American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


National Academy Report on FY 1997 Federal Science and Technology Budget

In January, the National Academy of Sciences released The Federal Science and Technology Budget, FY 1997 as a follow-up to its 1995 report on how the federal government allocates research and development funding. The new report was prepared by Dr. Frank Press and Dr. H. Guyford Stever. Press also chaired the committee that prepared the 1995 report and formerly served as President Carter's science advisor, the only geoscientist to hold that position. The report identifies "a substantial decline in funding for the physical and other non-biomedical sciences" in recent years.

The new report is the first in what is to become an annual series of assessments based on the findings of the 1995 report, entitled Allocation of Funds for Science and Technology. That report, which came to be known as the Press report, criticized the process by which estimates of federal R&D budget figures were arrived at and suggested that the official "R&D" budget overestimated actual spending on research and development by a factor of nearly two. The report called for calculating a federal science and technology (FS&T) budget that would exclude "the funding traditionally counted in the federal R&D budget for activities such as production engineering, testing and evaluation, and upgrading of large weapons and related systems." By excluding such activities, the FS&T budget would represent a "more precise measure of the federal investment in new knowledge and new technologies."

The Press report garnered a great deal of attention within the scientific community and in Congress, which had requested the report in order to establish priorities for scientific R&D in a time of constrained budgets. Although the report did not supply such priorities, a furor arose over its apparent recommendation that university-based research should be emphasized at the expense of research in government laboratories and other settings.

The Federal Science and Technology Budget, FY 1997 explains the amount of money appropriated for basic and applied research in FY 1997, as well as development of new products. The report calculates this information by making adjustments to the federal R&D figures published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science R&D Budget Project.

The final federal FS&T appropriations for FY 1997 are approximately $43.4 billion, a slight increase (0.7%) over FY 1996 appropriations in real terms. This upturn in FS&T funding does not, however, offset several years of shrinkage and still is 5% less than it was in FY 1994. The Department of the Interior has seen the most drastic cuts, as its funding has been reduced by 23.8%. Only two of the ten major S&T agencies and departments, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Health and Human Services (which includes the National Institutes of Health) have more FS&T funding in FY 1997 than they had in FY 1994.


As calculated in the report, agency research budget changes from FY 1996 to FY 1997 are as follows:

The 1995 Press report can be accessed through the internet at http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/fedfunds/.

Source: National Academy of Sciences


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Contributed by Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs.
Last updated June 12, 1997

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