NSF Section of H.Rept 105-297, the VA/HUD Appropriations Conference Report
The conferees are in receipt of the Foundation's explanation of the programmatic areas of Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence in the Information Age and Life and Earth's Environment. The Foundation has not yet provided appropriate milestones and guideposts, to be accomplished in fiscal year 1998, and against which the agency can be measured in determining funding for fiscal year 1999. The conferees expect to receive such milestones and guideposts before the Foundation obligates any further funding for these programmatic areas.
Through a cooperative agreement, the National Science Foundation has authorized the collection of fees for the registration of internet domain names. Under the terms of that agreement, a fund for the intellectual infrastructure of the internet has been established. For purposes of justifying the Foundation's requests for appropriations, the Foundation has included networking activities, such as the domain name registration activity, within its research facilities portfolio. The conferees concur that these activities should be considered research facilities.
Accordingly, the conferees direct the Foundation to credit up to $23,000,000 of the funds collected in the "intellectual infrastructure" fund to the Foundation's Research and Related Activities account for Next Generation Internet activities, pursuant to the authority to credit "receipts for scientific support services and material furnished by National Science Foundation supported research facilities."
The conferees are in agreement with the report of the Senate regarding participation by EPSCoR states in development of the Next Generation Internet. The conferees expect to receive the report by March 31, 1998.
At its March 1997 meeting, the National Science Board evaluated proposals for Partnerships with Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI). At that meeting, two partnership proposals from two existing supercomputing centers were not selected. The Board provided for the phase-out over a period of up to two years of the two centers not selected. This phase-out was designed to recognize the substantial investment made by the United States in these two centers and to keep their resources available to the user community during a period of transition to the new partnership structure.
The conferees are concerned that funding for the orderly phase-out of the two existing supercomputing centers, and the seamless transition of the user community to the new PACI program, be fully and fairly achieved in an expeditious and truly cooperative manner. Rather than providing additional funds for that purpose at this time, the conferees direct the Foundation to provide a report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate which details both the progress of the PACI program to date, and its further plans for the orderly phase-out and seamless transition of the Foundation's supercomputing program. This report should be submitted with the fiscal year 1999 budget and should focus particularly on how "high-end" users of the IBM SP supercomputing system will be fully serviced by the new partnerships, or, if necessary, by the new partnerships in close collaboration with the centers being phased-down.
The conferees have agreed to provide $40,000,000 in addition to the budget request for a competitive, peer-reviewed plant genome research program. The conferees are in agreement that the program established by the National Science Foundation should be accomplished after consultation with the National Science and Technology Council's Interagency Working Group on plant genome research.
The conferees have also agreed to provide $1,000,000 for the United States/Mexico Foundation for Science as proposed by the House.
Finally, the conferees encourage the National Science Foundation to study how it would establish and operate a National Institute for the Environment.
The conferees agree to provide $4,000,000 for technical enhancements to the Gemini telescope project and $70,000,000 for upgrades to Antarctic facilities. The amount provided for Antarctic facilities includes $35,000,000 to be made available immediately and the remaining $35,000,000 to be available on September 30, 1998. The conferees have not provided the budget request of $25,000,000 for the Polar Cap Observatory. The conferees direct the National Science Foundation to provide the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate an analysis of alternative sites for location of the observatory and a report on the scientific justification for the project.
EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES
Appropriates $632,500,000 for education and human resources, as proposed by the House instead of $625,500,000 as proposed by the Senate. The conferees agree to provide $2,000,000 for Advanced Technology Education and $5,000,000 for an initiative to improve the production of science and engineering doctorates drawn from under-represented groups as proposed in the House report. In addition, the conferees agree that the Foundation should provide $6,000,000 for an undergraduate reform initiative to increase the numbers of under-represented populations in mathematics, engineering and the sciences as proposed in the Senate report.
SALARIES AND EXPENSES
Appropriates $136,950,000 for salaries and expenses, the same as provided by the House and the Senate. The conferees agree with the direction contained in the Senate report with regard to reporting total cost of administration and management.