FY 2004 NSF Request: Major Research Equipment; US Polar Programs

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Publication date: 
13 February 2003
Number: 
26

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION:

The Bush Administration is requesting an increase in the FY 2004 Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) budget of 60.2%, or $76.1 million, as compared to the FY 2003 request. The $202.3 million request is 75.4% higher than the account's FY 2002 budget. As previously explained, the FY 2003 appropriations bill for the National Science Foundation has not been enacted.

Considerable congressional attention was devoted to this program last year, and the new authorization law for the foundation set forth a number of new requirements. The budget request provides detailed information regarding this account, running 54 pages long. Below are selections from the budget request document, as well as funding numbers for "first priority" and "second priority" projects. Please see http//:www.nsf.gov/bfa/bud/fy2004/toc.htm for additional information; this section begins on page 359.

The document states:

"The MREFC Account supports the implementation of major research facilities and equipment that provide unique capabilities at the frontiers of science and engineering. Implementation projects supported by this account are intended to extend the boundaries of technology and open new avenues for discovery for the science and engineering community. Initial concept and development, and follow on operations and maintenance costs of the facilities are provided through the Research and Related Activities (R&RA)."

"Among Federal agencies, NSF plays a major role in providing the academic (non-medical) research community with access to forefront instrumentation and facilities. In recent years, NSF has received an increased number of requests for major research facilities and equipment from the S&E community. Many of these requests have been rated outstanding by research peers, program staff, management and policy officials, and the National Science Board. NSF's request for the MREFC Account fully funds the ongoing projects and the remaining three projects approved for funding by the National Science Board [NSB], but not yet funded, and positions the agency to meet the future needs and opportunities of the research community.

"Once a project has been submitted for MREFC funding, it must undergo a multi-phase review and approval process. The process begins with a review by the MREFC Panel, which makes recommendations to the NSF Director with attention to criteria such as scientific merit, importance, readiness and cost-benefit. The Director then selects candidates for National Science Board (NSB) consideration. The NSB then approves, or not, projects for inclusion in future budget requests and establishes priorities. The Director selects from the group of NSB-approved projects those appropriate for inclusion in a budget request to OMB, and after discussion with OMB, to the Congress.

" In order for a project to be considered for MREFC funding, NSF requires that it represent an exceptional opportunity that enables research and education. In addition, the project should be transformative in nature, in that it should have the potential to shift the paradigm in scientific understanding and/or infrastructure technology. NSF believes that all the projects included in this Budget Request meet these criteria.

"As a general framework for priority-setting, NSF assigned priority to projects based on the following criteria:

"First Priority: Ongoing Projects Projects where outyear funding for the full project has already been included in a Budget Request to Congress, and projects that have received initial funding for startup

"Second Priority: NSB-Approved New Starts New projects that have received NSB approval for inclusion in a budget request but which have not yet been included in a budget request or received funding.

"NSF believes that the highest priority within the MREFC Account must be the current projects. To that end, highest priority in FY 2004 is to continue to request funding for:" (All figures in Millions)

ALMA Construction: FY04 request - $50.8; FY03 request - $30.0; FY02 actual - $12.5
Earthscope: FY04 request - $45.0; FY03 request - $35.0
HIAPER Aircraft - FY04 request - $25.5; FY02 actual - $35.0
IceCube Neutrino Observatory: FY04 request - $60.0; FY02 actual - $10.1
Network for Earthquake Eng.: FY04 request - $8.0; FY03 request:$13.6; FY02 - $24.4
NEON: FY04 request: $12.0; FY03 request - $12.0
South Pole Station: FY04 request - $1.0; FY03 request - $6.0; FY02 actual - $15.6

The document also states: "In addition, three new starts are requested in FY 2005 and FY 2006. In priority order, these are: Scientific Ocean Drilling in FY 2005; Rare Symmetry Violating Processes in FY 2006: and Ocean Observatories in FY 2006."

The NSF is not requesting FY 2004 funding for the Large Hadron Collider since the foundation's contribution should be fulfilled with FY 2003 funding.

U.S. POLAR RESEARCH PROGRAMS:

The Bush Administration is requesting an increase in the FY 2004 U.S. Polar Research Programs budget of 11.1%, or $26.1 million, as compared to the FY 2003 request. The $261.9 million request is13.6% higher than the activity's FY 2002 budget. As previously explained, the FY 2003 appropriations bill for the National Science Foundation has not been enacted.

There are five components to this program. Details on each can be found beginning on page 321 in the budget submission to Congress at http//:www.nsf.gov/bfa/bud/fy2004/toc.htm :

Arctic Research Program: The FY 2004 request of $40.8 million is 7.7%, or $2.9 million, over the FY 2003 request. This is an increase of 13.6%, or $4.9 million, over the FY 2002 budget.

Arctic Research Support and Logistics: The FY 2004 request of $29.0 million is 11.5%, or $3.0 million, over the FY 2003 request. This is an increase of 5.1%, or $1.4 million, over the FY 2002 budget.

Arctic Research Commission: The FY 2004 request of $1.2 million is 10.2%, or $0.1 million, over the FY 2003 request. This is an increase of 16.7%, or $0.2 million, over the FY 2002 budget.

Antarctic Research Grants Program: The FY 2004 request of $44.2 million is 9.3%, or $3.8 million, over the FY 2003 request. This is an increase of 10.9%, or $4.3 million, over the FY 2002 budget.

Antarctic Operations and Science Support: The FY 2004 request of $146.7 million is 12.5%, or $16.3 million, over the FY 2003 request. This is an increase of 16.3%, or $20.6 million, over the FY 2002 budget.

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