AGI Fiscal Year 2004 Testimony to House VA/HUD
and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee
Testimony Submitted by
Dr. David Applegate, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
in support of Fiscal Year 2004 Appropriations for the
National Science Foundation
U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on VA, HUD & Independent Agencies Appropriations
April 15, 2003
To the Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate this opportunity to present testimony on behalf of
the American Geological Institute (AGI) in support of fiscal year
(FY) 2004 appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The fundamental research funded by NSF has fueled our nation's economic
growth and contributes to improvements in our health, safety, and
quality of life. This subcommittee has shown leadership in expanding
the federal investment in fundamental research, leadership that
will be even more critical in the coming year. AGI urges the Subcommittee
to provide the requested amount for the EarthScope project in the
Major Research Equipment, Facilities and Construction account and
to go beyond the president's request by expanding support for the
Geosciences Directorate within the Research and Related Activities
account. Both EarthScope and the core programs of the Geosciences
Directorate represent an important investment in the future of our
nation and our planet.
AGI also supports the Coalition for National Science Funding and
its stated target of $6.9 billion in total funding for the foundation.
This amount is equal to the authorized level in Public Law 107-368
enacted this past December.
AGI is a nonprofit federation of 40 geoscientific and professional
societies representing more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists,
and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information
services to geoscientists, serves as a voice for shared interests
in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience
education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital
role the geosciences play in society's use of resources and interaction
with the environment.
Geoscience research plays an increasingly important role in an
ever-growing range of scientific and societal problems, and federal
investments in geoscience research should increase accordingly.
Global climate change, natural disasters, energy resources, and
water quality are just a few of the issues that benefit from improved
geoscience knowledge and understanding. Federal investments in geoscience
R&D continue to pay enormous dividends, and both the federal
government and the nation clearly have a stake in maintaining the
health of the basic science on which applications and policy decisions
ultimately must be based.
NSF support for geoscience research activities covers the entire
spectrum from individual investigators to major research centers
and large research programs. Many of the most creative and important
advances in geoscience research continue to be made by individual
investigators and small research teams that are the backbone of
the research and graduate education system. NSF should maintain
and enhance support for this vital component of geoscience research.
As noted in the NSF budget request, the foundation has placed a
special emphasis on investments in the physical sciences. We applaud
the foundation's emphasis on the need to restore balance and hope
that the Subcommittee views this commitment to the physical sciences
broadly, including the many subdisciplines of the geosciences within
that terminological umbrella. While the decline in funding for many
non-biomedical disciplines is real, any such refocusing should remain
broad enough to ensure the multidisciplinary nature of today's science,
mathematics, engineering, and technology research. A balance must
be found that maintains NSF's hallmark of supporting the most promising
ideas in research and education.
NSF Geosciences Directorate
The NSF Geosciences Directorate is the principal source of federal
support for academic earth scientists and their students who are
seeking insight into the processes that ultimately sustain and transform
life on this planet. The president has requested nearly flat funding
for this directorate as a whole, but that total includes a 4.9 percent
cut to the Earth Sciences Division and a 0.7 percent cut to the
Ocean Sciences Division. Moreover, of the $688 million requested
for the directorate, nearly 10% is targeted at NSF-wide priorities,
which are primarily broad interdisciplinary research and education
efforts. Recognizing that these agency priorities areas can result
in cutting-edge research and technology, we are nonetheless concerned
that the president's request would cannibalize the directorate's
core programs to fund what should be complementary initiatives.
By meeting the authorized funding level within the Research and
Related Activities account, the Subcommittee would allow NSF to
strengthen core research by increasing the number and duration of
NSF Major Research Equipment Account: EarthScope
AGI urges the Subcommittee to support the NSF Major Research Equipment,
Facilities and Construction budget request of $45 million for EarthScope.
Taking advantage of new technology in sensors and data distribution,
this multi-pronged initiative -- begun thanks to the Subcommittee's
support in fiscal year 2003 -- will systematically survey the structure
of the Earth's crust beneath North America. The FY2004 request includes
continued support for deployment of three components: a dense array
of digital seismometers that will be deployed in stages across the
country; a 4-km deep borehole through the San Andreas Fault, housing
a variety of instruments that can continuously monitor the conditions
within the fault zone; and a network of state-of-the-art Global
Positioning System (GPS) stations and sensitive strainmeters to
measure the deformation of the constantly shifting boundary between
the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. AGI supports development
in conjunction with NASA of the fourth component, a satellite-based
Synthetic Aperture Radar mission that can measure changes in the
Earth's crust after earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
EarthScope has broad support from the earth science community with
endorsements from a number of AGI's member societies, including
the Association of American State Geologists, Geological Society
of America, Seismological Society of America and Society of Exploration
Geophysicists. EarthScope has received a very favorable review from
the National Research Council, which released a report in 2001 entitled
Review of EarthScope Integrated Science.
All data from this project will be available in real time to both
scientists and students, providing a tremendous opportunity for
both research and learning about the Earth. Involving the public
in earth science research will increase appreciation of how such
research can lead to improvements in understanding the environment
and a better quality of life. As noted by the National Research
Council report: "EarthScope provides an excellent opportunity
to excite and involve the general public, as well as K-12 and college
students, to work together with the earth science community to understand
the earth on which they live." EarthScope can also provide
a mechanism to integrate a broad array of earth science research
data in a unified system to promote cross-disciplinary research
and avoid duplication of effort.
NSF Support for Earth Science Education
Earth science plays a unique and essential role in today's rapidly
changing world. Most human activities involve interactions with
the planet Earth, and citizens need a basic understanding of our
planet in order to make informed decisions about the delicate balance
between resource use and environmental protection. NSF can improve
the nation's scientific literacy by supporting the full integration
of earth science information into mainstream science education at
the K-12 and college levels. The inclusion of earth science as a
key component in the National Science Education Standards developed
by the National Academy of Sciences presents a tremendous opportunity
to achieve this goal.
AGI urges the subcommittee to fully support the $200 million that
the president has requested for the NSF Math and Science Partnerships
program within the Directorate for Education and Human Resources.
These partnerships will be awarded through a competitive, merit-reviewed
process, working to develop and implement plans to raise math and
science standards at both the classroom level and above. Unlike
the similar partnerships that would be provided to each state by
the Department of Education, the NSF partnerships will provide an
opportunity for university scientists to play an active role.
We encourage the Education and Human Resources directorate to expand
its interaction with the Geosciences directorate to further integrate
research and education activities in the geosciences. Improving
geoscience education to levels of recognition similar to other scientific
disciplines is important because:
- Geoscience offers students subject matter that has direct application
to their lives and the world around them. Civilization depends
on responsible use of Earth's natural resources, including energy,
minerals, and water. Moreover, geoscience plays a key role in
- Geoscience exposes students to a diverse range of interrelated
scientific disciplines. It is an excellent vehicle for integrating
the theories and methods of chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics.
- Geoscience awareness is a key element in reducing the impact
of natural hazards on citizens -- hazards that include earthquakes,
volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods.
We urge NSF to continue playing an active role in the major transformation
that is taking place in geoscience education. For example, at the
college level, geoscience curricula are changing to better incorporate
environmental issues and changing employment opportunities. Improved
teaching methods and new educational technology, combined with improvements
in college and pre-college geoscience curricula, may help capture
and hold the curiosity and enthusiasm of students and better prepare
them for the workplace of the 21st century. At the graduate and
postdoctoral level, fellowships are increasingly critical in the
geosciences because students, following the lead of industry and
consumer needs, are conducting research that crosses traditional
departmental, disciplinary, and funding boundaries.
Yet some Americans, particularly those of lower income, are still
significantly underrepresented in geoscience education. The problem
is substantially worse at the graduate level. It is unlikely that
any profession, including the geosciences, can flourish without
greater participation by all Americans, including those from historically
underrepresented groups such as ethnic minorities, women, and people
with disabilities. Continued NSF leadership is needed to increase
recruitment and retention of students from these groups through
improved access to education and research experiences. We must all
work together to address the underlying factors that prevent such
I appreciate this opportunity to provide testimony to the Subcommittee
and would be pleased to answer any questions or to provide additional
information for the record. I can be reached at 703 379 2480 ext.
228 (voice), 703 379 7563 (fax), firstname.lastname@example.org, or 4220 King
Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted: April 16, 2003