NSF Deputy Director Expresses Caution Over Future Budgets

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Publication date: 
8 March 1995
Number: 
36

"Scary" and "exciting" were two words that NSF Deputy Director Anne
C. Petersen used during a February 16 media discussion revolving
around NSF's future budgets.  Peterson is the National Science
Foundation's Chief Operating Officer, a position which she has held
since July 1994.

Petersen's comments reflect the anxiety many in Washington are
feeling as Congress starts work on the administration's over-all
budget request.  Both the House and Senate appropriations
subcommittees with jurisdiction over the foundation's budget hold
hearings on the FY 1996 NSF request during the next few days. 

Petersen acknowledges, as does her boss, Director Neal Lane, that
these are "tight times."  She stresses the importance of NSF
funding being seen as an investment in the future, citing economic
studies showing a return between 20-50% on general research
funding.  Federal spending for science and technology has given the
country a "tremendous boost" she said.  This investment message is
aimed not only at Congress, but also the research community.  "This
is taxpayer money," Petersen declared, with NSF-sponsored research
being for the "good of the country," and not as an entitlement for
researchers. 

"The budget realities are very scary," Petersen said, when asked
about NSF's likely future funding profile, saying that a balanced
budget accompanied by tax cuts "will have a devastating impact" on
over-all discretionary spending.  When asked about the foundation's
response to flat or lower future budgets, Petersen spoke of the
"need to protect investment in the conduct of research," which is
the traditional role of NSF.  She noted that the foundation's
support for education has evolved over time, saying that NSF's role
could be debated.  On the matter of the agency's funding of
academic infrastructure, Petersen acknowledged that it "is a tough
one for us" to decide about, citing the rescission of the FY 1995
modernization funding.  Determining where future cuts should be
made will be difficult, Petersen saying that the National Science
Board is not "of one mind."  While there have been discussions
about NSF's priorities, no decisions have been made.  Petersen does
not foresee the NSF reorganizing along the lines of the National
Institutes of Health.

Petersen acknowledges that "we have a name recognition problem,"
which is all the more acute because of the large number of first
and second term representatives.  Concluding her remarks, she said
there is a need for the research community to more actively promote
the importance of NSF-sponsored research, supported by specific
examples of how "this is an investment that pays off."   

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