NSF & Congress
Dr. Joseph Bordogna
National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
Before House Research Subcommittee Hearing
June 6, 2001
Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Johnson, members of
the Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today to
discuss the Research and Related Activities of the
NSF budget request for fiscal year 2002. I will also
describe how NSF determines priorities in our overall
budget process. Indeed, administrators from other
countries have been asking us this same question as
they seek to emulate NSF's ability to stay at the
cutting edge of research and education.
Chairman Smith, before I begin with my testimony, I
would like to start by expressing appreciation to
you and your colleagues for your continued support
and dedication to NSF.
The National Science Foundation aims at nothing less
than U.S. world leadership in science, mathematics,
engineering, and technology. That's what we're about,
and our budget priorities reflect that mission --
in both research and education, and their integration.
I want to set my remarks within the context of the
NSF vision statement: "Enabling the nation's future
through discovery, learning, and innovation."
A sharply defined set of goals helps us realize this
vision. These are People, Ideas and Tools. We focus
our investments on these goals and expect to be held
accountable for achieving them.
You'll notice that People are at the top of the list.
That's intentional. NSF is as much about building
a world-class workforce as it is about discovery.
Scientists, mathematicians, engineers, technologists
and educators will be in increasingly high demand
in our society.
Of course, Ideas, the new knowledge that is powering
innovation and productivity in our economy today,
will always be central to everything NSF does. And,
finally, we need sophisticated Tools to advance the
frontiers in every field.
We've adopted three core strategies to accomplish our
goals. These are: develop intellectual capital, integrate
research and education, and promote partnerships.
We think of these with every decision we make as we
design the solutions to get the job done effectively.
As I give you the details of the NSF FY 2002 budget
request, I'd like you to keep NSF's vision, goals
and strategies in mind. Within this context, we try
to act in a thoughtful and strategic way to use whatever
resources we have to achieve our goals.
Now, on to the budget.
For FY 02 NSF is requesting $4.47 billion -- or $56
million more than last year. Within this total request,
$3.33 billion is allocated for the Research and Related
Activities account (R&RA), a 0.5% decrease from
last year in this account line. Our investments in
the Education and Human Resources account are up 11%
in the FY 2002 request. It is important to emphasize
that research and education are pursued in an integrated
way and that synergy between the programs in each
of these accounts is fundamental to NSF's overall
The R&RA account supports activities that enable
the U.S. to provide leadership and promote progress
across the expanding frontiers of science and engineering.
These activities support areas of inquiry that add
to society's knowledge base and are critical to long-term
U.S. economic strength, security, and quality of life,
while simultaneously educating the workforce necessary
to ensure continued discovery and innovation.
Research activities spur new knowledge, development
of new tools and approaches that open doors to understanding
and solving problems. In other words, this investment
allows researchers to do what they do best -- ask
questions and seek answers in our constantly changing
world. Moreover, as students work alongside senior
staff performing research activities, there is a natural
integration of research and education as students
acquire the skills necessary to perform world class
research and become members of the next generation's
workforce of scientists and engineers. To better enable
the nation's research productivity, NSF investments
in R&RA reflect the Foundation's three strategic
goals: People, Ideas and Tools.
In FY 2002, support is provided to both core disciplines,
where activity at the cutting edge begins, and to
research and education efforts related to broad, Foundation-wide
priority areas in Biocomplexity in the Environment,
Information Technology Research, Nanoscale Science
and Engineering, and Learning for the 21st Century.
To better enable our nation's research potential,
NSF will continue to emphasize increasing the average
annualized award size.
NSF's portfolio, by the very nature of our statutory
mission, is large and diverse, addressing all fields
and activities of science and engineering. Our investments
range from single investigator grants to small groups
of investigators to large multi-purpose research centers.
In implementing our budget we have two major integrative
strategies: strengthening core activities, and emphasizing
areas of intellectual and national priority.
Supporting core activities keeps all the science and
engineering disciplines strong. We fund those with
the most creative and innovative ideas. These core
activities also identify prospects for more intensive
NSF is committed to fostering connections between discoveries
and their use in the service to society. A key strategy
for accomplishing this is by supporting focused priority
areas that enable NSF to center attention on national
and global priorities. As noted above, there are four
of these, each led by one of the directorate heads.
Mr. Chairman, the NSF takes our stewardship responsibilities
very seriously as we are making decisions on how to
best invest the taxpayers' dollars. With this in mind
I would now like to explain our process for setting
Priorities are determined through a process that generally
starts from the bottom up. A key mechanism for identifying
emerging opportunities is through the solicited and
unsolicited proposals we receive during our merit-review
process. Here the research and education community
identifies areas of activity at the cutting edge.
To put this in context, we expect to receive 30,000
requests for funding in FY 2001 from researchers and
educators nationwide. With competitions, meetings
with experts, formal workshops and reports from commissions
throughout the year, NSF is constantly listening,
analyzing and responding to thoughts from the research
and education community.
External advice, information, and recommendations are
formally sought through interactions with Committees
of Visitors and Advisory Committees, which meet regularly
during the year in sessions at NSF. Advisory Committees
provide each directorate with input on direction and
performance at two formal meetings during the year,
while the Committees of Visitors meet every three
years to assess the longer term progress of each program
in a directorate's investment portfolio. In setting
priorities for any research field, consideration is
also given to resource limitations, policy concerns,
and GPRA requirements.
When priorities are being set, a number of factors
are taken into account: scientific readiness, technical
feasibility, response to national needs, affordability,
performance goals and results, international benchmarks
and balance with existing programs of NSF and other
During this process, NSF focuses on identifying the
most promising unmet opportunities and giving them
Final determinations are made by NSF staff and management
and the National Science Board. These priorities are
presented to the Administration, through discussions
with OMB and OSTP. The final stage of priority setting
occurs when OMB considers NSF's request in the context
of the overall Administration budget.
Congressional guidance is an integral part of the planning
process as well. These views are manifest through
hearings, testimony, committee reports, and other
interactions reflected in authorization and appropriations
legislation. Congress ultimately has the final input
in the priority setting process through review of
program plans and budget proposals.
Through this process NSF seeks to maintain an integrated
portfolio that makes the wisest investments in the
most promising fields while allowing new areas of
opportunity and innovation to emerge.
Mr. Chairman, I have addressed how NSF broadly sets
priorities across the agency. Today I am accompanied
by Dr. Mary Clutter, the Assistant Director for the
Directorate for Biology. We recognize your interest
in the Plant Genome Project and in priorities in the
Directorate. Dr. Clutter is available to comment on
these specific issues.
I thank you for the opportunity to appear here today.
See also: Hearing