Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation's FY2003 Budget:
Sustaining U.S. Leadership Across the Frontiers of
February 4, 2002
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Good afternoon... and welcome one and all... to our
annual NSF budget fest. We have some encouraging news
to share with you today. But first let me go over
the order of the day. I'll speak for a few minutes...
and touch upon a number of points on the upcoming
slides... and afterwards, I'll be glad to answer whatever
questions you may have. I believe the full text of
my remarks, as well as a copy of all the slides you'll
see, are in the budget information packages in the
back of the room.
#1) It is with a sense of pride and purpose
that we present the National Science Foundation's
budget for the coming fiscal year. It is not just
a balance sheet. It is a blueprint for our nation's
Every year, for more than half a century, the Foundation's
investments at the frontiers of discovery have enriched
Americans' health, security, environment, economy,
and general well-being.
And every year, the Foundation's optimal use of limited
public funds has relied on two conditions. Number
one is ensuring that our research and education investments
are - and continuously re-aimed - at the leading edge
of understanding. And number two is certifying that
every dollar goes to competitive, merit-reviewed,
and time-limited awards that have a clear criteria
When these two conditions are met, our nation gets
the most intellectual and economic leverage from its
research and education investments.
#2) This year the National Science Foundation
is requesting a bit more than $5 billion. That's an
additional $240 million, or about five percent more
than last year. For the United States to stay on the
leading edge of discovery and innovation, we cannot
#3) Here you'll see the budget request broken
down by the various appropriation categories.
Yet another way to look at it is by our strategic goals
of people, ideas, and tools (Slide
#4). And this next chart (Slide
#5) shows the relative proportions that go
to each. Finally, we also break it down into the actual
dollar amounts. (Slide
Maintaining the pace of discovery and producing the
finest scientists and engineers for the twenty-first
century are NSF's principal goals. Investments proposed
in this budget are key to developing our nation's
talent and increasing the productivity of our workforce.
#7) You'll see that this year the budget includes
a second installment of $200 million for the President's
five year Math and Science Partnership program. That's
the cornerstone of President Bush's education policy.
And it's a top priority for us. This links local schools
with colleges and universities to improve preK-12
math and science education. It also helps to train
math and science teachers. And it creates innovative
ways to reach out to underserved students and schools.
#8) We need to attract more of the nation's
most promising students into graduate level science
and engineering. So we are requesting an investment
of approximately $37 million to increase stipends
for graduate fellows to $25,000 per year.
#9) We are also requesting funding for six
priority areas, shown here. The two largest are for
nanotechnology and information technology. Both these
areas can only achieve their full potential if they
#10) The emerging field of nanoscale science
and engineering -- the ability to manipulate and control
matter at atomic and molecular levels - promises revolutionary
breakthroughs. Advances will come in areas such as
materials and manufacturing, medicine and healthcare,
environment and energy, biotechnology and agriculture,
and, of course, national security.
New paradigms will use advances in quantum computation
and nanoelectronics. That will mean radically faster
computers that begin to solve problems previous dismissed
as "uncomputable." A good example would be a full-scale
simulation of our biosphere. Viewing cells as computational
devices will help us design the next generation of
computers that will feature self organization, self
repair, and adaptive characteristics as seen in biological
#11) NSF's Information Technology Research
- now entering its fourth year - will support a wide
range of interdisciplinary research that includes
strengthening large-scale networks and creating advanced
architectures for high-end computing. Other research
will focus on providing safe, trusted computing systems
in interconnected environments. We will also address
fundamental questions about the efficacy of IT in
education and the challenge of integrating cutting-edge
IT into curricula and classrooms.
#12) These and other challenges will require
new mathematical tools, techniques, and insights.
We propose to invest $60 million as part of a new
priority area in mathematical and statistical sciences.
This research will ultimately advance interdisciplinary
science and engineering. Mathematics has become indispensable
in fields as diverse as biology, sociology, climate,
and proteomics. By using data-mining and by comparing
enormous sets of data, we can also find trends, patterns,
and insights that are necessary to improve the safety
and reliability of our telecommunications network,
our electric power grid, and our air traffic control
system. And only by modeling the enormous complexity
of the living world can we fully understand it.
#13) Our request also includes $185 million
directed toward NSF's Learning for the 21st Century
Workforce priority area. A key centerpiece includes
$20 million to fund three to four new multi-disciplinary,
multi-institutional Science of Learning Centers. We
need to improve our understanding of how we learn,
how we remember, and how to best use new information
technology to promote learning. As we gain new insights
into human learning, we will be better able to explore
how educational institutions -- at all levels -- foster
or inhibit learning. That will help us develop more
effective strategies to prepare our future workforce
#14) We are also requesting $10 million to
seed a new priority area in the social, behavioral,
and economic sciences. By exploring the complex interactions
between new technology and society, we can better
anticipate and prepare for the consequences of those
#15) Finally, our request includes $79 million
for research on biocomplexity in the environment.
This builds upon our past investments studying the
remarkable and dynamic web of interrelationships when
living things at all levels interact with their environment.
There will be two new areas of research this year
- in microbial genome sequencing and in the ecology
of infectious diseases. With new knowledge, we can
develop strategies to assess and manage the risks
of infectious diseases, invasive species, and biological
#16) There are a number of other highlights
this year. In particular, I call your attention to
the Administration's new multi-agency Climate Change
Research Initiative. We will implement a $15 million
research program to advance understanding in highly
focused areas of climate science to reduce uncertainty
and to facilitate policy decisions. Additionally,
you'll note there are a number of other priorities
listed. (EPSCoR, Plant Genome, S&T Centers)
#17) Just as Olympic athletes need the finest
equipment and training protocols to triumph, so do
scientists, engineers, and their students need the
most modern research instruments that have the best
capabilities, the farthest reach, and the finest accuracy.
The budget allocates $30 million for the next phase
of construction of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array
(ALMA). This will be the world's most sensitive, highest
resolution radio telescope used to study stellar evolution,
galaxy formation, and the evolution of the universe
Two new construction projects are included in
the FY2003 budget. We hope to establish two prototype
sites of the National Ecological Observatory Network
(NEON) at a cost of $12 million. These sites will
help analyze data and detect abrupt changes or long-term
trends in the environment. And, indeed, they will
serve as an early warning and detection system for
a wide array of chemical and biological warfare agents.
Additionally, the budget requests $35 million for
EarthScope to detect and investigate earthquakes,
volcanic eruptions, and landslides on the North American
#18) You'll note that the NSF budget also
includes transfers of programs from three other agencies,
shown here (Slide
#19) and there will also be some enhancements
to the NSF workforce.
Let me take just a minute to call your attention to
the facts on this slide. Over the past dozen years,
the NSF budget has doubled. The number of proposals
has grown. In 2001, 2000 more proposals than the previous
year alone. And so has their complexity. Yet our staffing
levels have remained the same. But this year, help
at long last is on the way!
I also call your attention to the last point. The Director
of OMB, Mitch Daniels, recently said at the National
Press Club that NSF deserved to be singled out and
strengthened. He added, and I quote, "NSF is one of
the true centers of excellence in the government where
95% of the funds that taxpayers provide goes out on
a competitive basis directly to researchers pursuing
the frontiers of science at a very low overhead cost."
#20) Finally, on a personal note, I'd like
to close with these thoughts. Let me return to the
transformational event almost five months ago that
has left all of us heartsick as a nation.and how it
affects the entire NSF family across the whole United
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September
11, the stakes for all of these investments could
not be higher. The future of our nation -- indeed,
the future of our world -- are more dependent than
ever before upon advances in science and technology.
An inspired American scientific community is now focused
on ensuring not just our security... but our very
quality of life.
We well remember that our national security includes
the strength of our spirit... and the ingenuity of
our workforce... as much as the size of our arsenal.
And we are heartened by the echo of the words of President
Franklin D. Roosevelt in his secret letter to J. Robert
Oppenheimer in 1943 ... and I quote: "Whatever the
enemy may be planning, American science will be equal
to the challenge."
Americans have always had a passion for discovery and
a sense of adventure. Those deeply rooted American
qualities have enabled us to reach our distant horizons,
and then set out for new ones in our restless quest
for knowledge. The Foundation's investments are essential
to our strategy for attaining our overarching national
We can not be sure which areas of fundamental
science and engineering will yield ground-breaking
discoveries, what those discoveries will be, or how
they will impact other disciplines, and, eventually,
benefit our daily lives.
But what the National Science Foundation can
help ensure is that the United States remains at the
forefront of scientific capability by sustaining our
investments in basic research... thereby enhancing
our ability to shape a more prosperous and secure
future for ourselves, our children, and future generations.
Thank you very much.