The National Science Foundation (NSF) is once again targeted for major funding
increases as part of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI).
The FY 2009 request for NSF is $6.9 billion, $822 million or 13.6 percent above
the final FY 2008 level (see Table II-7). In FY 2008,
NSF and other federal research agencies received appropriations far below the
amounts requested by the Administration in the ACI and the amounts authorized
in the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69).
- Overall NSF R&D funding-excluding
education, training, and overhead costs-would rise to $5.2 billion, an increase
of 15.5 percent. This increase comes after several years of flat funding and elevates
total NSF R&D funding to an all-time high in real terms.
and Related Activities (R&RA) would increase to $5.6 billion, a $790 million
or 16.4 percent increase. All of the research directorates would receive increases
on the order of 9 to 20 percent in FY 2009 after what was essentially flat funding
- NSF estimates that it will provide a total 13,000 competitive
awards and 8,880 research grants in FY 2009. Despite this increase, competition
for grants will remain difficult, with NSF expected to be able to fund just 26
percent of competitive awards and 23 percent of research grant proposals it receives.
- The President is proposing to fund NSF's Education and Human Resources
(EHR) programs at $790 million, a $65 million or 8.9 percent increase over FY
- The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC)
account would be funded at $148 million, a decrease of $58 million or 28.2 percent.
According to NSF, the reason for the steep decline in funding for MREFC is due
to the completion of several major projects and the Administration's decision
not to fund the Alaska Regional Research Vessel, the National Ecological Observatory
Network (NEON), and the Ocean Observatories Initiative in FY 2009.
NSF's Mission: Since its founding in 1950, the
Foundation has played an extraordinary role in American scientific discovery.
In contrast to other federal agencies that support research focused on specific
missions and despite its small size, it is the only federal agency with responsibility
for the health of science and engineering across all disciplines. The NSF is also
charged with ensuring the nation's supply of scientists, engineers, and science
and engineering educators.
NSF accomplishes its mission with remarkable efficiency.
Approximately 94 percent of the agency's budget goes to support the actual conduct
of research and education, with less than six percent going to internal operations,
administration and management.
NSF Support: NSF plays a crucial
role in the support of university-based research, sending more than 80 percent
of its total R&D support to colleges and universities. NSF provides 22 percent
of federal support of basic research at academic institutions and 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, social
sciences and environmental sciences, it is the principal federal source of support
of academic research. While NSF does not directly support medical research, the
agency's investments are critical to medical science and related industries because
of its leadership in the advancements in diagnostics, regenerative medicine, drug
delivery, and the design and manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.
percent of NSF funding is allocated through merit-based competitive awards. Over
a three-year period from FY 2005-2007, NSF received an average of 43,000 competitive
proposals and made 10,600 competitive awards each year. In FY 2007, these awards
went to approximately 1,900 colleges, universities, and other non-profit institutions.
It is estimated that in FY 2009 nearly 212,000 people will be directly involved
in NSF research and education programs. These include approximately 61,000 senior
researchers and other professionals, 73,000 postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate
students, and 77,000 K-12 teachers and students.
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.
NSF is an independent federal agency managed 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 approximately
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 supports research activities through its Office of Polar Programs
(OPP). Last year, NSF created a new office, the Office of Cyberinfrastructure,
specifically to support cyberinfrastructure research activities previously supported
by CISE. NSF's large scientific facilities and major research projects are funded
in a separate account known as the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction
Recent NSF Funding History: For the most
part, NSF has seen steady growth over the past several decades. After declines
in the NSF budget in the mid-1990's which resulted from growing pressure to balance
the federal budget, growth began again for NSF in 1998 peaking in FY 2004. Since
then, the NSF budget has declined slightly after adjusting for inflation and has
yet to surpass its FY 2004 funding level despite approval of various initiatives
to double the agency's funding levels.
While the NSF has always enjoyed
strong Congressional support, this support surged during the late 1990's as key
leaders in both the House and Senate began to speak in favor of doubling the NSF's
budget over five years. The growing level of support for NSF was demonstrated
in 2002 when Congress passed 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 in December 2002, increased authorized funding for NSF
from its FY 2002 level of $4.8 billion to $9.8 billion in FY 2007.
high hopes that passage of the NSF Authorization bill would result in significant
funding increases for NSF, a dramatically changed federal fiscal environment-characterized
by increasing budget deficits and costs associated with the war on terrorism-resulted
in NSF funding well below the authorized levels. In FY 2004, the first year after
the passage of the authorization bill, the NSF received $5.6 billion, a five percent
increase, and in FY 2005 the NSF actually received a cut. This cut marked the
first time in ten years the NSF did not see an increase overall and was the first
time since FY 1986 that R&RA was cut in real terms. In FY 2006, the NSF budget
increased by only two percent, still leaving its final short of where it had been
two years earlier in FY 2004 when adjusted for inflation.
In 2005 a number
of reports were issued by business, higher education and scientific organizations
which sounded the alarm that the U.S. might be losing its global scientific and
technological edge. The most notable of these was the National Academies' Rising
above the Gathering Storm report. Concerns generated by these reports, combined
with the release of New York Times journalist Thomas L. Friedman's book The
World is Flat, led to the introduction of major bipartisan innovation and
competitiveness legislation in the U.S. Congress which called for significant
funding increases for the NSF and other federal agencies with a significant role
in the support of basic physical sciences and engineering research.
January 2006, President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative
(ACI) in his State of the Union address which called for doubling the NSF budget
and the budgets for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science and core
research programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
over ten years. The President's ACI announcement came on the heels of the House
Democrats' release in November 2005 of their own "Innovation Agenda"
which called for doubling NSF funding over a five-year period. And in August 2007,
the Congress overwhelmingly passed and the President signed the America COMPETES
Act (P.L. 110-69) which authorized $22 billion to the National Science Foundation
(NSF) over fiscal years 2008-2010, putting the agency on a path to double its
funding in approximately seven years.
Despite the strong bipartisan support
expressed for these competitiveness and innovation initiatives and the overwhelming
support for the COMPETES Act, funding for NSF fell short of the doubling path
in both the FY 2007 and FY 2008 appropriations cycles. Cumulatively, NSF was funded
at $500 million below the amount originally proposed by the President in the ACI.
Despite the various presidential and congressional initiatives aimed at doubling
the NSF budget, when adjusted for inflation the NSF budget has yet to rebound
to its peak funding level which came in FY 2004. While the "will" to
support science appears to exist in both the White House and Congress, finding
a "way" to actually fund these research programs appears to be much
Indeed, the final funding levels for research approved
by Congress and the White House for FY 2008 left many in the scientific community
stunned, given that the President and the Democratic Congress both had touted
major efforts to boost NSF funding. In what seemed to be a year when the White
House and Congress all agreed that NSF deserved significant funding increases,
how was it that these increases did not materialize?
In the end, the proposed
funding increases for NSF fell victim to bickering between the White House and
Congress over the total dollars available for domestic spending. Faced with threats
from the President that appropriations bills would be vetoed for exceeding his
overall domestic spending targets by $22 billion, Congress significantly pruned
back its spending bills to gain presidential approval of an omnibus appropriations
bill before the end of the calendar year. Included in these last-minute cuts was
the proposed NSF funding increase.
The failure to achieve the proposed
increase for NSF funding in the FY 2008 budget cycle does not bode well for realizing
similar funding increases proposed by President Bush for NSF in the FY 2009 budget.
Many are predicting a replay of last year's budget squabbles with a final resolution
not coming until a new President is sworn into office next year.
AND RELATED ACTIVITIES (R&RA)
Research and Related Activities (R&RA)
would receive $5.6 billion in the President's FY 2009 budget, an increase of $790
million or 16.4 percent above the FY 2008 estimate of $4.8 billion (see Table
II-7 for R&RA details). Requests for specific R&RA directorates and
Biological Sciences (BIO): $675 million (up $63 million
or 10.3 percent). BIO is the dominant federal supporter of basic research
in the non-biomedical biological sciences at academic institutions, providing
67 percent of all support. BIO's contribution to a broad array of biological sciences
is critically important, particularly in such areas as environmental biology,
plant sciences, and agriculture. BIO-supported research is important to furthering
the understanding of how living organisms function and interact with nonliving
systems which, in turn, has significant relevance to issues of national importance
relating to the environment, economy, agriculture, and human welfare. For FY 2009,
enhanced support for disciplinary and interdisciplinary research across BIO's
core programs is the highest priority for this directorate.
In FY 2009,
the BIO directorate is requesting a realignment of two important activities: (1)
the transfer of the Plant Genome Research program to the Integrative Organismal
System subactivity and (2) the transfer of management and oversight of the National
Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) to the Emerging Frontiers subactivity. In
FY 2009, BIO expects to make 1,310 competitive awards and 975 research grants.
The average award size would be $200,600 per year for an average duration of 3.0
years. (For more, see Chapter 17.)
and Information Science and Engineering (CISE): $639 million (up $104 million,
or 19.5 percent). CISE is the principal source of federal funding for
university-based basic research in computer science, providing the vast majority
(86 percent) of total federal support in this area. CISE provides academic researchers
with advanced computing and networking capabilities and fundamental knowledge
in computing science and engineering which, in turn, are essential to innovation
and effectiveness in many areas, including advanced scientific research, medical
care, national and homeland defense, organizational competitiveness, and governmental
efficiency. In FY 2009, CISE expects to make 1,950 competitive awards and 1,550
research grants. The average award size is estimated to be $180,000 per year and
an average duration of 3.0 years. (For more, see Chapter
Engineering (ENG): $759 million (up $122 million, or 19.2
percent). ENG is a major source of federal funding for university-based,
fundamental engineering research, providing 40 percent of the total federal support
in this area. ENG investments in engineering research and education build and
strengthen our Nation's capacity to lead the world in innovation. These investments
include such emerging technologies as sensors and sensor systems, nanotechnology,
cyber-enabled engineering, metabolic engineering, bioengineering and manufacturing.
Since establishing the National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2000, ENG has played
a vital role in directing frontier engineering research in the U.S. In FY 2009,
ENG expects to make 2,235 competitive awards and 1,590 research grants. The average
award size is estimated to be $118,000 per year for an average of 3.0 years. (For
more, see Chapters 24 and 25.)
(GEO): $849 million (up $96 million, or 12.8 percent). GEO is the principal
source of federal funding for university-based basic research in the geosciences,
providing about 59 percent of total federal support in these areas. GEO plays
a critical role in addressing the nation's need to understand, predict, and respond
to environmental events and changes. Research supported by GEO also helps to determine
the best use of Earth's resources. In FY 2009, GEO expects to make 1,600 competitive
awards and 1,250 research grants. The average award would be $160,000 per year
for 3.0 years. (For more, see Chapter 16.)
and Physical Sciences (MPS): $1.4 billion (up $235 million, or 20.2 percent).
MPS provides about 44 percent of federal funding for basic research at
academic institutions in the mathematical and physical sciences and serves as
the federal steward for ground-based astronomy. In FY 2009, MPS expects to make
2,850 competitive awards and 2,200 research grants. The average award size is
estimated to be $145,000 per year and an average duration of 3.1 years. (For more
on physics, see Chapter 13; on astronomy, see Chapter
14; and on chemistry, see Chapter 18.)
Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE): $233 million (up $18 million, or 8.5 percent).
SBE is a principal source of federal support for fundamental research on human
cognition, behavior, social structures, and social interaction, as well as for
research on the intellectual and social contexts that govern the development and
use of science and technology. Overall, SBE accounts for about 61 percent of federal
support for basic research in the social sciences at U.S. academic institutions.
In some fields, including anthropology, archaeology, political science, linguistics,
non-medical sociology, and the social aspects of psychology, SBE is the predominant
or exclusive source of federal basic research support. In FY 2009, SBE expects
to make 1,277 competitive awards and 810 research grants. The average award size
is estimated to be $117,810 per year and an average duration of 2.5 years. (For
more, see Chapter 19.)
Office of Polar
Programs (OPP): $491 million (up $48 million, or 10.9 percent). OPP supports
research in the extreme environments and unique geography found at the earth's
poles. Much of the research performed by the NSF in the Arctic and Antarctic is
not feasible elsewhere. In FY 2009, OPP expects to make 402 competitive awards
and 350 research grants. The research awards would have an average award size
of $249,398 per year and an average duration of 3.0 years.
of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI): $220 million (up $35 million, or 18.8 percent).
OCI was created in July 2005 in an organizational realignment that moved
the CISE Division of Shared Cyberinfrastructure into the Office of the Director.
OCI supports research, development, acquisition and operations of advanced shared
and connecting cyberinfrastructure that enables advances in 21st century science
and engineering research and education. In FY 2009, OCI expects to make 72 competitive
awards and 55 research grants. The research awards would have an average award
size of $440,000 per year and an average duration of 2.5 years.
of International Science and Engineering (OISE): $47 million (up $6 million, or
14.8 percent). OISE serves as the focal point, both inside and outside
NSF, for international science and engineering activities. OISE supports U.S.
scientists and engineers engaged in international research and education activities
in all NSF-supported disciplines involving any region of the world. Bold exploration
at the frontiers of science and engineering increasingly requires international
partnerships. OISE is the lead office in helping to develop such partnerships
on behalf of the NSF. In FY 2009 OISE expects to make 370 competitive awards and
100 research grants. The research awards would have an average award size of $175,000
per year and an average duration of 3.0 years.
$276 million (up $44 million or 18.8 percent). Integrative Activities
(IA) was created in FY 1999 within R&RA to support cross-disciplinary research
efforts and major research instrumentation.
EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES
NSF, in accordance with the NSF Act of 1950, is the principal
federal agency charged with promoting science and engineering (S&E) education.
In support of this mission, EHR promotes the development of a diverse and well-prepared
workforce of scientists, technicians, engineers, mathematicians and educators
and a well-informed citizenry who has access to the ideas and tools of science
and engineering. The budget would fund EHR programs at $790 million in FY 2009,
an increase of $65 million or 8.9 percent over FY 2008.
of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL): It is the
mission of DRL to integrate STEM education research, development, evaluation,
and synthesis activities. As part of its mission, DRL will assume the leadership
of two of EHR's five thematic priorities in FY 2009; public understanding of science,
and advancing STEM literacy and promoting learning through research and evaluation.
The FY 2009 budget requests $227 million for DRL, an increase of $13 million,
or 5.8 percent over the FY 2008 level of $214 million.
Division of Undergraduate
Education (DUE): DUE's objective is to increase the quantity and improved the
quality of STEM undergraduate education. As part of its mission, DUE will assume
a leadership role in the areas of teacher education and cyber-infrastructure for
learning. The FY 2009 budget requests $220 million for DUE, an increase of $9
million, or 4.2 percent over the FY 2008 level of $211 million.
of Graduate Education (DGE): DGE supports graduate students and innovative
graduate programs in science and engineering. The FY 2009 budget requests $191
million for DGE, an increase of $31 million or 19.1 percent over the FY 2008 level
of $160 million.
Graduate fellowships and stipends: Within EHR, the budget
would fund an estimated 3,075 fellows under the Graduate Research Fellowship,
950 Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 education, and 1,425 trainees under the
Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships. Approximately, 5,450
graduate fellowships and traineeships will be supported NSF-wide in FY 2009.
and Science Partnerships (MSP): The FY 2009 request for MSP is $51 million,
an increase of $2.5 million over the FY 2008 level of $48.5 million. As part of
this increase, $1.5 million is requested for the Innovation through Institutional
Integration effort and $1 million is requested for the Teacher Education thematic
priority. (For more on NSF's EHR programs, see Chapter 4.)
MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION (MREFC)
FY 2009 budget requests $148 million for MREFC, a decrease of $58 million or 28.2
percent below FY 2008. The reason for the steep decline in funding for MREFC is
due to the completion of several major projects and the Administration's decision
not to fund the Alaska Regional Research Vessel, NEON, and the Ocean Observatories
Initiative in 2009. Despite these significant cuts in the MREFC account, the FY
2009 budget requests funding for several construction projects, including the
Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory ($51 million), the
Atacama Large Millimeter Array ($82 million), the IceCube project ($11 million),
and the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope ($2.5 million).
in past years, the FY 2009 budget includes several cross-foundational investments
and priorities aimed at strengthening and improving the science and engineering
enterprise. These investments include increased funding for the following programs:
Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation; Science and Engineering Beyond Moore's
Law; Adaptive Systems Technology; and Dynamics of Water Processes in the Environment.
The investments and priorities outlined in this year's budget seem to be very
much in line with the Administration's American Competitiveness Initiative as
well as the America COMPETES Act of 2007 aimed at increasing the nation's investment
in the physical sciences and engineering.
As part of its overall mission,
NSF continues its support for major National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)
crosscutting initiatives in the FY 2009 budget. For example, the FY 2009 budget
request for Climate Change Science Program is $220.6 million (up $15.4 million);
the Networking and Information Technology R&D Initiative is slightly over
$1 billion (up $159 million); and the National Nanotechnology Initiative is $397
million (up $8 million; Table I-9.)