The Senate would go along with the Bush Administration’s proposal to boost
funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the American Competitiveness
Initiative, and would add even more money to education programs. The Senate would
give NSF $6.6 billion for its budget in 2008 (see Table),
$638 million or 10.8 percent more than the current year and $124 million more
than the request.
In preliminary action, the House would give $6.5 billion to NSF, again adding
to the request for education programs and agreeing with requested increases for
research programs. In both the House and Senate proposals, most of NSF’s research
directorates would receive increases between 4 and 9 percent for the second year
in a row.
NSF R&D investments (excluding education, training, and overhead costs) would
total $4.9 billion in the Senate appropriation, a 9.1 percent increase to an all-time
high in real terms.
All the research directorates would be able to increase average award sizes, numbers
of research grants, and success rates for research grant applications in 2008.
NSF’s Education and Human Resources (E.H.R.) budget would jump 22 percent to $851
million in the 2008 Senate plan, well above a 7.5 percent requested increase,
but would still remain below the 2004 funding level in real terms.
NSF R&D in FY 2008 Senate Appropriations
June 28, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY 2008
Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (S 1745) providing funding for the
Department of Commerce, the National Science Foundation
(NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA), for consideration by the full Senate in July. The House has drafted
its own version of the bill for consideration by the House Appropriations Committee
consideration in July. Both the House and Senate bills contain close to $54 billion
in 2008 discretionary spending, $3 to $4 billion
more than the current year and between $2 and $3 billion more than the President’s
request for these programs.
a year ago, President Bush announced a proposal to substantially increase funding
for key physical sciences research agencies over ten years as part of an “American
Competitiveness Initiative” (ACI), designed in part to address a growing wave
of concern about the state of U.S.
innovation. The National Science Foundation (NSF) was one of three ACI agencies
(the others are the DOE Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards
and Technology laboratories) to receive increases in 2007 for the first year of
the ACI. The FY 2008 NSF budget builds on the first year of the ACI with a second
year of increases for most programs. The 110th Congress has so far
supported these ACI increases, first by giving NSF the entire request for 2007
when it wrapped up 2007 appropriations in February, and now with initial House
and Senate appropriations for NSF in 2008. The Senate would give NSF $6.6 billion
in 2008 for its total budget, a large 10.8 percent or $638 million increase over
2007 and $124 million more than what NSF requested (see Table).
The $124 million addition to the request includes $100 million above the request
for NSF’s education programs and $18 million more than requested for oceans research.
adjusting for inflation, the pending 2008 Senate increase would enable NSF funding
to reach an all-time high (see Figure 1). After peaking in 2004, NSF funding fell
in 2005 and 2006 but would rise for the second year in a row in 2008. The draft
House appropriation would give NSF just slightly less than the Senate with $6.5
billion to bring NSF to an all-time high.
Figure 1. (click on the image for
NSF’s R&D funding, which excludes NSF’s
education and training activities and overhead costs (such as polar logistics
and administrative salaries), would total $4.9 billion in the Senate plan, a gain
of $406 million or 9.1 percent over 2007 that would bring the R&D total above
2004 in inflation-adjusted terms (see Figure 1), after cuts in 2005 and 2006 and
a rebound in 2007. The Senate would allocate
$32 million more than requested, primarily for oceans research.
main Research and Related Activities (R&RA)
account, which funds nearly all of NSF’s basic and applied research and contains
NSF’s discipline-based research directorates, would climb 8.2 percent to $5.2
billion in the Senate (see Table). Most research directorates would receive increases
between 4 and 9 percent for the second year in a row after several years of flat
or declining funding (see Figure 2). The Senate would agree to larger increases
for some key programs: the new Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI), a recent spin-off
from the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate,
would see its funding climb 9.6 percent to $200 million. OCI supports the procurement,
development, and operation of state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure resources for
the entire research community. Its sister CISE directorate would gain 9.0 percent.
The Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and Engineering (ENG), strong supporters
along with CISE and OCI of the physical sciences broadly defined that are the
ACI’s focus, would gain 8.9 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively. Moving away
from the physical sciences, the gains become smaller, dropping to modest increases
for the Biological Sciences (BIO) directorate (up 4.1 percent) and Social, Behavioral,
and Economic Sciences (SBE; up 3.9 percent). But the Senate would add funding
for the Geosciences (GEO) directorate, allocating $18 million more than requested
for a total of $810 million, an 8.8 percent boost. The additional $18 million
is for oceans research.
R&RA, the Integrative Activities (IA) account would climb 17.2 percent to
$269 million, primarily from a $24 million or 27.2 percent increase in Major Research
Instrumentation (MRI), a program to distribute competitively awarded instrumentation
grants to institutions for state-of-the-art research instrumentation that would
be too costly to be funded through regular NSF research awards. The Experimental
Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) would move to IA and receive
$121 million in the Senate, up $18 million. EPSCOR assists research institutions
and states that have traditionally been underrepresented in federal R&D funding
to build research capacity. The program is currently open to 24 states, Puerto
Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands; collectively, the EPSCoR states
received just 10.4 percent of NSF R&D funds in FY 2004.
Office of Polar Programs (OPP), which funds polar research but also provides logistical
support for research activities at both poles and maintains the South Pole Station,
would receive $465 million in the request, House, and Senate plans, a boost of
6.1 percent. The OPP increase would build on a larger increase in 2007 to ramp
up research during the International Polar Year (2007-2008) and for increased
logistics costs to support that research.
Figure 2. (click on the image for
substantial 2007 and 2008 increases, funding for most research directorates would
climb above 2004 levels in real terms after budget cuts in 2005 and 2006 (see
Figure 2). In real terms, funding for the Biological Sciences (BIO) would remain
below 2004 levels, while the computer sciences, social sciences, mathematics and
physical sciences, polar, and engineering directorates would reach new highs,
though just narrowly. The extra Senate dollars would also bring GEO funding to
a new high.
Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account would receive
a $54 million boost to $245 million in 2008 to fund 7 projects (see Table). MREFC
funds only the construction of large scientific facilities; smaller facilities
projects, planning and design for future facilities, research instrumentation
grants, and facilities operations are funded in R&RA by the research directorates.
In addition to six ongoing projects, in 2008 NSF would start the Advanced Laser
Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (AdvLIGO), an upgrade to the existing
LIGO in Washington and West
Virginia of the world’s most sophisticated optical interferometers,
with a $33 million allocation.
Senate would be especially generous with NSF’s education and human resources programs,
boosting funding 22 percent to $851 million. The large increase, however, would
still leave funding below 2004 levels in real terms after steep cuts in 2005 and
2006 and flat funding in 2007 (see Figure 2). The Senate would provide $75
million for the Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) program, a joint Department
of Education (ED)-NSF program. The NSF contribution was $139 million in 2004 but
has declined steadily since then and declined further to just $46 million in 2007;
the 2008 request would stay at $46 million, but the Senate $75 million appropriation
would bring funding closer to past levels. In separate action, the Senate would
give $184 million in 2008 for the ED program, slightly more than the request.
NSF Funding Mechanisms
The large proposed increases for the research
directorates, now endorsed by the Senate, would mean a second year of gains to
reverse recent declines in competitively awarded research grants. Looking only at competitively awarded research
grants, NSF’s core funding mechanism, NSF expects to fund 7,435 research grants
next year, an 8 percent increase, while at the same time increasing the average
award size to $147,200 (up 3.0 percent) after several years of flat funding. After
several years of declining success rates, NSF projects that it will fund 21 percent
of research grant proposals, up slightly from 20 percent in 2007. The broad-based
increases would allow every research directorate (excluding the new OCI) to increase
the three key measures of the number of research grants, the average grant size,
and the projected success rate.
and Next StepsThe
full Senate is expected to debate and approve the Commerce-Justice-Science bill
in July, while the House Appropriations Committee is expected to consider its
version in July, also. Congress will try to send a final version of the bill to
President Bush before the October 1 start of FY 2008. The President has threatened
to veto any 2008 appropriations bill that exceeds his request, as the Senate bill
does by more than $3 billion, so the bill may have a long way to go before its
funding levels become final.
July 3, 2007
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