National Science Foundation Funding Advances Another Step

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Publication date: 
17 July 1995
Number: 
101

Yesterday the full House Appropriations Committee approved the FY
1996 budget numbers for the National Science Foundation that were
recommended by the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations
Subcommittee.  Under this bill, as yet unnumbered, the foundation
budget would decline from current year funding of $3,263 million to
$3,160 million for FY 1996.  Research and Related Activities
funding declines $200 million as compared to the administration
request, with all other NSF accounts funded as requested.  See FYI
#97 for additional budget figures.

Accompanying all legislation is a committee report.  These reports
contain language providing an explanation of the committee's
actions, as well as recommendations.  While not having the force of
law, committee report language can exert a strong influence over a
department or agency. 

The report language pertaining to NSF contains no sweeping policy
recommendations.  Pertinent sections are below:

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES:

"The Committee recommends a total of $2,254,000,000 for Research
and Related Activities in fiscal year 1996, a reduction of
$200,000,000 from the budget request.  The reduction recommended by
the Committee is taken without prejudice and is to be allocated by
the Foundation in accordance with internal procedures, subject to
approval by the [appropriations] Committee."  In other words, the
NSF shall determine where the $200 million reduction is to be
taken, with the committee's approval.

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT:

"This account provides funding for the construction of major
research facilities that provide unique capabilities at the cutting
edge of science and engineering.

"The Committee recommends a total of $70,000,000 for the major
research equipment account for fiscal year 1996.  This level
reflects the total amount requested in the President's budget for
construction of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave
Observatory (LIGO)."

ACADEMIC RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE:

"This program is a consolidation of academic research facility
modernization and support of academic research instrumentation.

"The Committee recommends the budget request of $100,000,000 for
this activity in fiscal year 1996."

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES:

"The Foundation's Education and Human Resources activities are
designed to encourage the entrance of talented students into
science and technology careers, to improve the undergraduate
science and engineering education environment, to assist in
providing all precollege students with a level of education in
mathematics, science, and technology that reflects the needs of the
nation and is the highest quality attained anywhere in the world,
and extend greater research opportunities to underrepresented
segments of the scientific and engineering communities.

"For fiscal year 1996, the Committee has provided the President's
request of $599,000,000.  This level is $6,974,000 below the fiscal
year 1995 appropriation.  Given the resource constraints facing the
Foundation, the Committee believes that the Foundation support for
math and science education should be provided strictly on the basis
of merit to institutions of higher education, independent museums,
professional societies and associations, state and local
educational entities, and other similar eligible organizations that
are primarily associated with educational activities."

Under a separate section entitled, "Education System Reform," the
report states:

"The Committee strongly supports the Urban Systemic Initiative
(USI) and commends the Foundation for the significant progress made
in the first nine awards.  The Committee urges the Foundation to
make all reasonable efforts to fully fund these awards and the
recent second seven awards at the agreed level of $3,000,000 per
year.  Further, beyond the USI program, the Committee recognizes
the significant accomplishments of the Alliance for Minority
Participation in Science and the Advanced Technology Education
programs.  The Committee urges the Foundation to give the highest
priority attention to these two very important activities."

EPSCoR:

"The Committee is pleased with the efforts which the Foundation has
made to ensure that the Experimental program to Stimulate
Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is part of the broader systemic
reform initiatives pursued in recent years.  These efforts have
formed a solid base for education and human resource development
activities in many of the EPSCoR states.  The same success has not,
however, occurred with respect to the research directorates.  The
committee believes that new efforts are needed to mainstream EPSCoR
researchers and research clusters into research directorate
activities, and to include representatives from EPSCoR states on
panels, advisory committees, and other bodies.  EPSCoR is, after
all, a research-based program and its ultimate measure of success
must be determined by the extent to which its participants can move
into the mainstream of research programs and research
decision-making.  The Committee understands that it takes time to
become competitive, but it also believes that the Foundation needs
to place a renewed emphasis on such mainstreaming.  The Committee
directs the Foundation to report by December 1, 1995, on how
increased interaction can be achieved between the research
directorates and the EPSCoR states and how better representation on
appropriate committees can be achieved."

The next step for this bill is for it considered by the full House
within the next two weeks.

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