Issue Date: February 27, 2012
NSF: President Maintains Growth For Core Research
The National Science Foundation fares particularly well in the President’s 2013 request, which proposes a budget of $7.4 billion, up 4.8% for 2013. This increase delays the planned doubling of the agency’s budget, but it’s still good news in an era of overall budget cuts.
“The Administration and Congress have conveyed their clear determination to build on the nation’s history of success in leading-edge discovery and innovation,” NSF Director Subra Suresh said at an agency budget briefing. “That is the unambiguous message of the President’s 2013 budget request for NSF.”
Much of the proposed increase would support areas important to the President’s larger economic goals, such as manufacturing and computing, and programs that are part of the OneNSF strategic plan, which aims to unify the agency behind a single purpose. One example that hits both priorities is the Cyber-Enabled Materials, Manufacturing & Smart Systems program, which would help turn static manufacturing processes into computer-based systems. Its budget would jump 82.3%, from $141 million in 2012 to $257 million in 2013.
Research at NSF would get a 5.2% boost in funding, with the Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences, which includes the Chemistry Division, seeing a 2.8% bump to $1.3 billion. The largest increase, 23%, goes to the Office of Integrative Activities, which supports interdisciplinary and NSF-wide research projects, such as many of the new OneNSF priorities. “We’ve made a very strong commitment to core frontier research in all of the fields of science and engineering, because this is really what drives innovation: basic research,” Suresh said.
Funding for all disciplinary divisions would increase under the President’s proposal. Chemistry would get a 4.2% increase to $244 million in 2013. Other chemistry-related fields would get increases, too, including 5.5% for the Division of Molecular & Cellular Biosciences. However, these jumps would mean only a small change in the number of grants NSF awards; the overall funding rates for both competitive awards and research grants is projected to stay flat.
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is a priority for both the President and NSF. The agency would receive an additional $40 million in proposed funding, to $1.2 billion. A new math education program to be operated jointly by NSF and the Department of Education would receive $60 million to support programs at the K–12 and undergraduate levels, with each agency kicking in half of the program’s budget. Two previously funded undergraduate education programs would also get a funding boost: Widening Implementation & Demonstration of Evidence-Based Reforms would receive $20 million, up from $8 million, and Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM would get $61 million, up $39 million.
Funding for construction of major new research centers would stay essentially flat from last year, at around $196 million. The largest project, a continentwide environment observation system called the National Ecological Observatory Network, would receive $91 million, up from $60 million, or 50.9% more than last year. Three other projects would continue to receive construction funding: the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, and the Ocean Observatories Initiative.
To make many of these increases possible, NSF’s 2013 budget requests $67 million in cuts or consolidations, mainly from programs in computer science and math. Funding of the Nanoscale Science & Engineering Centers would also decrease by $5 million. Two public outreach programs—Communicating Science Broadly and Connecting Researchers with Public Audiences—funded at a total of $6 million would be eliminated.
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