News: News Archives
NSF Budget Leaves Vital Projects Unfunded, Says AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner
President George W. Bush’s 2007 budget request for the National Science Foundation is $6.02 billion, an 8 percent increase over 2006, but even that is not enough to fund all of the agency’s needs, particularly in education and human resources research, the head of AAAS said at a 2 May hearing on Capitol Hill.
Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of Science, told the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space that despite budget increases proposed for NSF by President Bush, the agency will be able to fund fewer than 25 percent of the research proposals it receives.
“This matters because it means a great amount of very important work will go unfunded,” Leshner testified before the subcommittee. He said a report from the National Science Board, of which he is a member, found that due to a lack of funding, the NSF had to turn down about $1.8 billion in highly rated research proposals.
“This almost $2 billion in declined proposals represents a rich portfolio of unfunded research and educational opportunities, and it is unfortunate for the country that we cannot support them,” Leshner said.
The AAAS leader said he was particularly concerned that the NSF budget for education and human resources would increase under the president’s plan by just 2.5 percent in 2007.
“This means that it would remain 20 percent below the 2004 funding level in real terms,” said Leshner. He noted that this low education budget comes just as the nation is recognizing that “improving math and science education is crucial to guaranteeing the United States’ future economic competitiveness.”
Leshner said that NSF is an ideal organization for developing the techniques to improve the teaching of science.
“NSF has a demonstrated record of excellence in science education and it is important that the agency receive the funding it needs to take advantage of this expertise,” he said.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, the chair of the Senate subcommittee, noted that the NSF is financing studies of foreign economic experiences, some domestic sociology research and studies of U.S. history. She questioned whether this was appropriate while promising research proposals in physical sciences were going unfunded.
“It is actually important to conduct basic research across the whole spectrum,” said Leshner. “Every major issue confronting our society will ultimately be multidisciplinary in nature.”
He said the United States could learn valuable lessons by studying the economic experiences of other countries. And he said the NSF is the key agency in promoting such research in this country.
“There is no other agency that does this kind of research or is equipped to bring together the physical science initiatives we agree are vital with the sophistication of behavioral and social sciences.” Leshner said.
The subcommittee also heard from Arden L. Bement Jr., director of the National Science Foundation. He said his agency receives only 4 percent of the total federal budget for research and development, but it funds about 50 percent of the non-life science basic research at colleges and universities.
Warren M. Washington, chairman of the National Science Board, which oversees the work of the NSF, said that although the budget request of $6.02 billion is a “significant step,” it still falls short of the $10 billion that Congress in 2002 said would be needed to meet a national goal of doubling the agency’s budget by 2012.
Washington said following the plan to double the NSF budget has “never been more urgent” because of the pressing need for the U.S. to compete internationally in research and in science education.
For detailed analysis of the proposed 2007 U.S. spending plan, see the AAAS R&D Budget Policy Program site.
5 May 2006