Legislation Affecting Science: Cannabis Research, STEM Education, Cures and Innovation Acts

May 23, 2019

FABBS continues to track – and weigh in on – legislation affecting our sciences both positively and negatively. Below are several bills of interest not included in our last update on relevant legislation.

FABBS endorsed the Friends of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) support letter, led by FABBS member, the American Psychological Association, for the newly introduced Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Expansion Act, which would enable expansion of the scientific research base on cannabis to answer critical questions, such as identifying possible public health consequences and potential therapeutic effects. For additional information, please see this one-page position piece.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), or HR 1608, aims to strengthen 47-year-old legislation to improve government transparency of advisory bodies. After passing the House back in March, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) postponed consideration due to NIH concerns about the bill’s impact on their study sections. HR 1608 was first introduced in 2008 and twice passed in the House under Republican leadership.

While supporting the goals of transparency and an unbiased review process, scientific agencies and the scientific community are concerned that the legislation would seriously disrupt the research proposal review process. In particular, the bill would require NIH to designate study section members, currently classified as consultants, as special government employees. NIH officials say the change would add months to the appointment process, generate massive amounts of additional paperwork, and discourage scientists from volunteering to serve. The National Science Foundation already designates members of study sections as special government employees. FABBS will be monitoring negotiations in the coming weeks. (Science article – “NIH fears good-government bill would hamper peer review“)

Other bills of potential interest to FABBS members include:

  • The American Cures Act and the American Innovation ActIntroduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (D-IL) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) these bills would create a mandatory fund to provide steady, predictable funding for breakthrough research at America’s top research agencies, allowing the US to remain a leader in development and discovery for decades to come. 
  • Building Blocks of STEM Act – Introduced by Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI), Chair of the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Science Committee, this act instructs NSF to fund research studying factors that discourage or encourage girls to engage in STEM activities.