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Effort to Create Fundraising Arm for NIST Advances in House

JUN 21, 2024
A non-profit foundation affiliated with NIST would mirror similar operations at other research agencies.
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Science Policy Intern
NIST Gaithersburg campus entrance sign

The entrance sign to the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

J. Stoughton / NIST

Bipartisan legislation advancing in the House aims to create a non-profit foundation dedicated to fundraising on behalf of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This new “Foundation for Standards and Metrology” would mirror similar ones Congress has created for other science agencies.

The bill, called the Expanding Partnerships for Innovation and Competitiveness (EPIC) Act, was passed by the House Science Committee last week on a voice vote.

Its sponsors argue this fundraising ability would be an important supplement to the budget that NIST receives from Congress. “Unfortunately, recent budgets have not fully funded their critical work,” said Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) in a statement on the bill. NIST’s base budget was cut by 8% to $1.16 billion in Congress’ appropriation for fiscal year 2024.

The foundation’s leadership would consist of an unpaid, 11-member board of directors drawn from “academia, private sector entities, technical standards bodies, the investment community, the philanthropic community, and other nonprofit organizations."The bill aims to ensure the board represents a diverse array of fields within NIST’s scope by requiring that the chair and vice chair of the board represent different subject areas and that they not represent the same subject area as their immediate predecessors.

The foundation would operate similarly to the other 12 agency-adjacent nonprofits established to support other federal agencies since 1959. Those foundations raise funds and establish partnerships on behalf of their associated agencies but operate under independent leadership. Many of these foundations state they have raised hundreds of millions of dollars each year and maintain thousands of active partnerships with industry and academia. Most recently, Congress created a Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation to support the Department of Energy, which just appointed the foundation’s inaugural board.

The NIST foundation bill has been endorsed by the past four directors of NIST and various scientific organizations, including the American Physical Society . (APS is an AIP Member Society.)

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