NSF & Congress
Dr. Rita Colwell
National Science Foundation
Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee
on VA/HUD and Independent Agencies
April 4, 2000
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Mollohan, members of the
subcommittee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity
to testify on NSF's budget request for Fiscal Year
2001. I want to begin by thanking you and the subcommittee
for your consistent, bipartisan support for NSF's
science and engineering activities.
The FY 2001 budget request for the National Science
Foundation if enacted, would provide the largest dollar
increase the Foundation has ever received. This investment
will help set the stage for a new century of progress
through learning and discovery.
For the coming fiscal year, the NSF requests $4.57
billion dollars. This represents a much needed increase
- 17.3% overall -- over $675 million above the current
level. This investment is part of the President's
21st Century Research Fund for America,
and it is all about keeping the United States at the
leading edge of learning and discovery.
Our nation's commitment to science, engineering and
education can be seen from the very beginning of the
nation. The motto on America's first coin for example
- minted in 1792 - read: Liberty: Parent of Science
That motto has just as much meaning today - in the
21st century - as it did in 1792, in an
era before the advent of the steam engine. Individual
scientists and engineers -supported by NSF and other
federal agencies - are using their talent and their
freedom to create, discover and innovate.
Increasingly these scientists and engineers, and perhaps
even more important their students - are also
making the jump to the private sector.
This transfer to the private sector of people
- first supported by NSF at universities - should
be viewed as the ultimate success of technology transfer.
These talented scientists and engineers are part of
the new wave of entrepreneurs creating enormous wealth
in areas like information technology, biotechnology,
and now in nanotechnology.
Everyday we read a news story touting the latest Internet
whiz kid or biotechnology IPO. David Ignatius - in
a recent column in the Washington Post - wrote
about a 27-year old Stanford graduate student with
a smart business plan and a hot Internet search engine
with the strange name of Google.
The offbeat name is actually a reference to the complex
math - actually a series of mathematical algorithms
- that makes the search engine work. It involves over
half a billion variables in it's complex calculations.
Google the company is an excellent example of knowledge
transfer from NSF investments in people. Both of the
company's two founders were computer science grad
students at Stanford who studied under an NSF-funded
faculty member. One of the founders received an NSF
Graduate Research Fellowship. Google's Vice President
of Engineering is a computer science professor at
the University of California at Santa Barbara and
recipient of a prestigious NSF CAREER award.
Google is a great example of how fundamental research
in an area like mathematics acts as the lifeblood
of the IT revolution. It also shows how the unparalleled
innovation system in the U.S. can quickly exploit
new ideas developed in university labs and bring them
This example is really just the latest in a string
of NSF successes. The underlying technology for nearly
all major search engines found on the web today -
including Lycos, Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi and specialized
search engines like Congress's own THOMAS - all were
begun created through NSF funded research at universities.
This trend hasn't gone unnoticed by industry. Now leaders
like Alfred Berkeley, the President of the NASDAQ
Stock Market and CEO's like Norm Augustine of Lockheed
talk about the importance of the NSF's investments
in basic research. I've included as an attachment
statements they made earlier this year on the importance
of NSF's investments to industry.
Mr. Chairman, NSF has recently developed a strategic
plan that reflect this innovation. The investments
proposed in our FY 2001 budget were crafted to address
three strategic goals for the Foundation. They are:
Ideas - This includes research at and across
the frontier of science and engineering, and connections
to its use in service of society.
People -- We've always said that every NSF dollar
is an investment in people. We cover kindergarten
to career development to continuous learning.
Tools -- These are the databases, the platforms,
and the facilities that keep us at the leading edge.
There are some new starts in here that I will highlight
in a moment.
The headliners in NSF's 2001 request are four focused
initiatives. In fact, they are really national priorities:
Information Technology Research, Biocomplexity, 21st
Century Workforce and the emergent National Nanoscale
Science and Engineering Initiative.
Nearly half our requested increase - $320 million -will
support what we call the core activities. It will
help us with our biggest challenge: to strengthen
the core disciplines of science and engineering while
moving forward in interdisciplinary areas.
NSF's investments in cutting-edge mathematics and statistics
are a perfect example of how investing in core disciplines
will sustain new fundamental discoveries and make
interdisciplinary initiatives run on all cylinders.
The story of Google shows how mathematics has become
increasingly important in ITR. We are also seeing
impressive contributions to the new and emerging fields
of bioinformatics, and nano-scale manufacturing. The
greatest insights into AIDS have come from mathematical
models of disease.
All of these advances also depend upon a workforce
that is literate in science and technology. When we
talk about the equation for science and society, this
is a critical part.
Our nation is in the midst of one of the greatest eras
of technological change in human history. In an economy
driven by knowledge and ideas, how we prepare our
workforce is paramount. NSF is committed to providing
leadership in this critical area.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I mentioned earlier that we
have two new starts in our investments in tools.
In the Major Research Equipment account we will add
over $45 million for two new starts, and to provide
increases to ongoing projects.
One is NEON - the National Ecological Observatory Network:
a pole-to-pole network - Arctic to Antarctic - with
a state-of-the-art infrastructure of platforms and
equipment to enable 21st Century science
and engineering-based ecological and biocomplexity
The other new start is EarthScope, which is an array
of instruments that will allow scientists to observe
earthquake and other earth processes like volcanic
eruptions at much higher resolution.
Mr. Chairman, since it's founding fifty years ago -
May 10th, 1950 to be exact - the National
Science Foundation has been an important and vital
catalyst for discovery and innovation. From the information
technology revolution to the genomic revolution and
everything in between - MRIs, lasers, the Internet,
Doppler radar, and countless other innovations - NSF-supported
fundamental research has advanced our society.
NSF's FY 2001 budget reflects the lessons of history.
It focuses on national priorities, as it should. But
it also recognizes that one of our highest national
priorities must always be to stay at the leading-edge
of science and engineering research and education
across the board. Over half of the increased funding
is just for that.
Let me emphasize that the entire NSF investment portfolio
sets the stage for a 21st Century research
and education enterprise, focused on national priorities.
Guiding all of these activities is the Foundation's
longstanding commitment to merit-based investments
in learning and discovery that adhere to the highest
standards of excellence.
This request marks a significant step forward for U.S.
science and engineering. The requested increase of
over 17 percent provides a level of investment that
is clearly in keeping with the wealth of opportunity
that science and engineering provide society. In addition,
it positions America to remain a world leader in the
knowledge-based economy of the 21st Century.