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Remarks

Photo of Arden Bement

Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr.
Director
National Science Foundation
Biography

Presentation of the
NSF FY 2009 Budget Request to Congress
Arlington, VA
February 4, 2008

(As Prepared)

See also slide presentation.

If you're interested in reproducing any of the slides, please contact the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs: (703) 292-8070.

[Slide 1: Title slide]
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Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the National Science Foundation. I appreciate your interest in NSF, and your coming to the FY 2009 budget presentation this morning.

Let me come right to the point. We are here to discuss the future of America. More than a dozen major studies have now concluded that a substantial increase in federal funding for basic scientific research is critical to ensure the preeminence of America's scientific and technological enterprise.

[Slide #2: Augustine quote]
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Just recently, Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, released a follow-up to "The Gathering Storm" report entitled, "Is American Falling Off the Flat Earth?"

His message is crystal clear: Unless substantial investments are made to the engine of innovation. "...the current generation may be the first in our country's history to leave their children and grandchildren a lower sustained standard of living."

He points out that "America and the world are on the precipice of a change of seismic proportions, a tipping point ... and no one will be immune to its impact." That raises the stark question: "Can America compete?"

[Slide #3: Georgia Tech survey chart]
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A startling report on technology indicators from Georgia Tech that appeared just this month concluded that China may soon rival the United States in worldwide technological competitiveness.

This chart from the report shows a remarkable China rapidly "ascending." The study's indicators take into account the critical ability to develop basic science and technology, turn those developments into products and services--and then market them to the world. This alone should ring an alarm bell for our own R&D investment strategy.

According to this report, if we continue on the current track, China could overtake the U.S. in technological innovation.

[Slide #4: NSF FY 2009 budget request cover]
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The warning signs are all too apparent. The U.S. trade balance in high-technology products shifted from surplus to deficit beginning in 2002. Rapidly increasing imports to the U.S. of information and communications products from Asia, particularly from China and Malaysia, have contributed to this deficit.

Meanwhile, federal obligations for academic research declined in real terms between 2004 and 2005. When the figures come in for 2006 and 2007, they are expected to decrease even further. If so, this would make the last four years the first multi-year decline in federally-supported academic research in a quarter of a century.

Even a disinterested bystander would have to conclude that we are contributing to our own economic demise.

Despite these serious warning signs--and overwhelming bipartisan support for increased investment to ensure America's scientific and technological standing--progress has slowed in the past year.

In his recent State of the Union address, the President said he was disappointed that Congress had under-funded basic scientific research, and called on Congress to put NSF and other research agencies back on track to double their research budgets.

I'm also greatly disappointed that we've fallen substantially short for FY 2008. Most emphatically, flat budgets must not be NSF’s fate in the future.

I say "must not" because America's prosperity, global competitiveness, and the well being of our citizens depend, more than ever before, on the steady stream of new ideas and the highly skilled STEM talent that NSF supports.

[Slide #5: ACI, America COMPETES]
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I am determined, and optimistic, that NSF will regain budget momentum in FY 2009. As you know, the Administration and Congress have conveyed their clear determination to build on America's history of success in leading-edge discovery and innovation.

The President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the America COMPETES Act of 2007 both recognize that America has reached an economic flash point.

Increased federal investments in research and education are imperative now to sustain our comparative advantages in a flattening world. The private sector understands this, and is on board.

[Slide #6: Budget Total, percent increase]
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The NSF budget for 2009 reflects that commitment and puts us back on the right track with a total request of $6.85 billion dollars, an increase of 13 percent over 2008. That's good news for NSF, and even better news for the nation. We all have a responsibility to make this happen!

Let me emphasize once again that these investments are not merely desirable, but imperative--and they are more critical today than at anytime in America's history.

NSF's task is to keep science and engineering visionaries focused on the furthest frontier. We aim to recognize and nurture emerging fields, and to prepare the next generation of scientific and engineering talent and leaders. Add to that, world-class facilities to advance transformative research, and you have the recipe for success that has been a hallmark of NSF for over 50 years. Here are the numbers by major account.

[Slide #7: Funding by major account]
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Investments in Research and Related Activities increase by 16 percent.

Education and Human Resources by 9 percent.

Agency Operations and Award Management increases by 8 percent.

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction is actually down by about 33 percent. I'll address this later in my presentation.

Important as they are, these dollar figures can't possibly give you a sense of the benefits of NSF investments. Nor can they convey the importance to America's manufacturing and service sectors of NSF support for leading-edge research. Let me illustrate these with a few highlights from our budget request.

[Slide #8: Beyond Moore's Law]
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As you know, Moore's Law refers to the empirical observation, made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that computer processing power, based on semiconductor integrated circuits, doubles about every 18 months.

Using current silicon technology, we are likely to reach the physical and conceptual limits of Moore's Law in 10 to 20 years. To take computing power and communications beyond Moore's Law requires entirely new scientific, engineering, and conceptual frameworks.

[Slide #9: Beyond Moore's Law #2]
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NSF-supported researchers have developed theory, based on fundamental quantum physics, of how one single carbon-based molecule could replicate the behavior of today's much larger microprocessor transistors. A new concept like this could propel us from an era of micro-electronics to one of nano-electronics.

Science and Engineering Beyond Moore's Law is a new, multidisciplinary investment that will support research to develop the next generation of materials, algorithms, architectures and software with capabilities far beyond those available today, and governed by new empirical laws. With these advances, computing power will become even more concentrated, integrated and ubiquitous.

This investment, with its great potential for transformation, aims to contribute to our nation's economic competitiveness and help sustain U.S. leadership in electronics, information technologies and communications.

[Slide #10: Adaptive Systems Technology]
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Beneath the "skin" of modern computers, robots and machines, lies a physical nervous system of wires, circuits, sensors, fiber optics, and wireless communication modules. The parallels between this "hardware" and the human brain and nervous system are striking, and they are no accident. We have an amazing "central processor" in this 3-pound organ we call our brain. Researchers are only now beginning to exploit its secrets and probe the many possible applications of neuroscience to the development of engineered systems, especially at the human-machine interface.

[Slide #11: Adaptive Systems Technology #2]
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A new interdisciplinary research effort, Adaptive Systems Technology, will explore the potential of mimicking living nervous circuits and systems in the design of engineered products and control systems that can anticipate, adapt, and provide a natural bridge to human performance.

AST could foster highly innovative advances in adaptive control systems, hybrid computer architectures, and computer-based, self-paced, learning and training tools.

[Slide #12: AST, Artificial Retina]
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This artificial retina exemplifies science at the interface between the human nervous system and machines. NSF-supported research has shown that in some types of blindness, the neural pathways that carry information to the brain are still healthy, despite the damage to other parts of the eye. The artificial retina opens the opportunity to employ the healthy nerve tissues to regain partial vision.

[Slide #13: Dynamics of Water Processes in the Environment]
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Although the movement of water links natural systems and human social systems, there are many gaps in our basic scientific understanding of water dynamics. We still know very little about the effects of climate change and resulting changes in human interventions and land use on the availability and quality of fresh water.

One of the greatest environmental and economic challenges we face this century is to ensure an adequate, high-quality water supply for human use while maintaining the integrity of ecosystems. While humans can survive without petroleum, they can't survive without water.

[Slide #14: Dynamics of Water #2]
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NSF will initiate a program, Dynamics of Water Processes in the Environment, to increase fundamental understanding of the Earth's freshwater systems, and our ability to predict dynamic changes in freshwater resources. NSF investigators are already breaking new ground in mitigating the degradation of aquatic systems and coping with extreme floods.

This investment will improve the reliability of water forecasting for such important uses as agriculture, forest and fisheries management, energy production, human health, transportation, and manufacturing.

Our Water investment complements the U.S. Geological Survey's water initiative. We hope that by collaborating we can maximize overall knowledge while minimizing costs.

[Slide #15: Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation]
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This year, NSF is launching a new program, Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation, at an investment level of $48 million dollars. CDI is part of a five year investment to advance science and engineering along fundamentally new pathways opened up by enhanced computational capabilities. In 2009, we will increase our investment in CDI by $52 million for a total of $100 million dollars.

[Slide #16: From Data to Knowledge]
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Currently, the ability to extract important new knowledge from exploding quantities of data generated by telescopes, satellites, surveys, and sensors, and transmitted along the Internet is like uncovering a 'needle in a very large haystack.' We need new concepts and tools to help us derive new knowledge from this abundance of digital data.

[Slide #17: Complexity in Natural, Built and Social Systems]
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CDI will also expand our ability to analyze and understand complex systems, including those characterized by large numbers of interacting elements, and those that exhibit chaotic and emergent behavior.

The development and use of simulation and computational models for predicting the behavior of highly complex systems, whether found in nature, in society, or in the built environment, will transform the way we understand challenging problems, over vast differences in scale, size, distance, and time.

[Slide #18: Virtual Organizations]
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Finally, we are just beginning to explore the potential of virtual organizations enabled by cyberinfrastructure to increase the research productivity of teams of people and resources distributed across institutions and geographical boundaries, both national and international.

[Slide #19: Petascale computing and Cyberinfrastructure]
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I want to emphasize that the development of petascale computing capabilities and advanced cyberinfrastructure go hand-in-hand not only with CDI, but with all of our research investments, and remain top priorities for NSF.

Taken together, these investments are primed to transform research capabilities and productivity in every field of science and engineering. In FY 2009, we are requesting $682 million dollars for cyberinfrastructure, an increase of 53 million over the FY 2008 level.

[Slide #20: Science and Technology Centers]
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Interdisciplinary research is alive and well at NSF, not only in the nature of the grants we fund, but also in our organizational structures and cross-Foundation partnerships. The 2009 budget request gives particular emphasis to interdisciplinary programs, centers, and multi-investigator grants.

In 2009, we plan to establish five to seven new Science and Technology Centers. The STCs tackle frontier problems of national and global importance by developing innovative partnerships among disciplines and with business and industry.

They speed the transfer of concepts for new technologies to the private sector. And, critically, they integrate research with the education of those who will be tomorrow's teachers and leaders in discovery and innovation.

At the beginning of my presentation, I emphasized the potential economic returns that can accrue from NSF investments.

However, there are other, vitally important returns: namely, those that serve national and global needs in energy, health, security and environment, and those that increase human understanding and wonder about the universe in which we live, from the smallest to the largest scales.

[Slide #21: Climate Change]
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One of the most urgent and pervasive challenges for science and technology in the 21st Century is global climate change. This is one challenge that we can, and must address.

The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment confirms that we have made rapid advances in our understanding of climate change and its impacts. NSF has been a leader in supporting major contributions to the basic understanding and modeling of Earth systems processes. We will continue to provide sustained support for world-class climate modeling.

[Slide #22: Climate Change #2]
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Many investigators supported by NSF contributed to the International Panel on Climate Change, and share in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. We like to point to the many Nobel winners that have received support from NSF, but this is the first Nobel Peace Prize!

[Slide #23: Climate Change in Polar Regions]
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NSF is uniquely poised to answer the question: what is the role of the Polar Regions on global processes? The Polar Regions may be experiencing greater environmental change than any other region of the planet. And, how the earth's major ice sheets will contribute to sea level rise is a major source of uncertainty in forecasts of the future effects of climate change.

NSF support for International Polar Year will provide legacy capabilities and research data that will support polar science for years to come.

[Slide #24: Disciplines slide]
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Of course, not all research is based on identifiable problems or our current state of knowledge. Maintaining strong, sustained support for all disciplines remains a priority for NSF. With the 16 percent growth in Research and Related Activities, NSF anticipates supporting an additional 1370 research grants.

Without support for frontier research that covers all disciplines--in all potential interdisciplinary combinations--the transformative discovery that sparks the next technological revolution may not occur in our own backyard.

In the time remaining I can touch on only a few more programs that deserve your attention. These investments fit within our roles under the American Competitiveness Initiative and America COMPETES Act, mentioned earlier.

[Slide #25: Cumulative Time between Degree and First NSF Award]
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Both the ACI and the America COMPETES Act place special emphasis on improving opportunities for scientists and engineers at the beginning of their careers.

NSF has an excellent track record: over the past decade, nearly 40 percent of the awards going to new PIs are for early career faculty within five years of their last degree. We will build on this record through our programs that support young faculty. In 2009, our flagship program, CAREER, increases by over $14 million to $182 million dollars.

In addition, NSF's small exploratory grants programs are particularly important to early career investigators as they develop new research directions. We are exploring new grant instruments that will expand the use of these exploratory grants for transformative research.

[Slide #26: International Activities]
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Today, competition exists alongside increasing international cooperation and collaboration among scientists and engineers. There is no contradiction here. In a sense, we collaborate in order to compete. We can't afford to be blindsided by research developments from abroad.

NSF encourages international partnerships in research and education. And, like all nations, the U. S. needs to develop a workforce that is adept at working on international research teams. We are requesting increased funding for the NSF Office of International Science and Engineering from $41 million to $47 million dollars in 2009.

Which brings me to the topic of NSF's broader investments in education.

[Slide #27: Education]
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Science, technology, engineering and math education has always been part of NSF's mission as an equal partner to research. The challenges ahead are very steep. As we consider how to foster innovation, we should also address the need for innovation in education, not only to promote learning in math and science, but also to enrich the education of STEM teachers.

[Slide #28: Enduring Strategies in Education]
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The broad array of NSF education programs has long emphasized themes critical to moving education to a new level of excellence. We remain committed to these overarching objectives:

  • Broadening participation in the science and engineering workforce;
  • Strengthening teacher preparation;

  • Integrating research and education;

  • Stimulating students through inquiry-based learning; and,

  • Reaching a broader public through informal education.

[Slide #29: Math and Science Partnerships]
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NSF will continue to support the successful Math and Science Partnership program, which integrates the resources of higher education, the private sector and K-12 schools.

Each year, the program reaches as many as 30,000 K-12 math and science teachers with up-to-date knowledge, inquiry-based teaching tools, and professional development activities. Currently, there are 52 MSP partnerships among colleges and universities, school districts, and corporations.

Since the program began in 2002, students in MSP school districts have made measurable gains in math and science proficiency at all levels.

[Slide #30: Graduate Education and Traineeships]
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Educating the next generation of U.S. scientists and engineers has always been at the top of NSF's agenda.

The budget request includes additional funding for Graduate Research Fellowships, bringing the total for this program alone to an estimated 3,075. Counting all NSF graduate fellowship programs, the total number of graduate students supported would be about 5,450, for an overall increase of 770 fellowships.

Keep in mind that this is only a fraction of the total support NSF provides for graduate students under research grants--and these figures don't reflect the many undergraduates we support, as well.

[Slide #31: Transformational Facilities and Infrastructure]
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There is an old saying that a piece of work is only as good as the tools used to make it. The world-class equipment and facilities that NSF supports are every bit as essential to the task of discovery.

[Slide #32: South Pole Station]
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Earlier this month, I attended the dedication ceremony for the new South Pole Station in Antarctica. I can assure you that this superb facility will attract talented researchers from around the world, and boost U.S. leadership in research on the nature of the universe, the ionosphere and magnetosphere, and climate change.

[Slide #33: Ongoing MREFC Projects]
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NSF will continue to support a portfolio of ongoing projects in the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account (MREFC), including:

  • The Atacama Large Millimeter Array;

  • Ice Cube; and

  • Advanced LIGO.

[Slide #34: ATST]
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For the first time, NSF is also requesting funds for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, which has completed a final design review but requires additional design support to complete impact studies, site preparation and permitting.

I mentioned earlier that the MREFC account decreases by 33 percent in the 2009 budget. The completion of several major projects in 2008 explains part of this decrease.

[Slide #35: AARV, NEON, OOI]
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The second reason for the decline in the MREFC account is that three projects--the Alaska Regional Research Vessel, NEON and the Ocean Observatories Initiative--will not receive funding in 2009. I want to make it absolutely clear that NSF continues to support these projects wholeheartedly.

However, NSF has adopted more stringent budget and schedule controls. A succinct way to describe these controls is: "no budget or schedule overruns."

Additional funding for these three projects will not be requested until they have undergone a final design review, completed a risk management plan, and developed a rigorous baseline budget, including carefully considered contingencies.

[Slide #36: Major Research Instrumentation]
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Mid-size instruments as every bit as essential for discovery as major facilities. Funding for the Major Research Instrumentation program increases by about $21 million to a total of $115 million dollars. In order to build capability for supporting transformative research, the cap for mid-sized instrumentation has been doubled from $2 million to $4 million.

[Slide #37: Stewardship]
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We're continuing to increase investments to improve NSF Stewardship across the agency. The increased funding for Agency Operations and Award Management is long overdue.

We've watched the number of proposals increase dramatically over the past several years, without a corresponding increase in staff to manage a growing and increasingly complex workload. Although we've been able to maintain excellent management and efficient operations under these circumstances, we are reaching the limits of our ability to do more with less.

I want to emphasize that we maintain a capable and responsive organization by cultivating a learning environment. This is a top priority for NSF. We are also requesting funds to support investments in information technology that paces our productivity and e-government services. These investments will help us continue to serve our community effectively and responsibly.

[Slide #38: Research.gov]
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I can’t conclude without mentioning "Research.gov," a modernization of FastLane, tailored to the needs of the research community. This new system, which opens for business today, provides the latest award information and exciting research content. In the future, institutions and grantees will be able to access grant management services for NSF and other federal agencies from this one location.

The Administration selected NSF to lead this initiative, and we are very pleased with that expression of confidence in our management abilities.

[Slide #39: The Future of America: Quote from State of the Union]
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I opened my remarks today by saying that we are here to discuss the future of America. In his State of the Union address, the President set the same challenge when he said,

"To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow."

[Slide #40: The Future of America: Equation for prosperity]
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I offer you a simple, optimistic equation for America's prosperity:

Talent + Education =
New discoveries =
Innovative new products and services =
High-quality jobs + greater productivity =
Sustained economic growth.

[Slide #41: Researchers, various images]
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NSF investments in research and education have returned exceptional dividends to the American people. To keep those benefits flowing, we need to constantly replenish the fount of new ideas, and train new talent. That is the simple, but critically important mission of NSF.

Thank you.

[Slide #42: Title slide]
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