A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the National Science Foundation (NSF) could use better reporting to provide more visibility into whether goals are being achieved for a program designed to help ensure Federal funding for basic research is spread across U.S. states and territories.

NSF funds research and education efforts across numerous fields, and the agency set up its Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research to improve the ability of jurisdictions around the country to compete for research funding.

Currently, NSF provides about 25 percent of Federal funding for basic research conducted at U.S. colleges and universities.

“GAO’s econometric analysis of the program suggested that participating jurisdictions received more Federal research funding after joining the program,” wrote GAO.

“In addition, the jurisdictions that joined during the program’s early growth – between fiscal years 1980 and 1992 – had statistically significant increases in their research funding,” the watchdog agency said. “However, those that joined later – between fiscal years 2000 and 2012 – did not, which may be partly because they have not participated as long.”

According to GAO, states and territories that joined this program in fiscal years (FY) 1980 – 1992 have benefited more from the program and had a high increase in project approval rates than those who participated later.

“NSF has made several recent efforts to assess contributions made by the program to increasing academic research competitiveness in participating jurisdictions,” wrote GAO. “The agency plans to build on these efforts by including questions about the program in its agency-wide evaluation plan for fiscal years 2022 through 2026.”

GAO made one recommendation for NSF to enhance its annual reporting to Congress on the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, and the agency agreed with that recommendation.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.