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NSF & Congress


Dr. Bordogna

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 mission.

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 investment.

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 investment priorities.

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 agencies.

During this process, NSF focuses on identifying the most promising unmet opportunities and giving them increased attention.

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 Summary