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FYI Number 97: July 27, 2001

Appropriations Report Language on NSF: Research and Related Activities

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have released their reports accompanying the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bills. There is extensive language in each report on the National Science Foundation. This is the first of three FYIs that will quote extensively from these reports. This FYI will include language from both reports on Research and Related Activities. Future FYIs will provide report language on Major Research Equipment, and Education and Human Resources. Appropriators from both subcommittees will conference to determine the final language.

FYI #93 reported that Senate appropriators had a higher allocation than did their House counterparts. The opposite was true: House appropriators had an allocation that was 4.5% above the current year, while Senate appropriators had an allocation that was 4.4% higher.

The following report language is taken from House Report 107- 159 and Senate Report 107-43. Since these passages are extensive, capitalized headings have been added. Note that some of the issues discussed below also relate to education, and research equipment. Only those sections directly related to FYI's coverage are included; readers wishing to view the entire text of both reports may do so at http://thomas.loc.gov/.

HOUSE REPORT: ASTRONOMICAL SCIENCES

"Funds provided under this heading in the budget request to maintain ongoing activities of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array have been provided as a new appropriation within the Major Research Facilities Construction and Equipment account. Within the additional funds thus available for astronomical sciences, not less than $2,000,000 shall be used for the Telescope Systems Instrumentation Program (TSIP). In addition, the Foundation is expected to aggressively continue its program, begun last year, of upgrading on a priority basis its astronomical facilities and equipment."

"The Committee is aware that the Foundation has plans to retire certain national facilities in radio astronomy despite considerable community interest and research need, until construction of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) is completed. The Committee strongly urges the Foundation to consider innovative proposals to privatize these facilities operations as a cost-effective way to maintain critical community access to them while lowering the overall financial resources needed to do so."

HOUSE REPORT: NANOTECHNOLOGY

"Within the general Nanotechnology Science and Engineering program area, the Committee urges NSF to consider a stronger emphasis on research that explores biological mechanisms at the molecular force level and then translates these findings up through hierarchical scales of structure and organization to provide unique designs for engineered devices. The primary technological impact of such research will be the development of enabling technologies to create new `adaptive/smart' sensing and actuation devices with applications that will directly impact technological advancement and the economy, including bio-inspired propulsion, locomotion, and actuation for robotics in the aeronautics, marine, defense, and space industries; and miniature and functionally complete mechanical systems for integration with silicon electronics."

SENATE REPORT: ASTRONOMICAL SCIENCES

"The National Academy of Sciences Astronomy and Astrophysics Committee's Decadal Survey has recommended, as one of its most important priorities, the Telescope Systems Instrumentation Program. This effort is to provide cutting edge instrumentation and other infrastructure improvements to the Nation's astronomy observatories as well as provide access to non-federally funded telescopes for the general astronomy community. The Committee notes that the astronomy subactivity request included $9,000,000 for the ALMA radio telescope. Since the Committee has addressed support for ALMA in the major research equipment account, these resources should be redirected into the astronomical sciences program element with $4,000,000 to be used for the TSIP initiative and $5,000,000 to augment individual investigator support.

The Committee has also provided the budget request for the additional operational enhancements for the Very Long Array (VLA) radio telescope in Socorro, New Mexico, and the Green Bank Observatory and Robert C. Byrd Radio Telescope in West Virginia. The Committee expects the Foundation will continue its support for both Green Bank and the VLA in future years. Finally, the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) has been identified as the most important initiative in ground-based astronomy over the next decade in the Decadal Survey. It will play a major role in our understanding of stellar structure, plasma physics, and sun-earth interactions and will complement many planned space missions. The NSF is urged to support preparatory work for the ATST, including a survey of adequate sites and development of adaptive optics technologies, at a sufficient level to enable this program to be undertaken by 2005."

SENATE REPORT: NANOTECHNOLOGY

"The Committee has provided an additional $25,000,000 to the request for nanoscience and engineering. Nanotechnology represents the next frontier in science and engineering with the possibility of revolutionizing nearly every aspect of society--from manufacturing to disease diagnosis and treatment to computing and communications. These funds will allow the Foundation to expand research at the molecular and atomic scales and develop new techniques to aid in the application of nanotechnology research results. The Committee is strongly supportive of the Foundation's efforts in this area and expects the Administration will continue to emphasize this initiative as part of its inter-agency R&D planning process."

SENATE REPORT: GRADUATE STIPEND LEVELS

"The Committee applauds the Foundation's proposal for increasing the stipend levels for graduate students in its education programs. The Committee's support for this issue is reflected in the education and human resources account. However, the Committee notes the Foundation supports four times as many graduate students through its research and related activities appropriation than it does through its graduate programs in the education and human resources appropriation. The Committee urges the Foundation to also emphasize, through its research grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements, enhanced stipend levels for graduate students and post-doctoral students. The fiscal year 2002 operating plan should provide information detailing how the Foundation will achieve this objective."

SENATE REPORT: MINORITY INSTITUTION INSTRUMENTATION

"The Committee has provided $75,000,000 for the major research instrumentation program. This is $25,000,000 more than the request and equal to the fiscal year 2001 funding level. The Committee continues to remain concerned about the ability of smaller institutions to adequately participate in the Foundation's programs. Of particular interest to the Committee is the infrastructure needs of non-PhD degree and minority institutions. The Committee directs the Foundation to use the additional $25,000,000 to specifically support the merit-based instrumentation needs of these smaller research institutions."

SENATE REPORT: HOMESTAKE MINE LABORATORY

"The Committee is aware that a unique opportunity may be available to acquire the Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota for a world-class underground laboratory for physics, geology, and extreme biology. The Committee has provided $10,000,000 in this appropriation explicitly for the work necessary to maintain the site's integrity, complete the review and determine the feasibility of this project. The Committee expects that this review will be completed expeditiously and that a decision regarding this proposal will be reflected in the fiscal year 2003 budget. The Committee also expects that any funding provided to preserve the integrity of the site will be subject to appropriate peer-review, and directs that such review take place expeditiously given the need to preserve the site and address workforce needs."

SENATE REPORT: POLAR ACTIVITIES

"The Committee supports the continued funding of the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) under a recently approved 3 year, $15,000,000 cooperative agreement between NSF and the Center. The Committee recognizes the contributions of IARC, which has become one of the leading research institutions on global climate change in the arctic region. The Committee held a field hearing on May 29, 2001 in Fairbanks, Alaska on global climate change in the arctic region to highlight the importance of this issue. Witnesses from both the Federal Government and research community stressed the importance of increasing our knowledge and understanding of climate change impacts and potential consequences. The Committee acknowledges the importance of this research and urges the Foundation to work with other Federal agencies and increase its research support for the arctic region.

"The Committee commends the Foundation's Office of Polar Programs for its support on global climate change research in the arctic region. The Committee directs the Foundation to consult with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine the feasibility of establishing the Barrow Arctic Research Center and submit a report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations with its recommendations, including cost estimates, by April 1, 2002."

SENATE REPORT: PEER REVIEW SYSTEM

"The Committee is troubled by the recent findings by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) on the Foundation's peer review system. In its February 2001 report, `A Study of the National Science Foundation's Criteria for Project Selection,' NAPA found that NSF is unable to assess the criteria to encourage a broader range of institutions or greater participation of under-represented minority researchers. In other words, while NSF claims to be making efforts to assist smaller research institutions and minorities, in practice, this does not occur. NAPA recommended that NSF should institute broader-based review panels by bringing in participants from a wider range of institutions, disciplines, and under-represented minorities. The Committee urges NSF to immediately institute changes to its peer review process that reflect these recommendations."

Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3095

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