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National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Support Possible Through Proposed Legislation

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January 7, 2021

National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Support Possible Through Proposed Legislation

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act on Jan. 5, 2021. A news release issued by Chairwoman Johnson and Ranking Member Lucas says the legislation creates a new postdoctoral fellowship program at the National Science Foundation to help keep early career researchers whose employment opportunities have been impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis in the STEM pipeline with the goal of preventing the loss of research talent due to job market disruptions caused by economic decline during and after the pandemic.

In the news release, Lucas said, “America’s scientific progress depends on a large pool of talented STEM professionals. Our postdoctoral researchers are a critical link in the chain of developing the next generation of scientists. Unfortunately, in the STEM community, postdocs have been disproportionately affected by COVID-related lab closures, reduced funding, and hiring freezes. We risk losing these valuable scientists if we do nothing. I’m proud to join Chairwoman Johnson in introducing the Supporting Early-Career Researchers Act to support this up and coming generation of scientists, and preserve America’s research and technology leadership.”

OU formally issued support to the House Science Committee for this bill when it was introduced in the last Congress.

Bill Ruch of Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC notes that while specific implementation measures are still uncertain, “NSF has shown a strong commitment to doing what they can to support researchers whose careers have been adversely affected by COVID.  They have also highlighted several professional growth and career opportunities in recent communications, including: Mid-Career AdvancementEngineering Research Center (ERC) planning grantsINTERN supplements with the Air Force Research LabRe-entry to Active Research (RARE); and the Career-Life Balance (CLB) Supplemental Funding Requests announced last fall.”

He adds that since the two most recent National Science Board meetings have included panels on Racism in Science and Engineering and the Impacts of COVID-19 on women in STEM that included discussions centered on what NSF could do to better support such groups who have been more impacted by the pandemic than others, “there may be additional programs or supplemental funding aimed at specific groups of researchers.”