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Volume 87 Issue 16 | p. 3 | Editor's Page
Issue Date: April 20, 2009

Speaking Up For NSF

Department: Editor's Page

This guest editorial is by Madeleine Jacobs, ACS Executive Director and CEO, who recently testified with other scientific societies on behalf of the NSF fiscal 2010 appropriations.

ON APRIL 2, representatives from the American Chemical Society, the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the American Physical Society (APS), and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science & Related Agencies in support of the National Science Foundation's fiscal 2010 budget of $7 billion. This represents an increase of 7.9% over fiscal 2009 and is consistent with President Barack Obama's budget as well as his pledge to double basic science funding over 10 years.

Together, these four societies represent more than 300,000 scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. We were united in our testimony that there is a critical need for sustained support of NSF foundational research and its funding for education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The four societies coordinated their testimony, emphasizing different areas but all supporting the fact that NSF-funded research has fueled innovation, energized the economy, and improved the quality of life for all Americans.

In my testimony on behalf of ACS, I emphasized that chemistry plays a key role in conquering diseases, solving energy problems, and providing discoveries that lead to new industries, materials, and technologies. I further emphasized that robust, sustained federal investment in NSF's basic scientific research is critical to bolstering our country's capacity for innovation and global economic competitiveness. Large increases in funding that are followed by stagnating or declining budgets undermine long-term research investments and discourage young people who are considering scientific careers.

APS CEO Judy Franz followed up on this point: "It is important that we avoid the 'boom and bust' cycle for science funding that has been seen in the past, one in which science funds rise abruptly and then fall short of needs several years later." She recommended appropriating new, one-year start-up funds for young, nontenured faculty members.

James G. Glimm, AMS past-president, noted that NSF accounts for 60% of federally funded mathematical research in colleges and universities and is the only agency that funds mathematics research broadly across all subfields. NSF-supported mathematicians, for example, have improved the design of stents and provided the promise of better forecasts of how global warming will affect Earth's ice packs.

Richard B. Marchase, FASEB president, stressed the importance of NSF research to improving human health and its role in supporting interdisciplinary research at "the very exciting interface between the physical and biological sciences."

All four societies also supported NSF's educational mission. ACS urged increased support for NSF's innovative Math & Science Partnership program, which has improved student proficiency in math and science in many schools; increased federal investment in the Noyce Scholarship Program, which prepares high-quality teachers and encourages college STEM majors to pursue teaching careers in high-need schools; and funding for the Partnerships for Access to Laboratory Science Pilot Program that will provide research to help our children with high-quality, hands-on science learning opportunities in a safe laboratory setting.

Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), who conducted our portion of the hearing, complimented the four societies on their coordinated and reinforcing messages. His response suggests that scientists may accomplish more to increase research funding if we work together.

ACS has made it a high priority to advocate for increased funding for basic research and STEM education. All of science and our nation benefit by this approach. I urge you to join with ACS by signing on to the ACS Legislative Action Network (act4chemistry.org) to add your support for the fiscal 2010 NSF budget and other important congressional appropriations.

 

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

 
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