Senate Appropriators Receive FY 2009 NSF Testimony

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Publication date: 
20 March 2008
Number: 
39

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric   Administration (NOAA) hearing before the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and   Related Agencies Subcommittee scheduled for March 13 was cancelled. Sources in   the subcommittee’s office indicated that that day’s heavy voting schedule was   the impetus to cancel the event. At present there is no intention to reschedule   the hearing. Instead, National Science Foundation Director Arden Bement’s written testimony, which is virtually identical   to previous written testimony submitted to the House Research and Science   Education Subcommittee, was entered for the record.

Bement’s submitted testimony tied NSF funding to economic health and   presented President Bush’s fiscal year 2009 request for $6.85 billion as a   bulwark against Chinese ambitions. Citing a 2006 Organization for Economic   Co-Operation and Development study, Bement cautioned that China has become the   second-highest investor in R&D. While the United States has actually halved   the percentage of its GDP for physical sciences and engineering research since   1970, China has more than doubled theirs since 1995.

Bement's written testimony continues by emphasizing the great advances   in science NSF funding has contributed towards. Although NSF only represents   four percent of the total budget for R&D, it has underwritten work that has   led to the development of the MRI, flat panel and cell phone displays, and   helped nearly 200 Nobel Prize-winning scientists at some point in their   careers.

When Bement testified before the House Research and Science Education   Subcommittee hearing on February 26, he noted a few of NSF’s key initiatives.   Included were programs to solve an anticipated impediment to Moore‘s Law,   enhance Adaptive Systems Technology, and boost Dynamics of Water Processes in   the Environment studies. Requested funding levels for these programs are $20   million, $15 million, and $10 million respectively.

Bement concluded by summarizing the importance of diversifying the U.S.   skilled workforce, a point that was questioned by chairman Brian Baird (D-WA)   who said, “I noted with some concern… a proposal to reduced funding for   ADVANCE.” Baird explained that he and others felt that ADVANCE was an important   program to retain women in the sciences. Bement responded that although the   funding was lower there would be some spending flexibility in FY 2009,   emphasizing, “… we are very committed to the program.”

According to subcommittee ranking member Vern Ehlers (R-MI), “An   essential element of NSF’s mission is support for science and engineering   education. I would appreciate if you could explain why your… FY 2009 budget does   not include funding for many of the STEM education activities authorized in the   COMPETES Act.” Bement countered that a tight budget in combination with a   “show me” philosophy to increase funding meant that funding increases were not   possible until some metrics were available, but that he was confident that in   coming years STEM education activities could reach authorization levels.

Ehlers transitioned to a discussion on the lack of uniform standards for   science in schools, a problem he hopes to end with legislation he has   introduced, H.R. 325, with Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) offering an identical bill   in the Senate. The Standards to Provide Educational Achievement for Kids (SPEAK)   Act, would create voluntary math and science standards for K-12 students, with   an incentive for states to join.

Ultimately, Bement’s testimony and responses to questions were well received   by the subcommittee. Member’s priorities seem to be finding a way to get NSF   back on the COMPETES doubling track. Currently there are no further committee   hearings scheduled to discuss NSF’s FY 2009   budget.