Today, the House Science and Technology Committee is scheduled to vote
on a three-year reauthorization of the National Science Foundation.
The bill (H.R. 1867), which was passed by the Research and Science Education
Subcommittee on April 19, would authorize annual funding increases for
NSF of more than 7 percent for the fiscal years 2008 through 2010. A
bipartisan effort, the bill was sponsored by Subcommittee Chair Brian
Baird (D-WA), full Committee Chair Bart Gordon (D-TN), and Reps. Vern
Ehlers (R-MI), Darlene Hooley (D-OR), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Jerry McNerney
(D-CA) and Baron Hill (D-IN).
The Research and Science Education Subcommittee's priorities for NSF
were reflected in several hearings it held prior to drafting the bill
In addition to authorization of funding levels, the bill contains a
number of provisions to nurture young investigators and postdoctoral
researchers, leverage award funds, and strengthen NSF's role in science
education. The full text of the bill can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov/.
Among the major provisions: The bill would establish a pilot program
to support young investigators, under which NSF program officers could
provide one-year seed funding to help new investigators improve proposals
that, while rated very good or excellent by the merit review process,
did not get funded. It would call for NSF, under Criterion 2 of its
merit review process, to give special consideration to proposals including
university-industry partnerships and addressing areas of high importance
to the nation's future competitiveness. It would raise the ceiling for
Major Research Instrumentation awards such that the maximum award would
not exceed 10 percent of the total MRI budget in any year, and allow
exceptions and waivers to the 30-percent cost-sharing requirement for
certain smaller, minority-serving or undergraduate institutions. It
includes a "sense of Congress" provision that the U.S. Coast
Guard, not NSF, should have the responsibility and resources for operations,
maintenance and construction of polar icebreakers. It would require
that grant applications involving support of postdoctoral researchers
explain what mentoring activities would be provided for those postdoctoral
A number of the provisions are education-related. The bill calls for
a report to Congress on all K-12 and undergraduate formal and informal
education activities funded through NSF's research accounts and how
they are aligned with programs within the Education and Human Resources
Directorate. For effective but expiring awards related to teacher professional
development and broadening participation in science and engineering,
it would authorize the NSF Director to extend the grant duration for
up to three years without recompeting. It would also require that funding
for NSF's undergraduate education programs grow at a rate at least equal
to the Foundation's overall growth rate. Finally, it would provide specific
authorization levels for the Math and Science Partnerships, the STEM
Talent Expansion Program, the Advanced Technological Education Program,
and the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program. (Noyce funding was aligned
with Chairman Gordon's bill H.R. 362, which the full House just passed
on April 23.)
Funding levels authorized in H.R. 1867 for NSF Research and Related
Activities; Education and Human Resources; and Major Research Equipment
and Facilities Construction are provided below. Authorization levels
for other areas such as Agency Operations, the National Science Board
and the Inspector General are not included, so the amounts below will
not sum to the total:
Research and Related Activities: FY08: $5,080 million;
FY09: $5,457 million; FY10: $5,863 million. (Current FY07 level: $4,765
Education and Human Resources: FY08: $873 million; FY09:
$934 million; FY10: $1,003 million. (Current FY07 level: $698 million).
Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction:
FY08: $245 million; FY09: $262 million; FY10: $280 million. (Current
FY07 level: $191 million).
NSF TOTAL: FY08: $6,500 million; FY09: $6,980 million; FY10:
$7,493 million. (Current FY07 level: $5,916 million).
Please keep in mind that authorization levels are intended to provide
guidance to appropriators, but do not provide actual funds. Funding
is provided through appropriations bills, and may or may not align with
authorization levels. Appropriators are currently developing their FY08
spending bills; NSF is funded through the Commerce, Justice, and Science
appropriations bill in both chambers.
NSF 2007 Facilities Plan:
In related news, in February NSF released an update to its Facility
Plan, which was first issued in September 2005 (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/151.html).
According to the 2007 update, "Every year new opportunities will
arise and new priorities will assert themselves. As a result, no roster
of potential projects is ever final. Responsible stewardship of public
funds demands that all candidate efforts be evaluated and reevaluated
constantly in the context of the latest, most pressing research goals
and the most profoundly important unanswered questions.... This process
of identification and selection is, and must be, continuously repeated....
[T]he future success of entire fields critically depends upon development
of new and powerful tools."
NSF's 2007 Facility Plan (NSF 07-22), which runs approximately 54 pages,
is available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2007/nsf0722/nsf0722.pdf.
Chapter One lays out objectives and opportunities in frontier, cutting-edge
research. Chapter Two provides an updated status report on NSF's major
research equipment and facilities construction projects. Appendix I,
"Horizon Projects," outlines possible future opportunities
Status reports are provided in Chapter Two for the following projects:
Projects in the Process of Completion: High Performance Instrumented
Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER); South Pole Station
Modernization Project (SPSM).
Projects Under Construction: Atacama Large Millimeter Array
(ALMA); EarthScope; IceCube Neutrino Observatory; Scientific Ocean Drilling
New Starts in FY 2007: Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV);
National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON); Ocean Observatories
Possible New Start in FY 2008: Advanced LIGO (AdvLIGO).
Readiness Stage Projects (ready for funding consideration):
Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST).
NSF's current budget for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction
is $191 million. The Administration requested $245 million (an increase
of $54 million, or 29 percent) for FY 2008, and the NSF reauthorization
bill described above would authorize $245 million in FY 2008 for this
account, the same as the request.