On February 13, Director Subra Suresh unveiled the President's fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF would receive $7.373 billion, a 4.8 percent increase, which Suresh called, "good news for America and for science everywhere." Suresh underlined the importance of science for the future of American prosperity and described how the request "moves America forward by connecting the science and engineering enterprise with benefits for Americans in areas critical to job creation, a growing economy, and a higher standard of living."
Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES), NSF's "flagship portfolio," would receive $76.70 million to initiate five programs. Coastal SEES, Arctic Regions (ArcSEES), Creating a More Disaster-Resilient America (CaMRA), Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering and Materials (SusCHEM), and the Role of Information Sciences and Engineering in SEES (RISES). An additional $125.8 million would be provided to SEES to support programs initiated in prior years amounting to a total of $202.5 million.
The Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering (CIF21) provides a framework for integrating cyberinfrastructure in research across every discipline. Part of the FY 2013 request is $17 million for the development of the EarthCube program within CIF21. Overall, the President has requested $106 million for the CIF21 initiative, a $28 million increase.
Integrated NSF Support for Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE) would receive $63 million in the President's request to expand the opportunities for discovery through multidisciplinary research. The program will continue with the CREATIV and INSPIRE mid-scale award activities in FY 2013 as a pilot mechanism to help develop large-scale activities in 2014 and beyond.
The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) would receive $18.85 million in the FY 2013 President's request which NSF anticipates will support up to 375 awards at $50,000 each or 250 awards at $75,000 each. I-Corps seeks to "accelerate the movement of research results from the lab to the marketplace" by putting NSF researchers in contact with technology developers, business leaders, and venture capitalists.
The Geosciences Directorate (GEO) would receive a 2.4 percent increase over FY 2012 for a total of $906.44 million in the President's request. All three divisions within GEO: Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS), f Earth Sciences (EAR), and Ocean Sciences (OCE), would receive increases.
All of the increases in research would mean modest cuts to facilities across the agency. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) would be cut by about $6.3 million, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) would be cut by about $1.11 million, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) would be cut by about $5.5 million, and the Arecibo Observatory (formerly part of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center) would be flat funded in the President's request. However, EarthScope (+ $1.1 million) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative (+ $13.3 million) would see modest increases in the request. The increase for EarthScope will allow the long-term operation of up to 250 transportable array stations to be left in the central and eastern United States after the transportable array moves to Alaska beginning in 2014. Among other new major facilities with geosciences, the launch of the Alaska Region Research Vessel, Sikuliaq, is scheduled for October, 2012 and the NCAR Wyoming Supercomputer Center is projected to begin operations in June of 2012.
Below are more details on specific program funding changes copied directly from NSF-GEO budget documents:
The House of Representatives passed the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013 (H.R. 5326) on May 10, 2012 on a vote of 247-163. The House bill provides the National Science Foundation with $7.332 billion. Relevant language from the House Report (112-463) follows:
Research and Related Activities
Research priorities.—The Committee appreciates the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) commitment to reviewing its portfolio of programs and proposing reductions or terminations where appropriate. Such proposals provide a more fiscally sustainable way to support new or expanded programs. Accordingly, the recommendation adopts all of the reduction and termination proposals contained in the R&RA budget request except for the proposed termination of the Communicating Science Broadly (CSB) program. The Committee supports the continuation of CSB activities to ensure taxpayers have access to information about the impact and relevance of NSF’s scientific research.
The funds made available through reductions and terminations, together with the increase provided by the Committee, will allow NSF to expand or enhance its activities across a range of research areas with significant potential impacts on national security and economic competitiveness. The Committee directs NSF to prioritize these new activities toward cybersecurity and cyberinfrastructure improvements; advanced manufacturing (as further discussed below); materials research; and disciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the natural and physical sciences, math and engineering. Not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act, NSF shall report to the Committees on Appropriations on the detailed distribution of funding by program within this account.
Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction
Education and Human Resources
Best practices in K–12 STEM education.—NSF shall continue working to develop and carry out a tracking and evaluation methodology to assess the implementation of the recommendations contained in the NRC’s 2011 report entitled Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This work should expand on efforts begun using funds provided in fiscal year 2012.
STEM-focused K–12 schools.—The Committee notes that recent
reports of the NRC and the NSB have encouraged education researchers
and policymakers to give increased consideration to
STEM-focused K–12 schools as an effective means of increasing
STEM literacy. With those reports in mind, the Committee encourages
NSF to work within its existing programs to promote opportunities
for collaboration between universities or non-profit research
institutions and STEM-focused schools serving K–12 students.
The House of Representatives considers funding for NSF, NASA, NOAA and NIST in the Commerce,
Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House
Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Wolf (R-VA), other members include Ranking Member Fattah (D-PA) and Representatives Culberson (R-TX), Aderholt
(R-AL), Bonner (R-AL), Austria (R-OH), Graves (R-GA), Yoder (R-KS), Schiff
(D-CA), Honda (D-CA), and Serrano (D-NY).
The Senate considers funding for NSF, NASA, NOAA and NIST in the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Mikulski (D-MD), other members include Ranking Member Hutchison (R-TX) and Representatives Inouye (D-HI), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Brown (D-OH), Shelby (R-AL), McConnell (R-KY), Alexander (R-TN), Murkowski (R-AK), Johnson (R-WI), Collins (R-ME) and Graham (R-SC).
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Requests for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Committee Members Present
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing on March 11, 2011 to discuss the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget requests for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The morning of the hearing, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan that caused tsunamis around the world, placing some topics of discussion in an immediately relevant, though tragic, context.
Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) opened the hearing by acknowledging both agencies for their “vital contributions to our nation’s competitiveness,” and he listed several achievements that have come from NSF investments, including Google and MRIs, and thanked NIST for “making things run smoothly.” However, Hall said, considering the nation’s financial condition, the budget requests and increases are not realistic. Hall expressed concern that the Obama Administration has placed a greater emphasis on applied research at the agencies, whose core missions are to fund basic, fundamental research.
Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) applauded the agencies for presenting budgets that invest in science and innovation to help stimulate economic growth. She compared the requests to the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 (H.R. 1) that the House passed in February, which includes cuts to both agencies. In fact, Representative Johnson said she was “dumbfounded” that some were considering cutting investments that help reduce the national debt and create well-paying jobs.
Dr. Patrick Gallagher, director of NIST, outlined the priorities of the NIST FY 2012 budget request. He described the initiatives included in the request that aim to bolster manufacturing, infrastructure and education in the U.S. Dr. Gallagher mentioned the importance of disaster mitigation in which NIST is engaged, specifically its responsibility of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP). He acknowledged that the events in Japan serve as an unfortunate reminder of hazard reduction significance.
Representative David Wu (D-OR) expressed the importance of NIST research to develop more earthquake resistant buildings and structures to help communities become more resilient. He explained that the Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of Oregon has the potential for a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. Gallagher responded that the timeliness of the topic was tragic, and went on to describe the federal agencies that are critical to disaster reduction and response. He explained how the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is responsible for obtaining and producing seismic data and for mapping the areas in danger; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deals with response and recovery following a disaster; NSF invests in research for long-range engineering issues related to disasters; and NIST supports development of infrastructure and buildings that are resilient against earthquakes. This involves using research conducted by other agencies to develop model building codes that can then serve as an example and be adopted in local community codes. He stated that the NEHRP advisory committee is at NIST and told the committee that more research needs to be done on hazards mitigation.
Dr. Subra Suresh, director of NSF, highlighted some of the priorities included in the $7.8 billion FY 2012 budget request. NSF plans to invest heavily in cyberinfrastructure, the Advanced Manufacturing Initiative, nanotechnology initiatives and three new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs.
Dr. Ray Bowen, chairman of the National Science Board, added his support for the NSF budget request. He noted that investment in science, technology, infrastructure and the workforce are critical to America’s continual economic growth, and that Congress must not lose sight of “long term investment during near term challenges.”
Several questions related to STEM education programs. Ranking Member Johnson asked for an update on efforts to increase women and minority participation in STEM fields. Dr. Suresh said that though the number of women in higher education and those entering the workforce has increased in recent years, there is room for improvement for retaining them . Representative Hansen Clarke (D-MI) expressed concern about the proposed cuts to K-12 STEM education programs, in particular the termination of the Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program. Dr. Suresh assured him that NSF remains “very, very strongly committed” to K-12 education. Other STEM education programs will incorporate the best aspects of GK-12 in an attempt to streamline priorities, he said, and the elimination and reduced funding of the program in no way reflects a reduced commitment to improving STEM education. Noting that 12 federal agencies have roles in STEM education, Representative Dan Benishek (R-MI) asked whether it is necessary to have more than one agency working on the issue. Dr. Suresh stressed that NSF has the unique upstream role of researching, developing and testing models of the best teacher practices that other agencies then implement. He reminded Representative Benishek that NSF is the only federal agency that is involved in every science and engineering field.
Talk turned to discussion of the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 (H.R. 1). Representative Lofgren told Dr. Suresh that research universities in California have warned her that the cuts included in the act would result in far fewer grants in science and technology fields, therefore “killing the future prosperity.” Dr. Bowen added that if the funding decreases, “there will be impacts” for long term fundamental research. He mentioned that young students and scientists beginning their careers in STEM areas would have fewer opportunities.
Testimony from the chair and witnesses, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing, can be found here.
Sources: NSF Budget Information web site and Thomas
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Geoscience Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prepared by Linda Rowan and Wilson Bonner, AGI Geoscience Policy Staff and Erin Camp, AAPG/AGI Fall 2011 Intern.
Last updated May 16, 2012