| National Science Foundation in
the FY 2005 Budget
Tobin L. Smith and Katherine Bailey Mathae, Association of American Universities
- The FY 2005 request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) is $5.7 billion (see Table II-7). This represents an increase of $167 million, or 3.0 percent, over FY 2004. This falls well short of the $7.4 billion authorized in the NSF Authorization Act enacted in December 2002.
- Of the proposed $167 million funding increase for the NSF, approximately $75 million is directed to the Salaries and Expenses account for internal operations and staffing, making the real increase for NSF programs $92 million, an increase of only 1.6 percent.
- Research and Related Activities (R&RA) would increase to $4.5 billion, a $201 million or 4.7 percent increase over the FY 2004 level of $4.3 billion. $80 million of this funding comes from a transfer of funds into R&RA to support previous obligations made under the Math Science Partnerships (MSP) program. In previous years the MSP has been funded in the Education and Human Resources (EHR) account. If one discounts this transfer of MSP funds, the R&RA increase is only 2.8 percent.
- In addition to NSF's "core" research and education activities, five priority areas are highlighted: Nanoscale Science and Engineering; Mathematical Sciences; Human and Social Dynamics; Biocomplexity in the Environment; and Workforce for the 21st Century. Beginning in FY 2005, the previous Information Technology Research (ITR) priority area will be merged into new and ongoing research programs across the NSF.
- The President is proposing to fund NSF's Education and Human Resources (EHR) programs at $771 million, a $168 million or 17.9 percent decrease. This significant reduction in the EHR account is due to the proposed transfer of the Math Science Partnership (MSP) program from the NSF to the Department of Education, for which Congress provided the NSF with $139 million in FY 2004.
- Within the EHR account, the budget would expand the number of graduate fellowships from a projected 5,000 fellowships in FY 2004 to 5,500 in FY 2005. Stipends for FY 2005 NSF fellows will remain at the $30,000 level established in FY 2004. The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) would be funded at $84 million, a decrease of $10 million from FY 2004.
- The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account would receive $213 million, an increase of $58 million or 37.6 percent. This supports continued funding for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and EarthScope. There would be funds for three new MRE projects: the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), the Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel, and the Rare Symmetry Violating Processes (RSVP).
NSF's Mission: Since its founding in 1950, the Foundation
has had an extraordinary impact on American scientific discovery. Despite
its small size, it is the only federal agency with responsibility for
the overall health of science and engineering across all disciplines.
This is in contrast to other federal agencies that support research focused
on specific missions. The NSF is also committed to ensuring the nation's
supply of scientists, engineers, and science and engineering educators.
NSF Support: NSF plays a crucial role in the support of university-based research. Although NSF represents less than four percent of the total federal budget for research and development, it is the second largest sponsor of research at colleges and universities, after the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In several areas, including engineering, physical sciences, and environmental sciences, it is the leading federal source of support of academic research.
The agency funds approximately 10,000 research, education and training projects through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, and other research and/or education organizations in all parts of the United States. More than 205,000 people are involved directly in NSF research and education programs and activities. These include 44,000 senior researchers and other professionals, 68,000 postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students, 11,000 K-12 students and 83,000 K-12 teachers.
The agency does not operate its own laboratories, but does support national research centers, user facilities, oceanographic vessels and Antarctic research stations. NSF also supports university-industry research partnerships, U.S. participation in international scientific efforts, and efforts to improve science, math and engineering education at the K-12 level as well as at colleges and universities.
Agency Structure: NSF is an independent federal agency run by a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed director and deputy director. The agency's policy direction is established by the National Science Board, which consists of 24 scientists, mathematicians, engineers, top university officials, and industry leaders.
NSF has a staff of roughly 1,300 people and is divided into seven directorates. Six of the directorates are directly responsible for funding discipline-oriented basic and applied research: Biological Sciences (BIO); Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE); Engineering (ENG); Geosciences (GEO); Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS); and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE). The remaining directorate is responsible for overseeing NSF's Education and Human Resources (EHR) activity. The NSF also has an account for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC).
Congressional Support: While the NSF has traditionally enjoyed broad congressional support, this support has been growing in recent years. In the Senate, the Chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), have spoken in favor of doubling the NSF's budget over five years. Likewise, House VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman James T. Walsh (R-NY) has said that NSF is his top priority within the VA-HUD bill.
While the Foundation's appropriation dipped slightly between FY 1995 and FY 1996, the total appropriation for the NSF has increased each year since then, even when other agencies funded under the VA-HUD bill were cut. Indeed, since FY 1999, the Congress has continually provided the NSF with increases to its budget that have been greater than the increases received by any other scientific research agency except NIH. In FY 2001, Congress provided the largest single increase in both percentage and dollar terms in the history of the NSF, an increase of 13.3 percent over FY 2000. Likewise, in FY 2002 and FY 2003 Congress again substantially exceeded the President's requests for the NSF providing increases of 8.5 percent and 10.9 percent respectively.
The growing level of Congressional support for increasing the NSF budget was demonstrated in 2002 when Congress passed H.R. 4664, the NSF Authorization Act of 2002, a bill aimed at putting the NSF on a track to double its budget over five years. This Act (P.L. 107-368), signed into law by President Bush on December 19, 2002, authorized a maximum funding level for the NSF in FY 2004 of $6.4 billion and proposed up to $7.4 billion in funding in FY 2005. When the bill was introduced, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) stated that "In moving toward doubling, we are returning to the vision that Vannevar Bush laid out in the 1940s, when he proposed a science agency that would be the preeminent funder of science for the federal government, with responsibilities across many areas of inquiry and application. Fifty-two years later, NSF is honorably attempting to fulfill that vision. We need to ensure that it succeeds."
Despite high hopes that the passage of the NSF Authorization bill would
result in yet another significant funding increase for NSF in FY 2004,
increasing budget deficits and wartime expenses resulted in a final funding
level for NSF of only $5.6 billion, or a 5 percent increase. While a significant
increase, this level fell well short of the $6.4 billion authorized and
hoped for by many in the scientific community.
Even the House Science Committee has recognized that the authorized levels for NSF are not likely to be reached given the current fiscal restraints. In its Views and Estimates Document to the House Budget Committee concerning the FY 2005 budget for the NSF, the committee states, "While recognizing that budget realities may not allow Congress to fund NSF at the guidance level provided in the current authorization, the Committee still believes that significant increases for NSF's overall budget are warranted. Congress should provide as much funding as possible to strengthen support for core science and education programs, and priority areas such as information technology and nanoscale science and engineering research."
Of course, one of the difficulties always faced by Congressional appropriators in trying to increase funding for the NSF is that it receives its funding from the same appropriations bill that funds other major research and non-research agencies, e.g. NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The significant funding pressures resulting from the VA and HUD alone invariably make it difficult to significantly increase funding for other agencies contained in this bill, including the NSF.
The pressures within the VA-HUD bill are likely to be even greater in a year in which the President has proposed a significant funding increase for NASA (See Chapter 10). Moreover, the growing pressure from within Congress to freeze domestic discretionary spending, to increase funding for homeland security, and to support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will make it particularly difficult this year to provide any significant funding increase above what the President has requested.
RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES (R&RA)
Research and Related Activities (R&RA) would receive $4.5 billion
in the President's FY 2004 budget, an increase of $201 million, or 4.7
percent above the FY 2004 level (see Table II-7
for R&RA details). $80 million of this funding increase, however,
is money to support continuing obligations made under the Math Science
Partnerships (MSP) program, funds previously contained in the Education
and Human Resources (EHR) account. This transfer of MSP funds into Integrative
Activities within R&RA has the impact of making the overall R&RA
appear higher than it actually is. If one excludes this $80 million, the
overall increase for R&RA over this year's level is 2.8 percent.
Integrative Activities: $240 million, up 66.5 percent. Integrative
Activities (IA) was created in FY 1999 within R&RA to support cross-disciplinary
research efforts and major research instrumentation. IA also supports
the Science and Technology Policy Institute, which provides analytical
support to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to identify
short-term and long-term objectives for research and development and identify
options for achieving those objectives.
Nanoscale Science and Engineering: NSF plans to spend approximately
$305 million, an increase of $52 million over FY 2004 funding. This funding
is to be used to develop and strengthen critical fields including nanobiotechnology,
manufacturing, instrumentation and catalysis at the nanoscale. The request
includes funding for at least two new nanotechnology research and education
centers to focus on electronics, biology, optoelectronics, modeling and
simulation, and advanced materials and engineering (see Chapter
Workforce for the 21st Century: NSF proposes to spend approximately $20 million on this priority area in FY 2005, which is aimed at coordinating NSF's effort to ensure a scientifically literate and technically skilled future workforce. In FY 2005, new investments will be made in Integrative Institutional Collaborations and Workforce Research grants.
EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES (EHR)
The budget would fund NSF's EHR programs at $771 million, a reduction of $168 million, or 17.9 percent, from the FY 2004 funding level. Graduate education programs would receive $174 million, an increase of $18 million, or 11.5 percent, over FY 2004. Undergraduate education programs would receive $159 million, an increase of $3 million, or 2.2 percent over FY 2004. Elementary, secondary, and informal education programs are slated to receive $173 million, a reduction of $40 million, or 18.6 percent. The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) would receive $84 million, a reduction of $10 million, or 11.1 percent, from FY 2004.
Math and Science Partnerships (MSP): The budget proposes no new funds within the EHR directorate for the Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) program at NSF. This NSF program was created to link local elementary and secondary schools with colleges and universities in an attempt to raise the performance of all U.S. students in mathematics and science, train teachers, and create innovative ways to reach underserved students and schools.
In FY 2004, the President proposed $200 million for NSF's MSP program and the Congress provided $139 million. The FY 2005 budget proposes transferring the MSP program to the Department of Education, which has long maintained a Math and Science Partnerships program of its own. Funds for the MSP program at the Department of Education have traditionally been provided to states through block grants while the NSF program has made awards to proposals based upon peer review. NSF's FY 2005 proposed budget supports the continuation of MSP projects previously awarded, but no new awards. The budget includes $80 within R&RA Integrative Activities for this purpose.
Graduate fellowships and stipends: Within the EHR account,
the budget request would expand the number of graduate fellowships from
a projected 5,000 fellowships in FY 2004 to 5,500 in FY 2005. The number
of awards will increase in the following programs: Graduate Research Fellowships
(GRF), Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 education (GK-12), and Integrative
Graduate Education and Research Traineeships (IGERT). Stipends for FY
2005 NSF fellows will remain at the $30,000 level established in FY 2004.
(For more on NSF's EHR programs, please see Chapter