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FY 2010 House Appropriations Bill: National Science Foundation

Richard M. Jones
Number 75 - June 15, 2009  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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The report accompanying the House Appropriations Committee version of the FY 2010 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill has just been posted. This report stresses the importance of science and technology to the nation, stating in regard to the National Science Foundation:

“The value of the NSF to the future growth of the United States economy was clearly acknowledged in the National Academy of Sciences report Rising Above the Gathering Storm and in the America Competes Act (Public Law 110-69). NSF’s budget is on course to double by fiscal year 2016, and the funding recommended in this bill is consistent with this goal.”

House Report 111-149 has extensive language regarding the NSF, and may be viewed here. The following are selections from this committee report.

Total NSF:

The FY 2009 appropriation was $6,490.4 million
The Administration’s request was $7,045.0 million, an increase of 8.5 percent or $554.6 million.
The House Appropriations Committee recommended $6,936.5 million, an increase of 6.9 percent or $446.1 million.

Most of the reduction in the Administration’s request was for Research and Related Activities (see below.) The report stated several times that the budget was on track to double, and earlier in the report included the following noteworthy language about future budget requests and the need to avoid “a boom-bust cycle”:

“Continuity in funding levels. - The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) included an additional $3,002,000,000 in funding for NSF. Roughly two-thirds of these added funds will support 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year research grants, with the overwhelming majority of this amount likely going to fund 3-year grants, consistent with normal NSF practice. These grants will encourage many undergraduate science, engineering, and mathematics majors to go to graduate school in their technical fields and will support a pulse of research positions employing new graduate degree recipients. The budget request projects NSF funding in fiscal year 2012 of $8,490,000,000. This level is only $1,990,000,000 above the base level for fiscal year 2009. The Committee expects future budget requests for NSF at least adequate to sustain the levels of science workforce supported in fiscal year 2009 by the combined Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (Public Law 111-8) and ARRA so as to avoid a boom-bust cycle in science, engineering, and mathematics employment. It is critical that there be sufficient NSF funding in fiscal year 2012 to support opportunities for this pulse of additional graduate students and young researchers to continue their careers when the 3-year grants funded by ARRA expire.

“The budget request projects NSF funding in fiscal year 2011 of $7,250,000,000, which is less than 3 percent above the fiscal year 2010 request. The Committee finds this level of request inadequate given the critical role played by NSF and the Nation’s colleges and universities. A 7 percent increase, as projected for the annual increases in fiscal years 2013-2016, would be more consistent with 10-year doubling of NSF’s budget.”

Research and Related Activities:

The FY 2009 appropriation was $5,183.1 million
The Administration’s request was $5,733.2 million, an increase of 10.6 percent or $550.0 million.
The House Appropriations Committee recommended $5,642.1 million, an increase of 8.9 percent or $459.0 million.

Regarding the $91.0 million reduction from the request, the report states: “The reduction recommended from the request for NSF research support enables increases in important research and education funding in NOAA and NASA.”

The report contained the following language:

“Climate change. - All requested increases for climate change in the various research programs are supported.

“Graduate research fellows. - The budget request provides funding for the selection of 1,654 new fellows in fiscal year 2010. The Administration has set a goal of 3,000 new graduate research fellows per year by 2013. To accelerate the increase in graduate research fellows, the request is increased by $14,010,000 to enable NSF to select and support 2,000 new fellows in fiscal year 2010.

“Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).- EPSCoR is critical as one means to build science expertise in all States. The Committee recommendation includes $147,120,000, the same as the request.

“High-risk, High-reward Basic Research. - The Committee supports the proposal in the budget request to set aside a minimum of $2,000,000 in each research division to explore methodologies that support transformative research. The Committee understands that this initiative will total approximately $92,000,000 Foundation-wide, and may include innovative processes for identifying potentially transformative research, special solicitations and competitions including innovation prizes, increased use of specialized funding mechanisms, and exploring novel processes for problem solving.

“Major research instrumentation. - The recommendation includes no funds for Major Research Instrumentation. This reduction of $100,000,000 from the request recognizes that NSF has issued two solicitations during fiscal year 2009 for Major Research Instrumentation with awards expected to total $400,000,000. The Committee expects the 2011 request again will seek significant funds for this important program within Research and Related Activities.

“Materials research. - The request for additional work in Research Resources for Materials Research within Mathematical and Physical Sciences is not supported in light of the major similar investments in basic energy sciences within the Department of Energy Office of Science.

“Hydrology and terrestrial ecosystems research. - The Committee notes the success of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in serving as an institutional focus for atmospheric research and in the provision of shared infrastructure, especially supercomputing and the community climate model. The Committee sees the need for an appropriate mechanism to bring together the hydrology research community and better integrate the different types of data and observing systems and enhance support of hydrology modeling. The Committee also sees the need for an appropriate mechanism to bring together the terrestrial ecology research community including the existing Long Term Ecological Research sites and their data, the considerable efforts in agriculture, forestry, and the USGS Biological Research Program, those who use satellite data such as that from Landsat, EOS, and the operational NOAA satellites, and the new NEON distributed observing system. NSF is directed to report its recommendations on the need for and establishment of mechanisms in these two areas of research with the budget request for fiscal year 2011.

“Climate change education. - Using the most current information available, the National Academy of Sciences is undertaking a study to evaluate the implications of different atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration target levels and explain the uncertainties inherent in the analyses to inform policy makers as they make decisions about stabilization target levels for atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Within the amounts appropriated, $100,000 is included for transfer to the National Academy of Sciences to develop educational materials based on the conclusions of this study for use at the collegiate level to strengthen climate education.

“Ocean acidification. - Ocean acidification is a critical problem with potentially destructive effects on coral reefs and commercial fisheries. Within the amounts appropriated, funding is included for research into the causes of and solutions to the growing threat of ocean acidification at levels consistent with the recommendations of the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Program.

“Metagenomics research. - In environmental research and soil science, the new approach of metagenomics, in which genes are identified within samples without isolating individual species, is of increasing value.”

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction:

The committee provided the requested amounts for Advanced LIGO, Atacama Large Millimeter Array, Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, Ocean Observatories Initiative, and IceCube.

Education and Human Resources:

The FY 2009 appropriation was $845.3 million
The Administration’s request was $857.8 million, an increase of 1.5 percent or $12.5 million.
The House Appropriations Committee recommended $862.9 million, an increase of 2.1 percent or $17.6 million.

The committee recommended the following changes in the budget request:

Discovery research K-12: +$20,000,000
Research and evaluation on education in science and engineering: +$5,000,000
Course, curriculum and laboratory improvement: +$5,000,000
STEM talent expansion program: +$2,560,000
Robert Noyce scholarship program: +$10,000,000
Advanced technology education: -$41,600,000
Math and science partnership: +$2,780,000
Tribal colleges and universities: +$1,400,000

The report stated:

“Advanced Technology Education. - The recommendation supports continuation of all existing grants within the Advanced Technology Education Program but does not support any new grants. The Committee recommends that future requests for this program of training technicians to work in industry be made in more appropriate departments or agencies such as the Department of Education.

“K-6 science education. - In testimony before the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, it was stated that most children decide to pursue science, engineering or mathematics in elementary school. NSF is directed to prepare a report on K-6 science education compiling all state standards, evidence of their effectiveness, and the degree to which they inculcate scientific inquiry in the education of young students. This report is due to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate no later than April 1, 2010. NSF is encouraged to work with the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the preparation of this report and to include recommendations for how to improve science education in grades K-6.

“Experiential learning. - The Committee strongly believes that students need to have experience doing science and not merely reading about it. Half a century ago an advantage of U.S. science education was the inclusion of laboratory work in high school and college science courses. Today, this type of practical student experience needs to extend beyond reproducing standard experiments to taking measurements where the correct result is not already known. Furthermore, it should extend beyond the four walls of a physics, chemistry, or biology lab. Opportunities for scientific measurement are all around us in the ever changing natural world and are simple enough to be accessible even to elementary school students with affordable equipment such as thermometers. Such hands-on measurement experiences are the central element of inquiry-based instruction where students ‘do’ science: formulating research questions, taking measurements, analyzing data using their mathematics skills, and articulating their results. It is critical that hands-on, inquiry-based instruction form the basis of student learning because addressing the complexity and uncertainty inherent in current real world problems requires the integrated application of all the sciences and mathematics and research shows that this improves student achievement and retention. Science literacy for the general public and future innovation workforce relies on students doing and thinking of how to apply science and math together from their earliest years. Accordingly, the Committee recommendation provides an increase of $30,000,000 above the request to enhance research, implementation and evaluation of inquiry-based, hands-on instruction for K-12 science students and those who will teach them.

“Discovery research K-12 (DR-K12). - The increase above the request for the DR-K12 program is to enhance advancement of inquiry-based instruction in K-12 STEM teaching with at least half the funding focused on grades K-6. This may be done through the development, implementation, and study of resources, models, and technologies for use by students, teachers, and policymakers.

“Research and evaluation of inquiry-based instruction. - The increase above the request for the Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) program is provided to enhance support for empirical research on inquiry-based instruction.

“Inquiry-based undergraduate instruction. - The increase above the request is provided to support creation, adaptation, and dissemination of learning materials and teaching strategies that implement inquiry-based instruction in teaching science to future K-12 teachers and other undergraduates and to assess student learning and evaluate course effectiveness. Teachers need to experience a model of inquiry-based science instruction in order to have a model for use of inquiry in their classrooms.

“Hispanic Serving Institutions - Undergraduate Program. - NSF is directed to provide a report detailing plans to establish a Hispanic Serving Institutions—Undergraduate Program no later than 90 days following enactment. The Committee expects a significant funding request for such a program to be included in the fiscal year 2011 budget request for NSF.”

An earlier section in the committee report stated: “The Committee directs the Foundation to convene a panel of experts to survey U.S. pre-K to 12 schools that are highly successful in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and a sampling of corresponding institutions abroad and report recommendations to Congress on how their STEM education practices might be more broadly replicated in the U.S. public school system. The membership of the panel should include educators, businesspersons, scientists, engineers and others, based on their expertise and contributions in the aforementioned fields. The Foundation shall submit a report of the findings and recommendations of this panel to the Committee within 180 days of the enactment of this Act.”

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