FY 2012 Senate Appropriations Bill: National Science Foundation

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Publication date: 
21 September 2011

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The  Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the FY 2012  Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  This bill provides funding for the National  Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the  National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

This  FYI reviews those portions of S. 1572 pertaining to the National Science  Foundation, and contains selections from the eight pages of Senate Report  112-78   that accompanies the bill.  Readers are  encouraged to consult the pdf version of this report to see the full language  regarding NSF using the page numbers provided.   See FYI #89   for the House bill.

National  Science Foundation (total)

The  FY 2011 appropriation was $6,859.9 million     The  FY 2012 Administration request was $7,767.0 million     The  House Appropriations Committee recommends $6,859.9 million – level funding     The  Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $6,698.1 million, a decline of  $161.8 million or 2.4 percent. 

Selections  from the committee report starting on page 101 follow:

“In  today’s global economy, continued progress in science and engineering and the  transfer of       the  knowledge developed is vital if the United States is to maintain its competitiveness.  NSF is at the leading edge of the research and discoveries that will create the  jobs and technologies of the future.”

“The  Committee appreciates the NSF’s commitment to terminating programs that are  outdated, duplicative or no longer can achieve their goals. The Committee  accepts NSF’s proposal for reductions and terminations for the following  programs: Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, Graduate STEM  Fellows in K–12 Education, National STEM Distributed Learning (Digital  Library), Research Initiation to Broaden Participation in Biology, Synchrotron  Radiation Center, and Science of Learning Centers. These cuts will save more  than $55,000,000 from the fiscal year 2011 level and $90,000,000 from the  fiscal year 2010 level.”

Research  and Related Activities

The  FY 2011 appropriation was $5,563.9 million     The  FY 2012 Administration request was $6,253.5 million     The  House Appropriations Committee recommends $5,607.0 million, an increase of $43.1  million or 0.8 percent     The  Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $5,443.0 million, a decline of $120.9  million or 2.2 percent. 

Selections  from the committee report starting on page 102 follow:

“The  Committee’s fiscal year 2012 recommendation renews its support for Federal  long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformative to our  economy and our way of life in the context of a Federal budget that is  shrinking. As such, the recommendation endorses the Foundation’s prioritization  of multidisciplinary, high-risk research, including investments in advanced manufacturing,  cyber infrastructure and robotics. Each of these programs aim to have a  transformative impact across science and engineering, especially in areas of  national priority first outlined by the National Academies report ‘Rising Above  the Gathering Storm.’

Scientific Facilities and Instrumentation.  - A critical component of the Nation’s scientific enterprise is the  infrastructure that supports researchers in discovery science. Investments to  advance the frontiers of research and education in science and engineering are critical  to the Nation’s innovation enterprise. The Committee expects the NSF to fully  fund world-class U.S. scientific research facilities and instruments to  adequately support scientists and students       engaged  in ground-breaking research to maximize sustained investments in research.

Astronomical Sciences. - The Committee  is aware of the need to increase access to 8-meter class telescopes for the  U.S. astronomical community. Demand for observing time on large telescopes  currently exceeds the available time by a factor of 3 to 4. The Committee recognizes  that there is an opportunity to meet this need through an increased U.S. share  of the Gemini program and provides an additional $2,000,000 above the request  for increased time on  Gemini either through a direct increase in the U.S. share or by providing  instruments for Gemini.

“The  Committee encourages NSF to pursue the astronomy and astrophysics decadal  survey’s recommendation to develop a giant segmented mirror telescope and to  develop that telescope on domestic soil as a public-private partnership  inclusive of international partners, through the agency’s major research  equipment and facilities construction process. This will help to continue  America’s leadership in optical astronomy, while supporting scientific and  technical jobs to maintain our level of excellence in this field.

Radio Astronomy. - United States-based  astronomy facilities continue to make groundbreaking discoveries and conduct  world-class scientific research. NSF should consider allocating adequate  funding within the amounts provided to sustain operations at domestic radio  astronomy facilities while transitioning to full operation of the Atacama Large  Millimeter Array.

Cybersecurity. - The Committee’s  recommendation includes the full request of $156,550,000 for cybersecurity  research, including $65,000,000 for NSF’s contribution to the Comprehensive  National Cybersecurity Initiative. NSF provides 82 percent of the total Federal  support for basic computer science research at academic institutions.  As government, business and society become  more interconnected and dependent on computers, mobile devices and the Internet,  it becomes more important that those systems be reliable, resilient and  resistant to attacks. The discovery and innovation in cybersecurity supported  by NSF will form the intellectual foundations for practical applications that  make our information networks safer, more secure, and better able to protect  our information.

Experimental Program To Stimulate  Competitive Research [EPSCoR]. - Within the amount provided, the Committee  provides $146,830,000 for EPSCoR, an amount that is the same as the fiscal year  2011 amount.

Support for Academic Research Fleet. - At  a time of rising costs for fuel and material, the Committee is concerned about  maintaining an adequate funding level for the Academic Research Fleet and related  research to ensure vessels are properly maintained and effectively utilized.  The Committee supports the full budget request level for Regional Class  Research Vessels of $2,000,000. Within 180 days of enactment of this act, NSF  should report to the Committee on the status of planned acquisition of three  vessels to provide regional capabilities in the Atlantic, Pacific, and gulf  coast regions.

Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope. - The  Committee expects NSF to select a Giant Segmented Mirror project for possible  Federal partnership by the end of calendar year 2011, as recommended by the  National Research Council’s 2010 decadal survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics.  This selection should be made by a competitive process or some other means that  will provide long-term certainty for the U.S. projects now under development.

Deep Underground Science and Engineering  Laboratory [DUSEL].—The Committee notes the National Science Board’s  decision to end NSF involvement in DUSEL and appreciates transition funding  provided in fiscal year 2011 to coordinate with the Department of Energy [DOE].  In light of the recent Board decision and National Research Council recommendations,  the Committee expects NSF to provide a report within 60 days regarding efforts to  collaborate with DOE on the use of a future deep underground science laboratory  and any current or planned commitments by the Foundation.”

Major  Research Equipment and Facilities Construction

The  FY 2011 appropriation was $117.1 million     The  FY 2012 Administration request was $224.7 million     The  House Appropriations Committee recommends $100.0 million, a decrease of $17.1  million or 14.6 percent     The  Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $117.1 million – level funding. 

Selections  from the committee report on page 104 follow:

“The  Committee’s recommendation includes funding at the requested level for the  following ongoing projects: the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational  Wave Observatory [AdvLIGO]; the Atacama Large Millimeter Array [ALMA]; and the  Advanced Technology Solar Telescope [ATST]. This amount also includes $83,095,000  to continue construction of the Ocean Observatories Initiative [OOI]. NSF may  transfer up to $100,000,000 from its Research and  Related Activities account to  fully fund OOI or begin work on the National Ecological Observatory Network  [NEON].”

Education  and Human Resources

The  FY 2011 appropriation was $861.0 million     The  FY 2012 Administration request was $911.2 million     The  House Appropriations Committee recommends $835.0 million, a decrease of $26.0  million or 3.0 percent     The  Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $829.0 million, a decline of $32.0  million or 3.7 percent. 

Selections  from the committee report starting on page 104 follow:

“The  Committee strongly encourages NSF to continue support for undergraduate science  and engineering education. At a time when enrollment in STEM fields of study  continues to decline, it is important that NSF use its position to support  students working towards degrees in these areas.

“Creating  a strong science and engineering workforce for the future is vital to  maintaining the Nation’s competitive edge. As the National Academies report ‘Rising  Above the Gathering Storm’ and, before that, the Hart-Rudman report on ‘Road  Map for National Security: Imperative for Change’ so illustratively point out, the  future of U.S. competitiveness rests on our ability to train the next  generation of scientists and engineers.”

The  Senate report has language regarding the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program,  Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for Service, Informal Science Education,  Graduate Research Fellowship Program Eligibility, Professional Science Master’s  (PSM) Degree, and Broadening Participation. 

Office  of the National Science Board

Under  a section entitled Office of the National Science Board starting on page 107 is  the following report language:

“Merit  Review Criteria. - The Committee is aware that the Board, through its Task  Force on Merit Review, is examining NSF’s merit review criteria. While progress  has been made in broadening access to STEM education and career opportunities  for women, underrepresented       minorities,  and persons with disabilities, more remains to be done to achieve the goals of  the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act of 1980. According to the  Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Education’s 2008 Biennial  Report to Congress, ‘Based on NSF’s own research, NSF needs to provide more  guidance to principal investigators, institutions, and proposal reviewers on  the definition and importance of broadening participation.’  However, broadening participation should remain  an essential component of the NSF merit review criteria.”