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Volume 87 Issue 20 | p. 6 | News of The Week
Issue Date: May 18, 2009

NSF Rolls Out Stimulus Plan

Agency will use money to support mix of new and existing programs
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Stimulus Funding
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The "optical nose" being developed at the University of Alabama is an example of a project that could benefit from NSF's ARRA funds.
Credit: Sergey Mirov/U of Alabama
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The "optical nose" being developed at the University of Alabama is an example of a project that could benefit from NSF's ARRA funds.
Credit: Sergey Mirov/U of Alabama

NSF WILL USE $2.6 BILLION of its stimulus recovery act money to fund projects and proposals already in the pipeline, according to the agency. It will invest the remaining $400 million of its American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allocation in a pair of new solicitations for grant proposals to update labs and improve instrument availability.

"The President is depending on NSF to help lead the nation to a new era of discovery and innovation," NSF Director Arden L. Bement Jr. said in a statement. "Investments in research and education build a strong economic foundation for the country."

Because NSF didn't get additional funds to administer ARRA money and there is a large backlog of promising proposals, "the NSF approach makes sense as an effective way to quickly distribute the recovery act funds," says Glenn Ruskin, director of the ACS Office of Public Affairs.

Joanne P. Carney, director of the Center for Science, Technology & Congress at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, agrees. NSF's approach is "very pragmatic and logical" given the number of grant proposals they've been unable to fund and the urgency with which the ARRA funds must be spent, she says.

The ARRA funds set aside for new solicitations will be divided equally between facility updgrades and lab instrumentation purchases. NSF will invest $200 million to fund repairs and renovations to existing academic research facilities. Projects will be awarded up to $10 million each and can include research spaces such as buildings, mobile research facilities, and virtual facilities that use broadband-based technologies to bring scientists together. The other $200 million will fund the purchase and development of shared-use instruments. Up to $6 million each will go to individual projects.

Passed in February, ARRA gives federal agencies 60 days to submit plans detailing how they would use the money. NSF has complied with that requirement, a spokesman says. But the agency had to wait for Congress and the White House Office of Management & Budget to approve its plans before they could be released. According to the spokesman, the approvals just took a while to get done.

 
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