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Photo of Dr. France A. Córdova

Photo by NSF/
Stephen Voss

Dr. France A. Córdova
National Science Foundation


FY2017 NSF Budget Request Overview
Arlington, VA

February 9, 2016

If you're interested in reproducing any of the slides, please contact the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs: (703) 292-8070.

[Slide #1: Title Slide: National Science Foundation Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request]

Good afternoon. Thank you for being here as we roll out the President's proposed fiscal year 2017 budget for the National Science Foundation. Those in attendance recognize that our agency's mission is vital to America's future. NSF supports research that enhances our nation's security, drives the U.S. economy, and advances our knowledge to sustain global leadership.

Investing in the youth of today leads to the STEM professionals of tomorrow. Investing in our universities results in cutting-edge developments that pave the way for new industries and technologies. And investing in basic research keeps our nation innovative and our economic markets growing.

[Slide #2: NSF FY 2017 Budget Request]

NSF's mission, first and foremost, is making the bold ideas of today's scientists into tomorrow's realities. We can only achieve this through strong, stable support of basic science and engineering research.

Nations across the globe -- including the United States -- are steadily strengthening their support of research and development. The U.S. needs to continue investing in R&D to maintain global leadership.

This budget allows NSF to remain one of the country's leaders in funding research, development, and -- most importantly -- the people who are our innovators and discoverers. It proposes priorities that count on robust funding.

[Slide #3: Vannevar Bush Quote]

As many of you know, NSF was created 66 years ago, with the mission to "promote the progress of science ... advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare ... [and] to secure the national defense ...." We continue to carry out this vital mission by supporting basic research.

[Slide #4: Total NSF Request]

The proposed fiscal year 2017 budget requests approximately $8 billion, an increase of 6.7 percent, or about $500 million, over the enacted FY 16 budget. Of that, $400 million is in a budget category known as mandatory spending.

Such funding will require legislation in addition to our regular appropriation. It reflects the Administration's commitment to strengthening support for NSF, while also recognizing the constraints imposed by the caps on discretionary spending.

We receive about 50,000 proposals each year and select about 12,000 for funding. This means that we decline about 38,000 proposals each year -- many of them passed over due to lack of funds, rather than failing to meet our standards.

This budget will help us increase the amount of great science we support, rather than leaving potential discovery and innovation on the cutting room floor due to lack of funding.

It will help us invest in the next generation of discoverers who will continue to advance new knowledge that supports this country's economy, security, and global leadership. What I hear most often from scientists as I travel across the country is that NSF funded their first grants, sometimes as a student.

This budget will also enrich our support of nationwide priorities, such as the Administration's cancer "moonshot", spearheaded by Vice President Biden. NSF has funded important research related to cancer; as an example, NSF has funded two of last year's Nobel Prize winners in chemistry. They had NSF funding that helped lead to their pioneering breakthrough in DNA repair.

Also, our strong investments in data-sharing, computational infrastructure like Hub Zero, fundamental biology, nanotechnology and more makes us well positioned to address some of the major research gaps that have to be closed in our fight to cure cancer.

[Slide #5: NSF Funding]

Of NSF's proposed $8 billion annual budget, about 93 percent funds research and educational activities. Every year we support about 2,000 institutions and 350,000 people. Awards are determined through a merit review process, regarded throughout the world as the gold standard of scientific review. It relies on the expertise of accomplished scientists to ensure all NSF projects are of the highest quality and have the potential to advance the frontiers of knowledge and transform our world.

[Slide #6: Students at the "Introduction to Robotics" Summer Camp]

Transformation often begins with helping others. We ensure all NSF projects work to benefit society through our broader impacts criterion. Broader impacts come in many forms -- mentoring undergraduate students, for example, or connecting researchers with industry -- but they all work to widen the benefits of NSF-funded projects.

NSF is also responsible for building and sustaining the public trust through the transparency of our processes and the accountability of our organization. We remain committed to being sound stewards of taxpayer dollars.

[Slide #7: Girls Playing with Cubelets]

What are the characteristics of NSF? One is ubiquity. Advances in science and engineering are permeating the way we do everything, the way we work, communicate, and learn.

Another is urgency. It is vital that NSF remains in the position to respond to critical priorities now, rapidly evolving and accelerating the pace of discovery and innovation.

And, of course, engagement -- NSF's key strength. We could not operate without the bold ideas of the scientific community. We are also committed to engaging the public in the thrill of discovery and increasing understanding of and appreciation for scientific research.

[Slide #8: NSF Directorates and Offices]

We like to say that NSF is where discoveries, and discoverers, begin. We are the only federal agency whose mission covers both education and fundamental research across all fields of science and engineering.

The scope of NSF research is immense: it has led to barcodes and Doppler radar, catalogued languages and decoded genomes. It has led to the creation of Google and the internet as we know it. We've supported 217 Nobel Prize winners and hundreds of small businesses. Some of which, like Qualcomm, grow up to become big businesses.

[Slide #9: NSF Support of Academic Basic Research in Selected Fields (as a percentage of total federal support)]

NSF is also a major federal funding source for academic basic research. Many government organizations work to ensure the U.S. leads in research and innovation. We partner with many of them on research initiatives.

Yet while other agencies provide mission-directed research in fields such as health or defense, NSF is uniquely poised to support fundamental research, regardless of its field of study. NSF is the major funder of universities in critical fields -- like mathematics, biology, and environmental sciences -- ensuring these vital research areas contribute to increasing the nation's leadership.

As you can see from the slide, the vast majority of basic research for academic computer science comes from NSF. For nearly a decade, NSF has led the effort to build the research foundations required to implement rigorous and engaging computer science instruction in U.S. schools.

We are continuing this effort in the Computer Science or CS for All initiative. It is a new White House initiative which aims to give all U.S. students the chance to learn computer science. NSF is a lead federal agency in the initiative. In addition to our considerable experience supporting rigorous, evidence-based education research, we are committing $120 million over five years to enable vibrant and engaging Computer Science education in schools across the nation.

[Slide #10: Some of Our Major FY 17 Initiatives]

The research funded by NSF addresses national priorities. Some of our major FY 17 initiatives are understanding the brain; studying the nexus of food, energy and water; and investigating how to build communities that are prepared in the face of disasters. Basic research supporting models that predict weather emergencies helped prepare us for snow storm Jonas, which recently shut down much of the East Coast.

We are also working to advance INCLUDES, an initiative which aims to broaden participation in STEM and ensure our nation has a top-notch, diverse science and engineering workforce.

Furthermore, we are participating in a landmark commitment to accelerate global clean energy innovation made by President Obama and other world leaders. Through this initiative, the U.S. and 19 other countries have committed to doubling their clean energy research and development investment over five years.

NSF proposes to invest $512 million in clean energy technologies to support this initiative. This will better integrate clean energy research across agencies, and will work to enable broader participation by the public and private sector. NSF will increase its investment in cybercorps-scholarships for service; research traineeships for graduate students; and major research instrumentation, which is so important for scientific work at our nation's colleges and universities.

The road towards soundly securing our role as the world's leader in innovation may be long but the money spent on basic research is not optional in a successful economy. It is a necessary investment that will ensure the U.S. remains the birthplace of great ideas and great discoveries.

To that end, I could leave you with some thoughts about what might be on the horizon for research and development, but I am happy to say I have no idea. NSF has goals and priorities, of course, objectives defined by the needs of government and the expectations of citizens. But we never actually know what project may be the first step in creating a new world.

[Slide #11: NSF Logo]

This is one of the reasons scientists and engineers drive NSF priorities, and why we have such strong relationships with the science and engineering communities. When we give them the means to succeed -- strong research support and oversight -- the scientific dreams of today become the realities of tomorrow.

Science isn't predictable. If years ago everyone knew how revolutionary the internet would be, then quite a few people would be quite a bit richer, wouldn't they. And who foresaw the impact of MRI's or Doppler radar? Or, for that matter, general relativity and GPS that makes sense of it. Science blindsides us, it surprises us. It humbles us. It creates expectations and then shatters them.

When we fund basic research, we take one small step to try and better understand our world. It's a calculated risk. But small steps led us to the internet and solar panels, 3-D printing and lifesaving drugs. And it will be small steps that bring us closer to clean energy, understanding the brain, and curing cancer.

NSF funds thousands of small steps, some more successful than others. Einstein said that, "If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research," but he went on to say, that "you never fail until you stop trying."

I hope I've given you a clearer picture of our essential role in enhancing our nation's security, driving the U.S. economy, and helping sustain global leadership. Therefore, I ask you to join me in continuing to support our mission as we strive to expand our field of vision and anticipate new discoveries. Thank you again for joining me today. I know our wonderful ADs will give you all the budget details you crave in our question and answer session. Thanks very much for being here today.

[Slide #12: Title Slide: National Science Foundation Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request]

See related NSF FY 2017 Budget Request materials.