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FYI Number 89: July 30, 2002

Senate Appropriators Vote 11.8% Increase for National Science Foundation

The Senate Appropriations Committee has completed work on the FY 2003 VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act. S. 2797 provides funding for the National Science Foundation, NASA, and a wide range of other federal departments and agencies. The Senate appropriations report language on NSF was expansive. Below are selected passages from Senate Report 107-222. Readers are urged to consult the report at http://thomas.loc.gov/ for report language on reprogramming, computer and information science, broadband, mathematical science and biological sciences. A forthcoming FYI will be issued on the Education and Human Resources section of the report. Note that the House has not acted on its version of this legislation. A conference between House and Senate appropriators will occur in September.

First, the numbers:

The total NSF budget would increase 11.8%, or $564.1 million, from $4,789.2 million to $5,353.4 million.

The Research and Related Activities (R&RA) budget would increase 14.8%, or $533.0 million, from $3,598.6 million to $4,131.6 million.

Within the R&RA category, the Mathematical and Physical Sciences budget would increase 14.8%, or $136.1 million, from $920.5 million to $1,056.6 million.

Within the R&RA category, the Geosciences budget would increase 12.3%, or $75.0 million, from $609.5 million to $684.5 million.

Within the R&RA category, the Engineering budget would increase 20.3%, or $95.7 million, from $472.3 million to $568.0 million.

The Education and Human Resources budget would increase 8.3%, or $72.7 million, from $875.0 million to $947.8 million.

The Major Research Equipment and Facilities budget would decline 42.9%, or $59.5 million, from $138.8 million to $79.3 million.

The following are selections from the committee report:

COMMITTEE'S APPROACH TO FUNDING NSF:

"The Committee was guided in its allocation of resources for the Foundation by two central considerations." "First, productivity growth, powered by new knowledge and technological innovation, makes the economic benefits of a comprehensive fundamental research and education enterprise abundantly clear. New products, processes, entire new industries, and the employment opportunities that result, depend upon rapid advances in research and their equally rapid movement into the marketplace. In today's global economy, continued progress in science and engineering and the transfer of the knowledge developed is vital if the United States is to maintain its competitiveness.

"In addition, the events of September 11 and subsequent anthrax attacks demonstrate that a nation strong in science and technology can respond rapidly and effectively to crises and changing national circumstances. Fundamental research across the full spectrum of science and engineering disciplines in an appropriately balanced manner, together with the highly skilled workforce that makes research and innovation possible, provides the intellectual capital for the nation to draw upon in times of need. A growing stock of knowledge focused on the frontiers of research increases the options available for response. A diverse, internationally competitive, and globally engaged science and engineering workforce accelerates the development of new technologies to meet unexpected needs."

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES:

"The Committee is concerned that the size and number of awards made by the Foundation are far below what is needed to enable our research scientists and engineers to meet the challenges presented by our global competitors. The Committee urges the Foundation, to the maximum extent possible, to use the growth in resources being provided to make a marked and substantial increase in the average award, as well as increase the number of awards being made with special efforts made to include those individuals and institutions not well represented in the Nation's research enterprise."

"The Committee's recommendation provides $567,980,000 for engineering. This is $80,000,000 more than the request. These additional funds are to strengthen the nanoscience and engineering initiative in the engineering directorate.

"The Committee is providing $1,056,570,000 for the mathematical and physical sciences. The Committee has increased the fiscal year 2003 request for the physics, chemistry, astronomy, materials research and multidisciplinary research subactivities by a total of $135,000,000. The Committee remains concerned that support for the physical sciences has not kept pace with the growth in other disciplines. Yet it is the sustained investment in these disciplines that has enabled the development of today's advanced weapon systems, state-of-the-art medical diagnostic equipment, and improved communications systems. The Committee's recommendation will strengthen the core research and instrumentation programs in these subactivities as well as adequately support the national astronomy centers in West Virginia, New Mexico, and elsewhere, and other NSF physical science facilities. The Committee also directs NSF to provide adequate support for preparatory work for the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope (GSMT). The GSMT was one of the highest priorities recommended in the National Academy of Sciences Astronomy and Astrophysics Committee's decadal survey.

"The Committee also encourages NASA and NSF to work together on the Large-aperture Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). The LSST was highly recommended in the recent National Academy of Sciences decadal survey and is designed to survey the visible sky to a much fainter level than that reached by existing surveys. It is expected to catalog 90 percent of the near-Earth objects larger than 300 meters and assess the threat they pose to life on Earth. Its ability to find and catalog primitive objects in the Kuiper Belt is expected to significantly aid in the success of NASA's Pluto-Kuiper Belt Explorer mission.

"From the additional funds provided for the mathematical and physical sciences directorate, the Committee is adjusting the request by providing an additional $7,300,000 for the national radio astronomy observatories, $4,200,000 for the national optical astronomy observatories, and $14,500,000 for the Indiana University Cyclotron Facility, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, the Wisconsin Synchrotron Radiation Center, and other facilities. The Committee's recommendation also includes the $4,000,000 requested for the continuation of the Telescope System Instrumentation Program which was initiated by the Committee in fiscal year 2002."

"The Committee's recommendation provides $684,490,000 for geosciences research. This is $75,020,000 more than the fiscal year 2002 level. The Committee has rejected the Administration's proposal to transfer programs from NOAA, EPA and the USGS. In lieu of the transfer, the Committee is directing that the funds provided be used to augment high priority research activities in the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences. The Committee supports the efforts being made to develop multi-year strategic plans in the atmospheric sciences and in ocean drilling. As a result, the Committee expects NSF will use $15,000,000 of the increase to augment support for the national user facilities in this directorate and move forward on the integrated ocean drilling program.

"The Committee supports the important research being performed at the International Arctic Research Center (IARC). The Committee understands that the cooperative agreement between the Foundation and the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) will expire on April 30, 2003. Accordingly, the Committee urges NSF to work with the Center and the University of Alaska to renew the cooperative agreement.

"The Committee provided funds in fiscal year 2001 to begin the design and model testing of a vessel to replace the R/V Alpha Helix . . . . "

"The Committee has also increased the request for U.S. polar research programs by $10,000,000 to support priority research and infrastructure needs.

"As a key part of the Administration's climate change research initiative, the Committee recognizes the Nation needs substantially better information on the current and future state of the ocean and its role in environmental change. Adequate predictive capability is a prerequisite to the development of sound policies at the national and regional level, policies ranging from maritime commerce to public health, from fisheries to safety of life and property, from climate change to national security. The Committee urges NSF to move ahead to support an ocean observatories initiative that is tightly integrated with the Administration's interagency climate change science program."

"The Committee is providing an additional $50,000,000 to augment the request for the major research instrumentation program. The Committee reiterates its long-standing concern about the infrastructure needs of developing institutions, historically black colleges and universities; and other minority-serving colleges and universities. The Committee directs NSF to use these additional funds to support the merit-based instrumentation and infrastructure needs of these institutions.

"The Committee's recommendation includes an additional $10,000,000 for the innovation partnership program. With these funds, NSF is to support competitive, merit-based partnerships, consisting of States, local and regional entities, industry, academic institutions, and other related organizations for innovation-focused local and regional technology development strategies."

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION:

"Within this account, the Committee's recommendation includes funding for the following projects: $20,000,000 for Earthscope; $30,000,000 for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescope; $9,720,000 for the Large Hadron Collider; $13,560,000 for the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation; and $6,000,000 for South Pole Station."

"The Committee remains concerned about the Foundation's management of large scale construction projects and the priority setting process used to select projects to be funded. The Committee received a report from NSF required by Public Law 107-73 which addressed a number of issues of concern to the Committee. However neither the report nor the budget justifications addressed the way in which criteria are used by the agency and the National Science Board in setting priorities among new and potential new starts. A recent audit by the Inspector General identified a number of issues in both the financial management and project management of previously funded projects . . . ."

"The Committee also supports provisions under consideration by the authorizing committees to establish a more transparent process for the establishment of priorities with respect to the funding of major research equipment and facilities construction. The Committee believes a more open and understandable process, which includes National Science Board and NSB Committee meetings, are important aspects of such a priority setting process.

"In addition, despite repeated concerns expressed by the Congress and the Inspector General, NSF has not addressed adequately the management and funding problems associated with large research facilities funded through the major research equipment and facilities construction account (formerly named the major research equipment or MRE account). . . ."

"The Committee notes that NSF is proposing to spend $40,000,000 over the next 3 years to develop two National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) sites. The Committee notes that NSF considers this the first phase of NEON. Information on the full NEON concept, including cost estimates, has yet to be provided to the Committee. In the absence of such information, and without prejudice, the Committee is not prepared to recommend funding for NEON at this time.

"The Committee urges NSF to continue moving forward with the IceCube Neutrino Detector Observatory. The technology developed by IceCube's precursor project has proven successful at detecting high-energy atmospheric neutrinos. Continued development is expected to lead to a new era in astronomy in which researchers will have unique opportunities to analyze some of the most distant and significant events in the formulation and evolution of the universe."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3095

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