National Science Foundation
Fiscal Year 1999 Budget Request

The National Science Foundation requests $3.8 billion for Fiscal Year 1999, a 10 percent increase over FY 1998, to invest in nearly 20,000 research and education projects in science and engineering. This investment, part of the President's Research Fund for America, is motivated by a clear vision of how science and technology can shape our future as a nation and drive progress, productivity and innovation across our society.

These striking examples speak to the priorities and directions contained in NSF's FY 1999 Budget Request. The request is built upon NSF’s strength—a broad base of research and education in science and engineering that enables people and ideas to flourish. This strength is derived from the agency’s effective use of merit review to identify the most promising ideas and most capable researchers and educators. NSF’s investment strategy also emphasizes focused emerging areas that hold great promise both from a research and education standpoint and as drivers of economic growth and societal benefit.
NSF Funding by Appropriation
(Millions of Dollars)


FY 1998 
Current Plan*
FY 1999 Request
Percent Change
Research and Related Activities
Education and Human Resources
Major Research Equipment
Salaries and Expenses
Office of Inspector General
Total, National Science Foundation
                * In addition, in FY 1998 NSF was provided $23 million from the Internet domain name registration fees.

Highlights and Priorities

The FY 1999 request provides over $2.1 billion, a 12.0 percent increase, for investments in research project support across NSF’s appropriations. Education and training activities across the Foundation increase by 10.7 percent to a level of $737 million. Funding priorities throughout this request are shaped by NSF’s ongoing strategic planning process which identifies research and education activities to advance science and engineering across all fields and disciplines.

NSF will provide significant resources for efforts to address serious concerns about grant sizes. The substantial increase will enable NSF to support forefront research activities across the Foundation by increasing award sizes and award durations, with particular attention to new investigators. These efforts will contribute to increasing the efficiency of the Foundation’s merit review process and achieving greater cost-effectiveness for both NSF and the university community.

 Among the priorities for FY 1999 are activities associated with the areas of Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI), Life and Earth's Environment (LEE), and Educating for the Future (EFF). These represent areas for focused investment which combine exciting opportunities in research and education with immense potential for benefits to society.

Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence. The explosive growth in computing power and communications connectivity has brought forth unprecedented opportunities for providing rapid and efficient access to knowledge and information, for studying complex systems, and for advancing our understanding of learning and intelligent behavior. KDI is a Foundation-wide effort that aims to improve our ability to discover, collect, represent, transmit, and apply information.

The FY 1999 request includes an increase of almost $78 million to substantially enhance specific activities that relate to Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence. Key emphases in FY 1999 include research on knowledge networking, learning and intelligent systems, and new challenges to computation. Also included are activities related to the Next Generation Internet to increase basic understanding and usability of networks. The request also continues investments in the very high-speed Backbone Network Service, which has brought new levels of networking capabilities to the nation's research universities.

Life and Earth's Environment. The FY 1999 request includes an increment of more than $88 million for specific activities that relate to the theme of 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.

FY 1999 investments will emphasize research on life in extreme environments, urban communities, environmental technologies, global change, integrated environmental research challenges, and environmental observatories. Within LEE, funding for the U.S. Global Change Research Program increases by 12 percent, with emphases on climate modeling, earth system history, human dimensions of global change, and global ecology.

Educating for the Future. The request includes continued support for innovative approaches that are intended to meet the challenge of educating students for the 21st Century. NSF's FY 1999 investments in EFF activities increase by $107 million and include:

Additional Highlights for FY 1999:

Complementing activities related to these themes are a number of other Foundation-wide programs designed to address particularly important elements of the support of research and education.

Arctic Research and Education. Recognizing the importance of the Arctic to studies of resource development and global phenomena such as climate change and ocean circulation, NSF's FY 1999 Request includes more than $80 million for investments in Arctic research and education across the Foundation. Within this amount, funding for Arctic logistics more than doubles.

Emphases of NSF’s enhanced activities in the Arctic include: expansion of logistical capabilities, research platforms and facilities; extension of education and outreach activities, especially those exploring new technology venues and distance learning; connections to Year of the Ocean activities; increased scientific cooperation at international levels; and further development of research programs on the human dimensions of global change.

Major Research Equipment. The Request includes $94 million for Major Research Equipment, which will support:

Plant Genome Research. NSF will provide $40 million to continue investments in the Plant Genome Research Program begun in FY 1998. This effort is built upon an existing base of genome research supported by NSF. The overall goals of the NSF Plant Genome Research Program are to support research that will advance our understanding of the structure, organization and function of plant genomes, with particular attention to economically significant plants, and to accelerate utilization of new knowledge and innovative technologies toward a more complete understanding of basic biological processes in plants.

GOALI. Support for the GOALI program (Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry) will total almost $34 million, an increase of 13 percent, to facilitate collaborative research activities between academe and industry.

EPSCoR. Funding for EPSCoR (the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) will total more than $50 million. This includes $38 million provided through the Education and Human Resources appropriation, and approximately $15 million through NSF’s research programs, to enable researchers supported through EPSCoR to participate more fully in other Foundation-wide activities.

Other Areas of Opportunity. NSF will enhance investments in areas of opportunity across NSF, in priority areas such as nanoscale science and nanoengineering, bioengineering, research on the quantum realm, active tectonics, and innovative human/computer interfaces to aid persons with disabilities.

GLOBE. NSF continues its participation in the interagency Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment Initiative (GLOBE). The GLOBE Program provides environmental science education to K-12 students in more than 3,500 schools and 45 countries.

The Bottom Line

Through these investments, NSF's portfolio sets the stage for a 21st Century research and education enterprise that continues to lead and shape the information revolution, addresses key national priorities in such areas as global change and the environment, improves teaching and learning at all levels of education, and commits itself to reaching out and advancing public understanding of science and technology. Guiding all of these activities is the Foundation's longstanding commitment to merit-based investments in learning and discovery that adhere to the highest standards of excellence.

A wealth of evidence testifies to the impressive returns generated by these investments. One ground-breaking study funded by NSF and published in the Fall 1997 issue of the journal Research Policy found a rapidly growing linkage between industrial innovation and scientific research. The study examined patents in key areas of industrial technology, including biomedicine, chemistry, and electrical components. It found that nearly three-fourths of the research papers cited by U.S. industry patents are what the study termed "public science" –papers authored at universities, government laboratories, and other public and non-profit centers. Furthermore, the research underlying the cited papers was found to be heavily supported by NSF and other federal agencies.

These latest findings add to an already compelling body of evidence on the contributions of fundamental science and engineering to economic growth, productivity and innovation. As President Clinton noted in a speech given on December 16, 1997: "Half our economic growth in the last half-century has come from technological innovation and the science that supports it."

Recent NSF-supported work, for example, has led to:

NSF's FY 1999 request seeks to increase the already high returns on the taxpayer's investment. A special emphasis is placed on activities that improve the productivity and efficiency of research and education. Providing larger award sizes with longer award durations, for example, can enable forefront research, improve research productivity, and contribute to reducing the administrative burden on both NSF and the university community. Similarly, priority is given throughout the Foundation to activities—such as the GOALI program—with strong ties to industry and other potential users of the results generated by NSF-supported activities.

This request marks a significant step forward for U.S. science and engineering. The requested increase of 10 percent provides a level of investment in keeping with the wealth of opportunity that science and engineering offer to our society. In addition, rigorous priority setting within the investment framework, with its emphasis on multidisciplinary approaches and the integration of research and education, will help position America to remain a world leader in the information-driven economy of the 21st Century.