"Let me come right to the point. We are here to discuss the future of America. More than a dozen major studies have now concluded that a substantial increase in federal funding for basic scientific research is critical to ensure the preeminence of America's scientific and technological enterprise." So said National Science Foundation Director Arden Bement last week when describing the FY 2009 request, which would increase the foundation's budget by 13.6 percent.
Under this request, NSF's budget would see an increase of $822.1 million, from $6,032.0 million to $6,854.1 million. This is in contrast to the $147.6 million increase the foundation received this year.
Bement continued his remarks (paragraphs combined):
"Federal obligations for academic research declined in real terms between 2004 and 2005. When the figures come in for 2006 and 2007, they are expected to decrease even further. If so, this would make the last four years the first multi-year decline in federally-supported academic research in a quarter of a century. Even a disinterested bystander would have to conclude that we are contributing to our own economic demise. Despite these serious warning signs - and overwhelming bipartisan support for increased investment to ensure America's scientific and technological standing - progress has slowed in the past year.
"In his recent State of the Union address, the President said he was disappointed that Congress had under-funded basic scientific research, and called on Congress to put NSF and other research agencies back on track to double their research budgets. I'm also greatly disappointed that we've fallen substantially short for FY 2008. Most emphatically, flat budgets must not be NSF’s fate in the future.
"The NSF budget for 2009 reflects that commitment and puts us back on the right track with a total request of $6.85 billion dollars, an increase of 13 percent over 2008. That's good news for NSF, and even better news for the nation. We all have a responsibility to make this happen!"
Under this request, RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES funding would increase 16.0 percent or $772.5 million, from $4,821.5 million to $5,594.0 million. NSF estimates this budget would enable it to support an additional 1,370 research grants, with the grant "success rate" increasing from 21 percent to 23 percent. There are four cross-foundation investments in the FY 2009 request: Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation, Science and Engineering Beyond Moore's Law, Adaptive Systems Technology, and Dynamics of Water Processes in the Environment.
EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES: The budget would increase by 8.9 percent, or $64.8 million, from $725.6 million to $790.4 million. A major focus of this Directorate's activities in FY 2009 would be Enriching the Education of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Teachers. The Math and Science Partnership program would increase by $2.5 million to $51.0 million; the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program would see an $0.8 million increase to $11.6 million. NSF estimates that 700 additional students would be supported through the Graduate Research Fellowship program.
MAJOR RESEARCH AND FACILITIES: NSF would continue support for three ongoing projects: the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory. Design activity money would be provided for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope. Pending the completion of design activities, the foundation is not requesting funding for the Alaska Region Research Vessel, the National Ecological Observatory Network, and the Ocean Observatories Initiative. Bement commented, "I want to make it absolutely clear that NSF continues to support these projects wholeheartedly. . . . Additional funding for these three projects will not be requested until they have undergone a final design review, completed a risk management plan, and developed a rigorous baseline budget, including carefully considered contingencies."
Complete information on NSF's FY 2009 budget request can be viewed at:
http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2009/toc.jsp What follows is a brief review of the foundation's budget request pertaining to the physical sciences:
Within Research and Related Activities, the MATHEMATICAL AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES Directorate's budget would increase 20.2 percent or $235.4 million, from $1,167.3 million to $1,402.7 million. Within this Directorate:
ASTRONOMICAL SCIENCES funding would increase 14.8 percent or $32.2 million, from $217.9 million to $250.0 million.
MATERIALS RESEARCH funding would increase 24.7 percent or $64.4 million, from $260.2 million to $324.6 million.
PHYSICS funding would increase 18.8 percent or $47.2 million, from $250.5 million to $297.7 million.
Funding for the GEOSCIENCES Directorate would increase 12.8 percent or $96.0 million, from $752.7 million to $848.7 million.
Funding for the ENGINEERING Directorate would increase 19.2 percent or $122.5 million, from $636.9 million to $759.3 million.
Funding for the OFFICE OF POLAR PROGRAMS would increase 10.9 percent or $48.4 million, from $442.5 million to $491.0 million.