The National Science Board has just released a 41-page report
entitled "Science and Engineering Infrastructure for the 21st
Century, the Role of the National Science Foundation." The Board
welcomes comments on this report by January 9.
The National Science Board, as described in the report's preface,
"serves as the policy-making body of NSF and provides advice to
the President and Congress on matters of national science and
engineering policy." The board has lately become more prominent
as bill language was crafted for H.R. 4664, the National Science
Foundation Authorization Act. This bill increases the
independence of the Board. President Bush will sign H.R. 4664
into law at a White House ceremony later today.
John A. White, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas, chaired
the panel writing the report. Five recommendations were made.
The first recommendation is apt to receive the most attention, as
it calls for "increasing the share of the NSF budget devoted to
infrastructure." This recommendation reads as follows:
"Increase the share of the budget devoted to S&E
"NSF's future investment in S&E infrastructure should
increased in order to respond to the needs and opportunities
identified in this report. It is hoped that the majority of
these additional resources can be provided through future growth of
the NSF budget. The more immediate needs must be at least partially
addressed through increasing the share of the NSF budget devoted to
infrastructure. The current 22 percent of the NSF budget devoted to
infrastructure is too low and should be increased. In increasing the
infrastructure share, the focus should be on providing individual
investigators and groups of investigators with the resources they
need to work at the frontiers of S&E."
The FY 2002 budget (the last one enacted by Congress) provided
$139 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities such as
LHC, HIAPER and the Terascale Computing Program. This budget
category funds about one-half of the total infrastructure support
provided by NSF. The report calls for at least $350 million for
the next several years to reduce the backlog of large facility
projects. Other sections of the budget furnish infrastructure
support. The report explains that the Engineering Activity
devotes 1% of its budget to "Tools." The Geosciences Activity
allocates 39% of its total budget for infrastructure, while the
Mathematical and Physical Sciences Activity provides 25% of its
overall budget for tools, "most of which goes to the larger
facilities." The total FY 2002 NSF budget was $4,789 million.
The second recommendation prioritizes future activities, with
advanced cyberinfrastructure shown first. The third calls for an
expansion of education and training opportunities at facilities,
while another recommends strengthening infrastructure planning
and budgeting. The final recommendation sets forth a number of
interagency plans and strategies.
"There can be no doubt that a modern and effective research
infrastructure is critical to maintaining U.S. leadership in
S&E," the report states, identifying the National Science
Foundation as the federal "leader" providing the academic
community with access to cutting-edge instrumentation and
facilities. "NSF must be prepared to assume a greater S&E
infrastructure role for the benefit of the nation," the panel
concluded. The panel limited its in-depth analysis to NSF, and
did not survey the infrastructure support programs of NASA, DOE,
DOD, and NIH.
A table details the deficit figures for research space at
academic institutions, as of 2001. Physical sciences and
mathematics researchers need 25% more, while engineering, and
earth/atmospheric/ocean researchers each requires 26% additional
space. The figure for computer sciences was the most extreme at
109%. One "rough indication of need" over the next ten years,
estimated by the NSF directorates and the Office of Polar
Programs is $18.9 billion.
The entire report can be viewed at the following site: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/documents/2002/nsb02190/nsb02190.htm
The closing date for public comments is January 9, 2003.
Comments are welcome, and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org