NSF’s investments are distributed across four key program functions. These functions encompass the primary activities that NSF undertakes. The functions are interdependent, and work in concert to support NSF’s goals.

NSF Budget by Key Program Function


(Dollars in Millions)

                                Numbers may not add due to rounding.

Research Project Support

Funding for Research Project Support totals $2,126 million in FY 1999, an increase of 12.0 percent over FY 1998. Research projects provide research and instrumentation support for individuals and small groups devoted both to disciplinary research in traditional fields and to cross-disciplinary areas. Also included within this function is support for centers, based on the premise that some scientific questions and research problems can best be addressed through the multidisciplinary, long-term, coordinated efforts of many researchers. Support for centers totals $224 million in FY 1999.

Investments in Research Project Support fund the cutting edge research that yields new discoveries. These investments help to maintain the nation’s capacity to excel in science and engineering, particularly in academic institutions. The store of knowledge produced by NSF-funded research projects also provides a rich foundation for broad and useful applications of knowledge and the development of new technologies. Research projects contribute to the education and training of the next generation of scientists and engineers by giving them the opportunity to participate in discovery-oriented projects. NSF centers provide an alternate and enhanced environment for broad interdisciplinary education at all levels.

Research Facilities

Support for Research Facilities totals $735 million in FY 1999, an increase of 5.2 percent over FY 1998. NSF supports large, multi-user research facilities that are characteristically complicated and expensive, requiring long-term commitments of support. The principal focus is providing access to state-of-the-art capabilities that might otherwise be unavailable to U.S. researchers. Funding includes support for facilities construction, as well as operations and maintenance.

Investments in research facilities provide physical and institutional capabilities necessary for scientists and engineers to carry out world-class research. NSF-supported facilities also stimulate research-driven technological breakthroughs in instrumentation, and are the site of research and mentoring for many science and engineering students. Because of their visibility and accomplishments, facilities also enhance public awareness of science and the goals of scientific research.

Education and Training

Education and Training totals $737 million in FY 1999, an increase of 10.7 percent over FY 1998. NSF's education and training component supports activities from pre-kindergarten through postdoctoral levels, including public science literacy.

Investments in Education and Training help ensure an adequate, well-trained workforce of scientists and engineers that can maintain leadership in science and technology, both now and in the future. NSF’s programs produce scientists and engineers knowledgeable about the most recent scientific and technical advances. These highly trained people then reach every sector of society, and actively disseminate and use that knowledge in the service of innumerable social goals. NSF also emphasizes helping all students to achieve the math and science skills needed to thrive in an increasingly technological society. In addition, the Foundation supports the development of timely, relevant data and analyses on the national and international science and engineering enterprise.

Administration and Management

Administration and Management totals $175 million in FY 1999, an increase of 5.3 percent. This function provides operating funds to support NSF staff in implementing activities in all key program areas. It also includes program support costs such as funding for appointments under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act and administrative contracts and requisitions.

Administration and Management encompasses efforts to streamline internal operations, adopt advanced information technologies, enhance customer service, and ensure financial integrity. Investments in this function are critical to NSF’s performance as it deals with a workload that is increasing in quantity and complexity.

Investments in Selected Priority Areas

Priority multidisciplinary areas for FY 1999 include Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI), Life and Earth's Environment (LEE), and Educating for the Future (EFF). These themes represent areas for focused investment, across key program functions, which combine exciting opportunities in research and education with immense potential for benefits to society.

Although there is inevitably some overlap in scope, the themes are distinguished from each other by the general nature of the activities undertaken. The following descriptions summarize representative activities proposed for FY 1999, emphasizing what would be done with additional funds requested in these areas.

Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence

Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI) is an NSF-wide effort that aims to improve our ability to discover, collect, represent, transmit, and apply information. An increase of almost $78 million for KDI in FY 1999 will support activities including:

Knowledge Networking. With the convergence of computing and communications technologies, we are now at the stage where new information infrastructures can be created that will support research and facilitate the deployment of knowledge for all citizens of our society. The past several years have seen significant progress in these areas, with movement from traditional research on databases to interdisciplinary work in the creation, preservation, distribution and retrieval of digital content from all forms of informational resources. The Foundation will provide an increase of more than $32 million for activities in the area of Knowledge Networking. As part of these efforts, NSF will begin a second phase of its Digital Libraries activities in FY 1999, seeking to extend the scope of the research and achieve a broader context of community participation. In order to make these technologies truly useful to all citizens, NSF will also invest in additional research on interactive data sets for real-time simulations, on data mining, and on faster interoperability of data bases. New theories of information measurement, summarization, and expression will form the basis for developing new representations of information.

NSF has been behind the development of many new collaborative tools and exemplary interdisciplinary projects that enable interaction among people, instruments, processes, and organizations operating in distributed, heterogeneous environments. In FY 1999, NSF will encourage the development of collaboratories to link experimental, observational, computational and theoretical scientists and engineers with tools for accessing information and for using it in their work to advance predictive capabilities in real time. Concomitant with this will be research activities on developing and utilizing remote instrumentation. One example of utilizing these new technologies is the use of GPS to develop digital maps.

Learning and Intelligent Systems. The information revolution creates opportunities for more effective science, mathematics, engineering and technology education in both formal and informal educational settings. NSF aims for fuller understanding of the fundamental processes of distributed intelligence in natural and artificial systems, including learning and discovery processes in technologically rich environments. An increment of almost $15 million in FY 1999 will enhance activities in this area, including such efforts as prototyping of testbeds, research on effectiveness of technologies for education, training of teachers and faculty on the effective use of learning technologies, developing new types of sensors and smart instrumentation, and research on control theory for applications such as distributed manufacturing.

New Challenges to Computation. Incremental support of more than $30 million will enable NSF to encourage all researchers to take full advantage of the power of KDI technologies to enable discovery in science and engineering by supporting the development of methods to collect, transmit, and analyze rapidly extremely large sets of data in real time; rapid and sensitive methods of detecting patterns in data; advanced networking (NGI) applications; enhanced understanding of complexity using advanced computational algorithms; and improved means of visualization of complex results. Activities may focus on generic methods applicable to many different purposes or on methods developed in the course of specific fields of science and engineering that may be adaptable to other fields.

Legal, Ethical, and Societal Implications. NSF will mount an effort to better understand the legal, ethical, and societal implications of the increased capability to gather and access information, including such issues as intellectual property rights, scientific publication, data security and integrity, and balancing the need for universal access against protection from disclosure of private information to unauthorized individuals.

Life and Earth’s Environment

Life and Earth’s Environment (LEE) encompasses a wide range of activities designed to foster research on the complex interdependencies among living organisms and the environments that affect, sustain, and are modified by them. An increase of $88 million for LEE in FY 1999 will include:

Integrated Research Challenges. The complexity of many environmental issues requires research integrated over disciplines, spatial scales and time periods to an extent not customary in traditional research. NSF will provide an increase of more than $38 million to support research teams to (a) identify major environmental questions requiring comprehensive, long-term research; (b) design effective, integrated approaches to addressing these questions, and (c) carry out this design.

For example, NSF supports research that enables mitigation of the effects of or elimination of the possibility of hazardous events, in areas such as: improving prediction of the incidence and severity of natural events (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, extreme weather); discovering safer alternatives to hazardous practices (e.g., replace public transport of toxic chemicals with on-site generation, or use processes that do not require toxic chemicals); and modeling and developing socioeconomic and engineering strategies for minimizing adverse impacts.

Environmental Observatories. NSF will provide an increment of more than $7 million to support environmental observatories and enhance existing sites that will serve as research platforms for a wide array of environmental observations. NSF plans to enhance the network of Long-Term Ecological Research sites including enhanced international collaboratories. Collection of physical, chemical, and biological data will enable analysis of biodiversity, assessment of pollution, and understanding of planetary development and environmental processes.

Global Change. Investment in the U.S. Global Change Research Program addresses interactions among physical, biological, ecological and human systems at varying scales. A $20 million increment will allow NSF to continue to support activities ranging from major international collaborative field programs for collection of critical data to the development, testing, and application of improved models encompassing varying geographic and temporal scales and to emphasize research on human contributions and responses to global change. Within the Global Change framework, NSF will add research activities on how changes in climate at a global level influence change at the local and regional level. In addition, NSF will expand its activities to address other aspects of Earth system interactions, including solar influences.

Urban Communities. NSF plans to provide an increase of over $7 million for research to examine the functional interrelations among physical, biological, social, and engineered systems and processes important in urban environments. In addition to gathering data essential to understanding these interrelations, research will attempt to identify the set of complex factors that enable vigorous, healthy urban communities.

Life in Extreme Environments. Recent discoveries have identified a wide range of unexpected environments in which life flourishes on Earth, including high-salt deserts, volcanoes, polar ice, mineral surfaces, and inside engineered systems. NSF will provide an increase of approximately $8 million to examine processes through which lifeforms interact with their environments. Such activities will expand knowledge about the origins of life on Earth, explore the effects of extreme environments on microbial metabolism, examine the characteristics that permit lifeforms to adapt to extreme environments, search for life-supporting environments beyond our own planet and examine how organisms from extreme environments can be used productively.

Engineered Systems in the Natural Environment. NSF will provide an increment of more than $5 million to support research that furthers the understanding of engineered systems and their interaction with the natural environment. Research thrusts include closed-cycle manufacturing, characterization of the deterioration of engineered systems (including that caused by microorganisms, sunlight and other environmental factors), and the development of techniques for accelerated life-cycle assessment. Other lines of research include advances in sensors, controls, and other interactive tools, and of environmentally friendly materials, performance of bioreactors, and integration of biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.

Educating for the Future

Educating for the Future (EFF) is a broad theme that includes a range of programs supporting innovative approaches to meeting the challenge of educating students for the 21st century. An increase of approximately $107 million, primarily across the Research Project Support and Education and Training key program functions, will be provided in FY 1999 to areas including:

Learning and Early Development. Learning is a life-long process that depends intimately on the biological, cognitive, and social processes available to the child and adult. NSF is committed to expanding the breadth and depth of our understanding of children's learning in formal and informal settings, emphasizing new theories, models and empirical studies examining how children develop and acquire knowledge about their world. Such studies will range from cortical structure and function, through perception, language, and memory, to parent-child interactions and social networks. An increase of nearly $9 million will support activities in these areas.

Transitions from Childhood to the Workforce. Insuring that the workforce is prepared to meet the new demands of the 21st century is a major priority for the nation. Fundamental research is a necessary ingredient in this effort. An increment of about $3 million will support: research on the social and economic investments in schools, families and communities that will optimize the effectiveness of the workforce; understanding how educational, social, and economic factors interact in helping children and adolescents make the transition to the workforce; developing methods for sustaining the productivity of our workforce; and addressing gaps in our social and economic data bases that create barriers to our understanding these important transitions.

Systemic Reform of K-16 Education. As this century draws to a close, the working and living environment that undergraduates will enter is changing dramatically and irreversibly. To meet these challenges, NSF aims to weave together a number of activities that will address the totality of effort required for systemic reform of undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education within colleges and universities. Building on the experiences and achievements in systemic reform of K-12 school systems, NSF will recognize visionary plans that build on significant achievements, supporting the transformation of small-scale innovations into self-sustaining, systemic reforms that benefit both undergraduate and graduate students. An increase of nearly $7 million will support expansion of K-12 urban systemic reform initiatives and undergraduate systemic reform efforts.

Learning Technologies. The information revolution creates opportunities for more effective science, mathematics, engineering and technology education in both formal and informal educational settings. NSF’s FY 1999 Request includes a $25 million increase for an initiative on research on education and training technologies, in partnership with the Department of Education. NSF activities in this area will include research in the underlying science and technology, prototyping of testbeds, research on effectiveness of technologies for education, and training of teachers and faculty on the effective use of learning technologies.

K-8 Mathematics Initiative. Eighth grade is a transition point into substantive mathematics needed for higher levels of education and for the workplace of the future. International comparisons show lackluster performance by U.S. students. The Administration has proposed a national voluntary test of mathematics at eighth grade and supporting efforts aimed at teachers, instructional materials and technologies, and public engagement with a focus on improving mathematics achievement in grades five through eight. An increase of $28 million will support this K-8 mathematics initiative, working in close collaboration with the Department of Education.

Integration of Research and Education. NSF will continue to emphasize and enhance support for a range of activities that provide exemplary opportunities for the integration of research and education. An increment of nearly $35 million will support programs including: Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER), Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT), Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education in the Mathematical Sciences (VIGRE), Collaborative Research in Undergraduate Institutions (C-RUI) in the biological sciences, and supplements to engineering grants for the integration of research and education.
National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Crosscuts

The National Science Foundation will continue its active participation in the NSTC crosscut areas, supporting research on Large Scale Networking and High End Computing and Computation (totaling $310 million); the U.S. Global Change Research Program (totaling $187 million); Technology Learning Challenge (totaling $77 million); and Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (totaling $52 million). Foundation-wide investments in these areas are described throughout the FY 1999 Budget Request.