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Dr. Bordogna's Remarks

 


Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Coalition for Technology Partnerships
Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day

May 1, 2001

Good afternoon to all of you. I want to thank Taffy - I've long been a fan of her leadership. I'm delighted to be here today to talk about the National Science Foundation's research and education priorities for the coming fiscal year.

Let me begin by saying that your support for fundamental research and education has a huge impact. It's one of the reasons that U.S. science and engineering is the most innovative and productive in the world. You speak with a knowledgeable and credible voice about the nation's research and education needs. I'm confident that your ideas will resonate when you make the case for these investments.

[1. Title Slide]
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The National Science Foundation aims at nothing less than U.S. world leadership in science, engineering, and technology. That's what we're about, and our budget priorities reflect that mission - in both research and education and their integration.

All of us know that the competition is stiffer and the stakes are higher than ever before in history. Knowledge is becoming the most sought after commodity in the world. We need to sustain the vitality of our basic research enterprise, and we need to train the talent we need to advance discovery and innovation. These are key to economic and social prosperity.

Let me share how NSF's vision is expressed by its budget.

[2. NSF Budget: Big Picture]
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Here's the big picture. NSF is requesting a total of $4.47 billion - that's $56 million more, or a 1.3-percent increase, above FY 2001.

[3. NSF Budget: by appropriation]
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Funding levels for each of NSF's appropriation accounts at the FY 2002 Request and FY 2001 Current Plan levels are shown in this chart.

The highlight is the Education and Human Resources (EHR) appropriation, which receives an 11% increase.

I'll move right to the top priorities in NSF's budget request for FY 2002.

[4. Science & Math Partnerships]
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At the center of NSF's budget request is an initial $200 million dollar downpayment on a five year, $1 billion dollar investment in the nation's youngsters. This will be used to strengthen and reform K-12 science and math education.

We are pleased that the President has asked NSF to lead the Math and Science Partnerships program as part of the No Child Left Behind education initiative. NSF will fund states and local school districts to join with institutions of higher education.

We're asking scientists, mathematicians, and engineers at universities and colleges to work with K-12 educators to achieve some very ambitious goals. The Partnerships program aims to strengthen math and science standards, improve curricula and textbooks, and raise the quality of teacher professional development.

But the program doesn't stop there. We hope to eliminate the performance gap between majority and minority students, and reach under-served schools and students in creative ways.

In a similar vein, NSF's budget addresses another major roadblock in developing a 21st century workforce: the numbers.

[5. Ratio: NS&T 1st degrees to 24-year-old population]
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While 1st degrees in engineering, the physical sciences, and math and computer sciences are either static or declining in the U.S., other nations are boosting degrees in all these fields. A 24-year-old in Japan, for example, is three times more likely to hold a bachelor's degree in engineering than one in the U.S.

[6. percentage change in # of grad students enrolled in U.S. S&E programs]

Although graduate enrollments in these fields are increasing overall, that's mainly the result of growing numbers of students from abroad. U.S. graduate enrollment is actually declining.

That shouldn't surprise us. A recent study found that 57 percent of bachelor's degree recipients did not apply to science and engineering graduate programs for financial reasons.

[7. Graduate student stipends]
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The average stipend for graduate students in these fields is half the average wage for those who start working as soon as they receive their undergraduate degrees, and of course, much less than the starting salaries of baccalaureate engineers and scientists.

We need to remedy this situation to make graduate study in science and engineering attractive vis--vis other career opportunities. NSF is requesting $8 million dollars to increase graduate stipends for Fellows in a number of NSF programs. The stipends would increase from $18,000 to $20,500.

That's a good beginning, but we want to see this figure increase even more in the NEAR years ahead, say on the order of $25 to $30 thousand dollars.

[8. Interdisciplinary Mathematics]
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Now, let me move on to NSF's $20 million dollar Interdisciplinary Mathematics program. It's the centerpiece of our core investments in FY 2002. The program aims to strengthen fundamental research in mathematics, and at the same time, to enhance its contributions to other fields. By focusing these investments at the frontiers of the biological, physical, engineering, and social sciences, we can do both.

You know, I've heard that a good mathematician is sometimes like a good film director. She works behind the scenes. She gets the best performance possible from the scientists and engineers, who always take center stage. Her creative contribution is never adequately appreciated, and is seldom understood. It's time to bring mathematics into the limelight.

This investment will bring cutting-edge mathematics to bear on problems in the physical biological, engineering, and social sciences. It will help us develop models of complex non-linear systems, and predict their behavior.

[9. Priority Areas]
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We're also continuing to support key emerging capabilities. These are priority areas that hold exceptional promise to advance knowledge. The FY 2002 focuses on four of these.

[10. Biocomplexity in the Environment]
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Let me begin with a priority area we call Biocomplexity in the Environment. The term "biocomplexity" refers to the dynamic web of relationships that arise when living things at all levels - from cells to ecosystems - interact with their environment, both natural and human-made.

Recent advances have allowed us to investigate these connections in a way that was never possible before. We now have a better toolkit: real time sensors, powerful computers, and genomics. These are opening up the possibility of forecasting the outcomes of those interactions.

That's vital if we're going to understand the impact of humans on the environment and vice versa. Advances in this field can pave the way for the design of cleaner and more efficient industrial processes, and new technologies for waste avoidance.

[11. Information Technology Research]
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Another NSF priority area is Information Technology Research. NSF funding will deepen fundamental research on software, networking, scalability and communications that will take us to the next generation of applications.

We'll also expand research in multidisciplinary areas, where the power of IT can be put to use to make rapid progress in advancing the frontiers of discovery. The impact of IT on molecular biology and medicine is a striking example of how this can work. Without fundamental research in IT, the delineation of the human genome, with all the promise that holds for human health, would still be in our future instead of our past.

[12. Nanoscale Science & Engineering]
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That's a good lead-in to NSF's third priority area - Nanoscale Science and Engineering. If IT can give us the capability to do things three orders of magnitude faster, nanotechnology will let us work on a scale three orders of magnitude smaller.

Research in this priority area explores phenomena at molecular and atomic scales. That's in a range where nano-designed machines meet individual living cells, and we can begin to envision targeted drug delivery systems and electronic biosensors to detect cancer in its earliest stages.

At the nanoscale, systems of atoms and molecules exhibit novel properties - ones we can begin to exploit in the design of new materials - for quantum computing, for example, or in the development of materials for tissues and organ implants, or entirely new paradigms for manufacturing.

It's no wonder that this field of research is one of the most competitive in the world. Although the U.S. has substantially increased its overall investment in nanotechnology, Asian and European investments have kept pace. Current estimates put the U.S. share of nanotechnology investment between 25 and 30 percent of the world total. NSF's investment will strengthen U.S. leadership and boost efforts to build a nanotech-ready workforce.

[13. Learning for the 21st Century]
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The final priority area I'll mention is a group of related activities we call Learning for the 21st Century. Today, science, engineering and technology workers need skills that better suit the realities of an economy and society based on knowledge and innovation.

Fortunately, there's been tremendous progress in research in a range of fields collectively referred to as cognition: cognitive neuroscience, computational linguistics, human and computer interactions, and learning environments. The time is ripe to bring these fields together to develop a better understanding of how humans and other species learn.

Now, let me conclude with some general comments about how NSF hopes to accomplish all of this.

Support for fundamental research across all disciplines remains one of NSF's unique and abiding strengths. So too is the competitive, merit review process that characterizes NSF's decision-making. It's a guarantee that we bring a diversity of talent and perspectives to the table. It helps us tap the best intellectual insight.

I said before that the stakes are high. Although NSF accounts for under 4 percent of the federal research and development budget, NSF accounts for almost 50 percent of all non-medical basic research in our universities and colleges. That means doing a lot with the resources we have.

[14. Vision statement]
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Let me close with our vision statement.

"Enabling the nation's future through discovery, learning and innovation."

The boundaries that once separated discovery, learning, and innovation are no longer as distinct as they once were. There is more and more coupling among them, and constant interaction.

Let me emphasize once again that an economy rooted in science, engineering, and technology can't sustain itself without a vibrant basic research enterprise and a world class cadre of scientists and engineers. Expanding the pool of science and engineering talent requires giving youngsters every chance to succeed and encouraging more of them to choose careers in these fields.

It also means lifting the capabilities of our core disciplines through our priority investments while striking out in new directions at the frontiers of research and education. And it means creating and nurturing our partnerships among industry, academe, and government.

I'll stop there, because that's where you come in. Again, many thanks to Taffy and all of you for your leadership.

[15. Where Discoveries Begin]
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