill notes that NSF’s FY17 funds are provided “for basic research across all scientific disciplines,” and the bill does not provide for specific funding amounts by directorate, as some bills have in the past.

The bill’s report language states, “As part of the peer review process, NSF should include criteria that evaluates how a proposal will advance our Nation’s national security and economic interests, as well as promote the progress of science and innovation in the United States.” In an analysis of the bill, the Consortium of Social Science Associations notes the report language “directs NSF to add these criteria as part of the merit review process when reviewing all NSF grants, but does not appear to require that all projects funded by NSF necessarily have a direct positive impact on U.S. national security or the economy. It is unclear how this language would be interpreted by NSF should a version of it stick in the final FY 2017 appropriations bill.” 

On February 9, 2016, President Obama released his administration's FY17 budget. It proposes a $500 million increase over the enacted FY16 NSF budget, using a combination of discretionary budget increases (totaling $100 million) and a one-year mandatory funding stream (totaling $400 million). Without the stream of mandatory funding, the budget for the SBE directorate would be roughly flat with FY16 levels as enacted, at $272.4 million.

The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act

On December 10, the Senate passed the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act  (S.3084), which addresses support for federal science research. The House of Representatives passed the bill under suspension of the rules during a pro forma session on December 16. The compromise bill follows a previous version in the Senate and a bill in the House that would have authorized appropriations for the National Science Foundation. The earlier version of S. 3084 that passed the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in June included a four percent increase in NSF authorizations from FY 2017 ($7.51 billion) to FY 2018 ($7.81 billion). The bill also included language supporting the NSF’s merit review process. In contrast, the America COMPETES Act ( H.R. 1806), which passed the House in May 2015, included directorate-specific authorization levels, with heavy cuts to the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorate. The compromise bill that passed this December did not include authorization levels. It retained language supporting the NSF merit review process. Authorization for the NSF expired in 2013.


APSA Action

APSA is a member of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF). Each year, APSA participates in COSSA's Advocacy Day, which brings scholars to Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of political science research and express support for strong funding for the National Science Foundation. Other recent activities include:

NSF Appropriations Committees
NSF Authorizing Committees
Get Involved
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American Political Science Association
1527 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036-1206
(202) 483-2512 • Fax: +1 (202) 483-2657

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