FY 2013 Appropriations Committee Reports: National Science Foundation

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Publication date: 
8 May 2012

The  House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved their versions of the  FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  The full House is considering this bill  today, the first of twelve appropriations measures to come to the floor.

Below  are selections from the House   and Senate   appropriations reports pertaining to the National Science Foundation.  Language within each report stands, unless  there is a conflict that will be resolved in the final conference report.  This final conference report will also  resolve differences in recommended funding levels.

This  FYI includes extensive report language and is 3,900 words in length.  Readers are urged to locate specific language  through the following headings: National Science Foundation (general), Research  and Related Activities, Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction,  and Education and Human Resources.   Percentage changes are calculated compared to the current year. 

National  Science Foundation:

FY  2012 appropriation is $7,033.1 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $7,373.1 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is 7,273.1 million, an increase of $240.0 million or  3.4 percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $7,332.5 million, an increase of $299.4 million or  4.3 percent

Senate report  language:

There  are two pages describing the foundation’s mission, its management responses to  reports from NSF’s Office of Inspector General, workforce management, and  reprogramming that start on page 104.  In  addition:

“The  Committee appreciates the NSF’s commitment to terminating programs that are  outdated, duplicative, or no longer achieving their goals. The Committee  accepts NSF’s proposal for 11 cuts and consolidations totaling $67,000,000 in  savings from the fiscal year 2012 level, including elimination of three  Computer and Information Science and Engineering Research programs; termination  of the Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation [CDI] program; elimination of  four Mathematics and Physical Sciences Research programs; reduced funding for  Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers [NSECs]; and elimination of two  duplicative public outreach programs.”

There  was no over-all House report language.

Research  and Related Activities:

FY  2012 appropriation is $5,719.0 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $5,983.3 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $5,883.3 million, an increase of $164.3 million  or 2.9 percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $5,942.7 million, an increase of $223.7 million or  3.9 percent

Senate report  language:

Following  a description of the mission of Research and Related Activities, the report  states:

“The  Committee’s fiscal year 2013 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. However, the Foundation has chosen, in its budget request, to  prioritize new initiatives while cutting support for core, merit-based science  grants and for scientific infrastructure like ships and facilities. The seven ‘OneNSF’  framework priority activities have grown nearly fivefold from $166,750,000 in  fiscal year 2011 to $807,100,000 in the fiscal year 2013 request. While the  Committee supports these multi-disciplinary initiatives, it cannot do so by  cutting NSF’s core programs.  The  Committee directs that the $100,000,000 reduction below the fiscal year 2013  request level for R&RA be taken from the proposed $290,850,000 increases in  OneNSF initiatives and not from core NSF program or infrastructure funding. The  Committee urges NSF to reconsider cuts to key scientific infrastructure when delivering  its spending plan by further reducing proposed increases for OneNSF  initiatives.

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.

Astronomy. -- The Committee recommends  the full budget request of $244,550,000 for astronomical sciences in fiscal  year 2013, of which $161,890,000 shall be used for infrastructure. The  additional funds should be applied within astronomical infrastructure so that all  existing observatories receive not less than 98 percent of the higher of their  fiscal year 2011 or fiscal year 2012 funding level as specified in the  congressional justification for fiscal year 2013. The research resources line  is funded at the budget request as is preconstruction planning. No funds should  be applied to the Telescope System Instrumentation Program. Research investment  in the EARS program from astronomy should be reduced on a dollar-for-dollar basis  from the level proposed in the budget request. Funding for EARS will be  considered from non-astronomical division sources if the Foundation seeks a  reprogramming in the fiscal year 2013 spending plan.

“The  Committee notes that the Foundation has proposed a wide ranging review of the  portfolio for investments in astronomy including optical astronomy facilities,  radio astronomy facilities, and individual investigator grants. Although the  overall budget request level for fiscal year 2013 proposed an increase for NSF  of 4.8 percent over fiscal year 2012, astronomy infrastructure was proposed to  be held constant in the fiscal year 2013 request. The Committee intends to  review any proposed restructuring of the portfolio for astronomy to ensure  balance among the competing programs, and that core infrastructure capabilities  needed to preserve U.S. leadership and broad access for the community are  preserved.

“The  Committee welcomes the line item identification of pre-construction funds for  future major MREFC [Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction]  projects, including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the astrophysics  decadal survey’s top ranked ground-based priority in the coming decade. This  joint NSF-Department of Energy project will provide unprecedented views of the  changing sky and will drive key advances in cyber-infrastructure and  large-volume data management. The Committee provides funding at the request  level in order to make progress towards a potential new start in a subsequent  year, subject to the project meeting the necessary conditions for such action.

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 $161,000,000 for cybersecurity  research, including $57,000,000 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 $158,000,000 for EPSCoR, an amount that is $19,000 less than the fiscal  year 2013 request.

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 but is concerned this amount may not be adequate to support  needed design work for planned acquisition of three regional class vessels.”

House report  language:

Research priorities. -- The Committee  appreciates the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) commitment to reviewing its  portfolio of programs and proposing reductions or terminations where  appropriate.  Such proposals provide a  more fiscally sustainable way to support new or expanded programs. Accordingly,  the recommendation adopts all of the reduction and termination proposals  contained in the R&RA budget request except for the proposed termination of  the Communicating Science Broadly (CSB) program. The Committee supports the  continuation of CSB activities to ensure taxpayers have access to information  about the impact and relevance of NSF’s scientific research.

“The  funds made available through reductions and terminations, together with the  increase provided by the Committee, will allow NSF to expand or enhance its  activities across a range of research areas with significant potential impacts  on national security and economic competitiveness. The Committee directs NSF to  prioritize these new activities toward cybersecurity and cyber infrastructure improvements;  advanced manufacturing (as further discussed below); materials research; and  disciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the natural and physical  sciences, math and engineering.  Not  later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act, NSF shall report to the  Committees on Appropriations on the detailed distribution of funding by program  within this account.

Advanced Manufacturing. -- The  recommendation includes the proposed funding level of $148,900,000 for the  Advanced Manufacturing initiative. Future economic prosperity in the United  States will depend largely on our ability to develop and manufacture new products  based on advanced technologies, both for the domestic market and for export.  Basic research supported through NSF and other Federal science agencies is  critical to this effort because it will help provide the foundation for the  development of such new products and technologies by the private sector.

Commercialization of NSF-funded research.  -- Many technical and scientific products, tools and processes in regular  commercial use today can trace their origins back to basic research funded by  NSF.  It is the Committee’s hope that  such commercial applications of taxpayer-funded research would always benefit  the domestic economy, but there are occasions where such applications are used  instead for the production of goods and services (and, therefore, jobs) overseas.  NSF lacks the means to predict how and where the technology produced from its  basic research grants will eventually be utilized, but the connection between  Federal funding and commercial utilization is much clearer for Innovation Corps  (i-Corps) grants, where a potential path to commercialization has already been  identified and recipients are actively working to transition into the  marketplace. Therefore, in order to maximize return to the taxpayer on i-Corps  investments, NSF is directed to require all recipients of i-Corps funding to  commit to the domestic production of the goods or services being commercialized  with NSF’s assistance.

Neuroscience. -- NSF is uniquely  positioned to advance the nonmedical aspects of cognitive sciences and neurosciences,  particularly through interdisciplinary research, computational models,  visualization techniques, innovative technologies, and the underlying data and  data infrastructure needed to transform our understanding of these areas. To  help focus and coordinate future investments in this area, the Committee  encourages NSF to establish a neuroscience crosscutting budget theme, in  conjunction with the interagency Neuroscience Working Group that is being  established by OSTP through the NSTC.

Management of scientific facilities. --It  is the policy of the National Science Board (NSB) that all NSF awards should be  made through peer-reviewed competition and recompetition in order to best serve  the interests of science and education. The Committee understands, however,  that the NSB has also endorsed a modified recompetition policy for major  facilities awards that is intended to prevent the interruption of significant  construction projects underway at the time that an award expires. While the  Committee supports this policy, it must be carefully exercised in order to  ensure that noncompetitive award extensions are not overused in the name of  programmatic continuity. Consequently, NSF shall report to the Committees on  Appropriations on plans for recompeting all major facilities awards set to  expire within five years of the enactment of this Act. This report shall be  provided no later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act.

“The  Committee notes that the utilization of interdisciplinary research facilities  does not always align with the way these facilities are budgeted. For example,  one research division may provide all of the operations and maintenance funding  for a facility that supports scientific activity across several other  divisions. The misalignment between a facility’s users and its funding source  reduces transparency in NSF’s budget request and places a potentially unsustainable  burden on the funding division. NSF shall report to the Committees on  Appropriations with a listing of all active NSF funded interdisciplinary  research facilities, a description of the source(s) of funding support for each  facility and an analysis of the utilization of each facility by research  division. The report should also include a description of options for  addressing the issues presented by any misalignment of facilities utilization  and funding and NSF’s assessment of those options. This report shall be  provided no later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act.”

Major  Research Equipment and Facilities Construction:

FY  2012 appropriation is $167.1 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $196.2 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is $196.2 million, an increase of $29.1 million or  17.4 percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $196.2 million, an increase of $29.1 million or 17.4  percent

Senate report  language:

Following  general descriptive language about this account, the report states:

“The  Committee’s recommendation includes funding at the requested level for the  following ongoing projects: the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational  Wave Observatory [AdvLIGO]; the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope [ATST]; the  Ocean Observatories Initiative [OOI]; and the National Ecological Observatory Network  [NEON]. It represents the completion of funding for construction of the Atacama  Large Millimeter Array [ALMA].”

House report  language:

Funding profiles. -- Significant peaks  and valleys in projected MREFC spending make it difficult for NSF and the  Committee to anticipate and accommodate critical funding needs over time. The Committee  encourages NSF to continue managing the transition of projects in and out of  the MREFC account, as well as their phasing while under construction, to  maintain a relatively steady overall account profile from year to year.

Project contingency funding. -- NSF has  been engaged in a lengthy discussion process with the NSF OIG [Office of  Inspector General] to resolve an ongoing dispute about project contingency  budgets. Tens of millions of dollars of potentially unallowable contingency costs  hinge on the resolution of this dispute, and the Committee believes that it is  taking too long for a consensus resolution to be reached. NSF is directed to  provide the Committees on Appropriations with an immediate update on the status  of efforts to resolve these issues and to provide quarterly updates thereafter  until such time that NSF and the OIG reach an agreement.”

Education  and Human Resources:

FY  2012 appropriation is $829.0 million     FY  2013 Administration request is $875.6 million     FY  2013 Senate recommendation is 875.6 million, an increase of $46.6 million or  5.6 percent     FY  2013 House recommendation is $875.6 million, an increase of $46.6 million or 5.6  percent

Senate report  language:

Following  general descriptive language, the report states:

“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.

Advanced Technological Education. -- The  Committee supports the full request level of $64,000,000 for Advanced  Technological Education.

Robert Noyce Scholarship Program. -- The  Committee has provided the fiscal year 2012 enacted level of $54,890,000 for  the Robert Noyce Scholarship program. This program helps fill the critical need  for STEM teachers in elementary and secondary schools by funding institutions  of higher education to provide scholarships, stipends and programmatic support  to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K–12 teachers.  Scholarship and stipend recipients are required to complete 2 years of teaching  in a high-need school district for each year of support.

Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for  Service. -- At the same time that more Americans are relying on the  Internet and networked systems for business and pleasure, threats to those  systems are growing. The Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for Service  program helps the Federal Government respond to threats to our information  technology infrastructure by providing scholarships to train cybersecurity  professionals. In return, scholarship recipients agree to serve in a Federal  Government agency position, building the Government’s capacity to understand,  respond to, and prevent cyber threats. More than 900 students have completed  the program, which was initiated in fiscal year 2001; 92.6 percent of students  have placed with more than 120 Federal agencies. The Committee provides  $45,000,000, which is $20,000,000 above the requested level, to expand the  Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for Service program.  Not less than $5,000,000 of the additional  amount should be used to include community colleges that have been designated a  Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance 2-Year Education [CAE2Y]  by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Informal Science Education.”  -- The Committee maintains its strong support  for NSF’s informal science education program and rejects the proposed cut to  Advancing Informal STEM Learning [AISL], formerly known as Informal Science  Education. A report from the National Academy of Sciences, ‘Learning Science in  Informal Settings’, found evidence that nonschool science programs involving exhibitions,  media projects, emerging learning technologies, and other informal education  programs stimulate students and increase their interest in STEM education.

“The  Committee encourages NSF to invest AISL funds in the design, development, and  implementation of models, resources, and public engagement programs for STEM  learning. Such proposals could use a broad range of communication formats and  experiences, such as mobile and broadcast media, virtual learning environments,  exhibitions, TV, radio, films, citizen science, science festivals, and  out-of-school programs. Research funded by the AISL program should advance an  informal learning infrastructure that deepens student, teacher, and public STEM  expertise.

Graduate Research Fellowship Program  Eligibility. -- The Graduate Research Fellowship Program [GRFP] provides 3  years of support for outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research based  master’s and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF’s mission.  The Committee is concerned that meritorious  applications from the field of psychology are being rejected without review  based solely on the fact that the applicant is enrolled in a Clinical  Psychology program, even when his or her application and academic work is focused  on areas of basic research within the NSF mission. Therefore, the Committee  urges NSF to ensure that the review of GRFP applications is based on the merits  of the research proposed and that applicants are not rejected for reasons  unrelated to the quality and merits of the proposed research.

Broadening Participation. --The  Committee continues its longstanding support for existing initiatives to  broaden participation in STEM fields and recognizes these programs have  different purposes and engage students in a different manner. The Committee notes  support for these programs has stagnated in spite of increases to the overall  NSF budget. The Committee recommends $33,000,000 for the Historically Black  Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program, $45,750,000 for the Louis  Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, $13,350,000 for the Tribal  Colleges and Universities Program, and $25,000,000 for Centers for Research  Excellence in Science and Technology. In proposal selection, the Committee  encourages NSF to give priority to grant proposals that have demonstrated  maturity, including previous partnerships with other Federal agencies.

“The  Committee is also committed to growing the STEM workforce by attracting broader  participation from all underrepresented groups in STEM fields. The Committee  directs NSF to maintain Research in Disabilities Education [RDE] and Research  on Gender in Science and Engineering [GSE] as separate programs at the fiscal year  2012 enacted level.”

House report  language:

Program changes. -- The recommendation  incorporates NSF’s proposed program reductions in the EHR account. The  reallocation of funds from these reduced programs, combined with additional new  resources, will allow NSF to expand its efforts in strategic education  research, workforce development and short-term, goal-oriented education  partnerships, such as a new joint NSF-Department of Education initiative in  K–16 math education.

Broadening participation programs. -- The  Committee recognizes the importance of ensuring that there is a strong pipeline  of students and workers preparing to pursue STEM-related careers. The current  pipeline, however, fails to take full advantage of the potential of substantial  portions of the population, including women and minorities. To broaden the  participation of underrepresented populations in STEM education programs and,  ultimately, the STEM workforce, the Committee has provided the requested level  for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program, the  Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and the Tribal Colleges and  Universities Program.

“The  Committee has previously asked NSF to consider the concept of creating a  program within EHR to focus on Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). NSF shall  provide to the Committees on Appropriations a report outlining how the needs of  HSIs will be addressed in fiscal year 2013 and any plans to establish an  HSI-focused program in fiscal year 2014. This report shall be submitted no  later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act.

Advanced Technological Education (ATE).  -- The Committee heard testimony this year from a number of manufacturing  industry representatives as well as government witnesses about critical shortages  in technical workers coming out of the American vocational education system.  However, despite unanimity on this concern and a focus on manufacturing-related  programs in the budget, the NSF request proposes no additional resources for  ATE, the agency’s major technical education initiative. The Committee has addressed  this oversight by providing ATE with $69,000,000, an increase of $5,000,000  above both the budget request and the fiscal year 2012 level. This increase is  offset by a corresponding reduction of $5,000,000 from the requested amount for  the Graduate Research Fellowship program, which has grown significantly over  the past several fiscal years and is still projected to receive a total  increase of $39,840,000 in the Committee recommendation.

Best practices in K–12 STEM education.  -- NSF shall continue working to develop and carry out a tracking and  evaluation methodology to assess the implementation of the recommendations  contained in the NRC’s 2011 report entitled Successful K–12 STEM Education:  Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering and  Mathematics. This work should expand on efforts begun using funds provided in  fiscal year 2012.

STEM-focused K–12 schools. -- The  Committee notes that recent reports of the NRC and the NSB have encouraged  education researchers and policymakers to give increased consideration to STEM-focused  K–12 schools as an effective means of increasing STEM literacy. With those  reports in mind, the Committee encourages NSF to work within its existing  programs to promote opportunities for collaboration between universities or  non-profit research institutions and STEM-focused schools serving K–12  students.

Informal STEM education. -- The  Committee believes that exposure to STEM concepts outside of a traditional  school setting plays a valuable role in promoting STEM literacy and engagement.  NSF has proposed a number of changes to its Advancing Informal STEM Learning  program that are intended to increase its focus on innovative learning and  engagement strategies, especially as these strategies relate to  underrepresented groups, and the Committee accepts these changes. The Committee  encourages NSF to work with the informal STEM education stakeholder community  as it transitions the program to ensure that sufficient opportunities exist for  worthy proposals to compete for funding, including those that implement public  engagement and non-school programs. Such proposals could use a broad range of  communication formats and experiences, such as mobile and broadcast media,  virtual learning environments, exhibitions, TV, radio, films, science  festivals, and citizen science programs.”

Both  committee reports also have language regarding Agency Operations and Award  Management, Office of the National Science Board, and the Office of Inspector  General.