NSF & Congress
Hearing on the National Science Foundation's FY 2005 Budget
Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
House Committee on Science
February 11, 2004
Chairman Boehlert, Ranking Member Gordon, Members of the Committee, I am pleased to appear before you today. For more than fifty years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has been a strong steward of America's science and engineering enterprise. Although NSF represents roughly 3 percent of the total federal budget for research and development, it accounts for one-fifth of all federal support for basic academic research and 40 percent of support for basic research at academic institutions, outside of the life sciences. Despite its small size, NSF has an extraordinary impact on scientific and engineering knowledge and capacity.
During NSF's five decades of leadership, groundbreaking advances in knowledge have helped reshape society and enabled the United States to become the most productive nation in history. The returns on NSF's strategic investments in science, engineering, and mathematics research and education have been enormous. Much of the sustained economic prosperity America has enjoyed over the past decade is the result of technological innovation -- innovation made possible, in large part, by NSF support for fundamental research and education.
In our 21st century world, knowledge is the currency of everyday life, and at the National Science Foundation we are in the knowledge business. Our investments are aimed at the frontiers of science and engineering, where advances in fundamental knowledge drive innovation, progress, and productivity.
Our commitment to the science and engineering enterprise comes from an abiding belief that knowledge is a powerful force for progress. As we work to open new frontiers in research and education, we have our eye on the main prize -- economic and social prosperity that can improve the quality of life for all.
The surest way to keep our nation prosperous and secure is to keep it at the forefront of learning and discovery. That is NSF's business -- to educate and train scientists and engineers, advance fundamental research and engineering, and provide the tools to accomplish both. The NSF FY 2005 budget request aims to do that, and I am pleased to present it to you today.
I'll begin with the big picture. This year the National Science Foundation is requesting $5.745 billion dollars. That's an increase of $167 million, or 3 percent more than in the FY 2004 enacted level.
In light of the significant challenges that face the nation -- in security, defense, and the economy -- NSF has, relatively speaking, fared well. We are pleased to be able to anticipate an increase of 3 percent when many agencies are looking at budget cuts. This is certainly a vote of confidence in the National Science Foundation's stewardship of these very important components of the nation's goals. Let me put the 3 percent increase in context.
NSF has been growing -- surely and steadily. Our investments this year will continue us on the right path, and with the leadership and vision of this Committee, the NSF Authorization Act will keep us moving in the right direction in the years to come.
Nonetheless, in a year of very tight budgets, we have had to set priorities and make informed choices in a sea of opportunity and constraint. That is never an easy job, but it is particularly difficult when opportunities to make productive investments are as plentiful as they are today in research and education.
The NSF FY 2005 Budget Request addresses these opportunities and challenges through an integrated portfolio of investments in People, Ideas, Tools, and Organizational Excellence. The NSF budget identifies what we see as NSF's most pressing needs during the coming year:
- Strengthen NSF management to maximize effectiveness and performance. The FY 2005 Request assigns highest priority to strengthening management of the investment process and operations. The budget request includes an increase of over $20 million to strengthen the NSF workforce and additional investments of over $50 million to enhance information technology infrastructure, promote leading-edge approaches to eGovernment, and ensure adequate safety and security for all of NSF's information technology and physical resources. It's a sizable increase, especially in a constrained environment, but it's really the minimum needed to keep pace with our growing workload and expanding responsibilities.
- Improve the productivity of researchers and expand opportunities for students. Boosting the overall productivity of the nation's science and engineering enterprise requires increasing average award size and duration. The recent survey of NSF-funded principal investigators provides convincing evidence that an increase in award size will allow researchers to draw more students into the research process, and increasing award duration will foster a more stable and productive environment for learning and discovery. The level proposed for FY 2005 represents a 58 percent increase over the past seven years in average annual award size.
- Strengthen the nation's performance with world-class instruments and facilities. In an era of fast-paced discovery and technological change, researchers need access to cutting-edge tools to pursue increasingly complex avenues of research. NSF investments not only provide these tools, but also develop and creatively design the tools critical to 21st Century research and education. Consistent with the recent recommendations of the National Science Board, investment in infrastructure of all types (Tools) rises to $1.47 billion, representing 26 percent of the FY 2005 Budget Request.
Targeted investments under each of NSF's four strategic goals will promote these objectives and advance the progress of science and engineering.
NSF STRATEGIC GOALS: PEOPLE, IDEAS, TOOLS AND ORGANIZATIONAL EXCELLENCE
The National Science Foundation supports discovery, learning and innovation at the frontiers of science and engineering, where risks and rewards are high, and where benefits to society are most promising. NSF encourages increased and effective collaboration across disciplines and promotes partnerships among academe, industry and government to ensure that new knowledge moves rapidly and smoothly throughout the public and private sectors.
NSF's investment strategy establishes a clear path of progress for achieving four complementary strategic goals: People, Ideas, Tools and Organizational Excellence. "People, Ideas and Tools" is simple shorthand for a sophisticated system that integrates education, research, and cutting-edge infrastructure to create world-class discovery, learning and innovation in science and engineering. Organizational Excellence (OE) -- a new NSF strategic goal on a par with the other three -- integrates what NSF accomplishes through People, Ideas and Tools with business practices that ensure efficient operations, productive investments and real returns to the American people.
People. The rapid transformations that new knowledge and technology continuously trigger in our contemporary world make investments in people and learning a continuing focus for NSF. In our knowledge-based economy and society, we need not only scientists and engineers, but also a national workforce with strong skills in science, engineering and mathematics. Yet many of today's students leave secondary school without these skills. Fewer young Americans choose to pursue careers in science and engineering at the university level. Of those that do, fewer than half graduate with science or engineering degrees. The FY 2005 Request provides $1.065 billion for programs that will address these challenges.
To capture the young talent so vital for the next generation of discovery, we will increase the number of fellowships from 5,000 to 5,500 for NSF's flagship graduate education programs: the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships (IGERT), Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF), and Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12).
Ideas. New knowledge is the lifeblood of the science and engineering enterprise. Investments in Ideas are aimed at the frontiers of science and engineering. They build the intellectual capital and fundamental knowledge that drive technological innovation, spur economic growth and increase national security. They also seek answers to the most fundamental questions about the origin and nature of the universe, the planet and humankind. Investments totaling $2.85 billion in FY 2005 will support the best new ideas generated by the science and engineering community.
Increasing grant size and duration is a fundamental, long-term investment priority for NSF. Larger research grants of longer duration will boost the overall productivity of researchers by freeing them to take more risks and focus on more complex research goals with longer time horizons. More flexible timetables will also provide researchers with opportunities to provide expanded education and research experiences to students. Investments in FY 2005 bring NSF average annual research grant award size to approximately $142,000, an increase of $3,000 over FY 2004 -- a 58% increase since 1998. Average annual award duration will continue at approximately 3.0 years.
Tools. The FY 2005 request for Tools totals $1.47 billion, an increase of $104 million over the FY 2004 Estimate. The increase continues an accelerated program to revitalize and upgrade the nation's aging infrastructure through broadly distributed investments in instruments and tools. Progress in research and education frequently depends upon the development and use of tools that expand experimental and observational limits. Researchers need access to cutting-edge tools to tackle today's complex and radically different avenues of research, and students who are not trained in their use are at a disadvantage in today's technology-intensive workplace.
Organizational Excellence (OE). With activities that involve over 200,000 scientists, engineers, educators and students and with over 40,000 proposals to process each year, NSF relies on efficient operations and state-of-the-art business practices to provide quality services and responsible monitoring and stewardship of the agency's investments. NSF's Request includes $363.05 million to support Organizational Excellence (OE). This represents an increase in the share of the total NSF budget for OE from 5 percent in FY 2004 to 6 percent in FY 2005.
A number of considerations have elevated the Organizational Excellence portfolio in NSF's FY 2005 Request. For twenty years NSF staffing has remained level as the total budget and workload increased significantly, and the work has become more complex. Proposals increasingly involve large, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary projects and require sophisticated monitoring and evaluation. NSF is also committed to maintaining its traditional high standards for stewardship, innovation and customer service. Key priorities for FY 2005 include award monitoring and oversight, human capital management and IT system improvements necessary for leadership in eGovernment, security upgrades and world-class customer service.
It is central to NSF's mission to provide effective stewardship of public funds, to realize maximum benefits at minimum cost and to ensure public trust in the quality of the process. The FY 2005 investment in Organizational Excellence will streamline and update NSF operations and management by enhancing cutting edge business processes and tools. It will also fund the addition of 25 new permanent employees to address mounting workplace pressure, add new skills to the workforce and improve the quality and responsiveness of customer service.
Of course, People, Ideas, Tools, and Organizational Excellence work together to give us the best returns in discovery, learning and innovation.
Before providing a few highlights of the budget, let me stress that the priority-setting process at NSF results from continual consultation with the research community. New programs are added or enhanced only after seeking the combined expertise and experience of the science and engineering community, NSF management and staff, and the National Science Board.
Programs are initiated or enlarged based on considerations of their intellectual merit, broader impacts of the research, the importance to science and engineering, balance across fields and disciplines, and synergy with research in other agencies and nations. NSF coordinates its research with our sister research agencies both informally -- by program officers being actively informed of other agencies' programs -- and formally, through interagency agreements that spell out the various agency roles in research activities. Moreover, through our Committee of Visitors process there is continuous evaluation and feedback of information about how NSF programs are performing.
Producing the finest scientists and engineers in the world and encouraging new ideas to strengthen U.S. leadership across the frontiers of discovery are NSF's principal goals. NSF puts its money where it counts -- 94 percent of our budget goes directly to the research and education that keep our knowledge base strong, our economy humming and the benefits to society flowing.
Our nation's science and engineering workforce is the most productive in the world. To keep it that way, we have to attract more of the most promising students to graduate-level studies in science and engineering.
Since our founding in 1950, NSF has supported 39,000 fellows. We will increase Fellowships from 5,000 to 5,500 for NSF's prestigious graduate education programs: the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships (IGERT), Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF), and Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12).
Our ability to attract the nation's best talent has been facilitated
by increasing the level of graduate stipends from a
base of $15,000 in 1999 to $30,000 in FY 2004. Stipend levels will remain
at the $30,000 level in FY 2005.
Today's science and engineering challenges are more complex. Increasingly, they involve multi-investigator research, as well as a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research. So, increasing award size and duration—across the board—remains one of NSF's top long-term priorities. We will make additional progress in FY 2005 with an increase of $3,000 in average annual award. That brings the total increase to 58 percent since 1998.
Opportunities to advance knowledge have never been greater than they are today. NSF invests in emerging areas of research that hold exceptional potential to strengthen U.S. world leadership in areas of global economic and social importance. This year, we are requesting funding for five priority areas with very promising research horizons: biocomplexity, nanoscale science and engineering, mathematical sciences, human and social dynamics, and the 21st century workforce.
Biocomplexity in the Environment explores the complex interactions among organisms and their environments at all scales, and through space and time. This fundamental research on the links between ecology, diversity, the evolution of biological systems, and many other factors will help us better understand and, in time, predict environmental change. In FY 2005, Biocomplexity in the Environment will emphasize research on aquatic systems.
The Human and Social Dynamics priority area will explore a wide range of topics. These include individual decision-making and risk, the dynamics of human behavior, and global agents of change -- from democratization, to globalization, to war. Support will also be provided for methodological capabilities in spatial social science and for instrumentation and data resources infrastructure.
Mathematics is the language of science, and is a powerful tool of discovery. The Mathematical Sciences priority areas will focus on fundamental research in the mathematical and statistical sciences, interdisciplinary research connecting math with other fields of science and engineering, and targeted investments in training.
NSF's investment in Nanoscale Science and Engineering targets the fundamental research that underlies nanotechnology—which very likely will be the next "transformational" technology.
Investments in this priority area will emphasize research on nanoscale structures and phenomena, and quantum control. NSF is the lead agency for the government-wide National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). NSF is requesting $305 million, an increase of nearly $52 million or 20 percent. This is by far NSF's largest priority area investment.
To operate in an increasingly complex world, we have to produce a general workforce that is scientifically and technologically capable, and a science and engineering workforce that is world class by any measure.
The FY 2005 request provides $20 million to initiate the Workforce for the 21st Century priority area. This investment will support innovations to integrate NSF's investments in education at all levels, from K-12 through postdoctoral, as well as attract more U.S. students to science and engineering fields and broaden participation.
Every year it becomes more difficult to choose only a few NSF activities to highlight in the budget presentation. But they are all genuinely significant, and I want to make brief comments about each.
In FY 2005, NSF will make significant investments in our diverse Centers Programs. Centers bring people, ideas, and tools together on scales that are large enough to have a significant impact on important science and engineering challenges. They provide opportunities to integrate research and education, and to pursue innovative and risky research. An important goal beyond research results is developing leadership in the vision, strategy, and management of the research and education enterprise. The total investment for NSF's Centers Programs is $457 million, an increase of $44 million in FY 2005. Here are some highlights of the Centers.
- $30 million will initiate a new cohort of six Science and Technology Centers. A key feature of these centers is the development of partnerships linking industry, government, and the educational community to improve the transfer of research results, and provide students a full set of boundary-crossing opportunities.
- $20.0 million will continue support for multidisciplinary, multi-institutional Science of Learning Centers. These centers are intended to advance understanding of learning through research on the learning process, the context of learning, and learning technologies. The Centers will strengthen the connections between science of learning research and educational and workforce development.
- The budget request provides for two new nanotechnology centers; two or three centers that advance fundamental knowledge about Environmental Social and Behavioral Science; three Information Technology Centers, and additional funding for the NSF Long Term Ecological Research network. An additional $6 million will fund a number of mathematical and physical science centers, including: Chemistry Centers, Materials Centers, Mathematical Sciences Research Institutes, and Physics Frontiers Centers.
Today, discoveries emerge from around the world. It is essential that American scientists and engineers have opportunities to engage with the world's top researchers, to lead major international collaborations, and to have access to the best research facilities throughout the world and across all the frontiers of science and engineering. The FY 2005 budget to carry out these activities through NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering is $34 million, an increase of $6 million, or 21 percent over the FY 2004 estimate.
Finally, NSF will initiate an Innovation Fund at $5 million. The Fund provides an opportunity for the Foundation to respond quickly to rapidly emerging activities at the frontiers of learning and discovery.
TOOLS -- OPENING UP NEW VISTAS
Researchers need access to cutting-edge tools to tackle today's complex and radically different research tasks. If students are not trained in their use, they will be at a disadvantage in today's technology-intensive workplace. The FY 2005 investment in Tools totals one and a half billion dollars, an increase of $104 million. This continues an accelerated program to revitalize and upgrade the nation's aging research infrastructure through investments in cutting-edge tools of every kind.
Nearly $400 million of the FY 2005 investment supports the expansion of state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure. Our new information and communication technologies have transformed the way we do science and engineering. Providing access to moderate-cost computation, storage, analysis, visualization and communication for every researcher will make that work more productive and broaden research perspectives throughout the science and engineering community.
In FY 2005, there are three continuing and three new projects funded by the proposed $213 million investment in Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction.
NEON, the National Ecological Observatory Network, is a continental scale research instrument with geographically distributed infrastructure, linked by state-of-the-art networking and communications technology. NEON will facilitate studies that can help us address major environmental challenges and improve our ability to predict environmental change. Funding for NEON planning activities is included in the FY 2004 estimate.
The Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel is a state-of-the-art drill ship that will be used by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), an international collaboration. Cores of sediment and rock collected from the ocean floor will enhance studies of the geologic processes that modify our planet. Investigators will explore the history of those changes in oceans and climate, and the extent and depth of the planet's biosphere.
The Rare Symmetry Violating Processes (RSVP) includes two highly sensitive experiments to study fundamental symmetries of nature. RSVP will search for the particles or processes that explain the predominance of matter that makes up the observable universe. It will focus on questions ranging from the origins of our physical world to the nature of dark matter.
NSF plans to invest in major research equipment and facilities construction projects over the next several years. We expect to start funding for two additional projects; Ocean Observatories and an Alaska Regional Research Vessel in FY 2006.
In making these critical investments, NSF continues to put a very strong emphasis on effective and efficient management. We are proud of our track record.
Mr. Chairman, the budget highlights I've just presented don't even begin to portray the variety and richness of the NSF portfolio. We support research programs to enhance homeland security. This includes the Ecology of Infectious Diseases program, jointly funded with NIH, and the Microbial Genome Sequencing program, jointly funded with the Department of Agriculture. NSF participates on the National Interagency Genome Sequencing Coordinating Committee, where our programs have attracted a great deal of interest from the intelligence community, and have been touted as the best. The Critical Infrastructure Protection program, and cybersecurity research and education round out our important contributions to enhancing homeland security.
Additionally, as part of the Administration's Climate Change Research Initiative, NSF supports research to reduce uncertainty related to climate variability and change, with the objective of facilitating decision making and informing the policy process.
Let me conclude my remarks by emphasizing once again how carefully and diligently we worked together at NSF to identify clear priorities in a time of tight budgets. We are confident that NSF's FY 2005 investments will have long-term benefits for the entire science and engineering community, and contribute to security and prosperity for all. That is precisely why I have no doubts that NSF's budget merits the attention and support that your NSF Authorization Act gave us.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I hope that this brief overview conveys to you the extent of NSF's commitment to advancing science and technology in the national interest.
I ask not only for your support for our FY 2005 budget request, but also want you to know how much I appreciate the long-standing bipartisan support of the committee for NSF. Mr. Chairman, I would ask to include a copy of NSF's budget summary as part of my testimony, and would be happy to answer any questions that you have.