Skip to Content

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.

FY17 NSF Appropriations

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.
FY16 NSF Appropriations

On December 18, 2015, Congress approved an omnibus appropriations package for FY16. The bill includes $7.463 billion in appropriations for the National Science Foundation, about $120 million above the FY15 level and $260 million below the President’s FY16 budget request. The bill's report language specifies that funding for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate “shall be up to” the FY15 level, in place of earlier House language that would have resulted in heavy cuts to SBE. The bill funds NSF’s Research and Related Activities Account at $6.033 billion, an increase of $100 million compared to FY15 appropriations.

House NSF Authorization: America COMPETES Act

On April 15, 2015, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX 21) introduced the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806 ), which reauthorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill seeks to authorize the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) at $150 million—45% below its current funding level—and would have a devastating effect on social and behavioral science research, as well as on the broader national science agenda. The House passed the bill on May 20 by a vote of 217-205.

The COMPETES Act provides for specific funding levels for each of the NSF directorates, which represents a departure from typical practice and opens the door to targeted cuts aimed at the SBE Directorate.  Chairman Smith introduced a similar reauthorization bill in 2014, the FIRST Act of 2014 (H.R. 4186), that also provided for directorate-specific funding levels and drastic cuts to the SBE directorate.

Senate NSF Authorization: American Innovation and Competitiveness Act

On December 10, the Senate approved the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S.3084), which addresses support for federal science research.  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 that would have resulted in significant cuts for the social and behavioral sciences.

The compromise bill passed by the Senate on December 10, after the House had concluded its last legislative session, did not include authorization levels.  Authorization for the NSF expired in 2013. Bills to reauthorize the organization could be taken up again by the next Congress.

The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act , bipartisan legislation which reauthorizes the National Science Foundation, was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on June 29, 2016. The legislation, introduced by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), includes a four percent increase in NSF authorization from FY 2017 ($7.51 billion) to FY 2018 ($7.81 billion). The bill also includes language supporting the NSF’s merit review process. The Consortium of Social Science Associations has published a detailed analysis of the bill, available here.

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
  Next Page: National Endowment for the Humanities  


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

Scroll Up