NSF Section of VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Conference Report H.Rept. 105-769
RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES
Appropriates $2,770,000,000 for research and related activities instead of $2,815,000,000 as proposed by the House and $2,725,000,000 as proposed by the Senate. Bill language is included which provides a limitation of $257,460,000 for Polar research and operations support. The conferees have also included bill language which prohibits the expenditure of funds after September 30, 1998 for activities associated with the administration of the Internet.
Specific bill language which provided $50,000,000 for a comprehensive research initiative on plant genomes for economically significant crops as proposed by the Senate has not been included, however, the conferees have included $50,000,000 for such an initiative within the overall research program funded through this account. This amount represents an increase of $10,000,000 above the budget request.
The conferees note that the amount provided the research and related activities account represents an increase of nearly $225,000,000, or eight percent, over the comparable fiscal year 1998 level. The Foundation is expected to spread this increase across all research directorates in a proportional manner consistent with the budget proposal. Within this framework, the Foundation is expected to make every effort to maximize resources for the Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences programs. The conferees also note that the GLOBE program has been provided up to $2,000,000.
For the U.S. Arctic Research Program, the conferees have provided up to $22,000,000, an increase of up to $12,500,000 above the budget request. These additional funds are intended to support ongoing and planned high priority research in the Arctic region, including appropriate logistic needs. Prior to the obligation of these additional resources, the conferees expect the Foundation to provide a detailed spending plan on the use of these funds. Such plan should be submitted as part of the fiscal year 1999 operating plan.
The conferees have not included provisions as contained in the Senate report which created three new research centers for applied molecular biology and which provided funds to establish three new centers under the KDI program. The conferees believe that support for doctoral I and doctoral II institutions (as classified by the Carnegie Foundation) is critical if the nation is to fully develop its human resources with respect to science and engineering research. The conferees recognize that NSF support for these institutions currently exceeds $150,000,000 or about eight percent of the total NSF research budget. Nevertheless, the conferees expect the NSF to take all appropriate steps to enhance the resources available for doctoral I and II institutions, including taking steps to ensure that all directorates below the NSF-wide average increase grants for these institutions to achieve no less than this eight percent level. Moreover, the conferees direct the Foundation to review the need for the establishment of new centers to meet the purposes as proposed by the Senate, and review the desirability and feasibility of establishing a new and separate pool of resources to benefit doctoral I and II institutions. The conferees expect these reviews to be completed and submitted to the Committees on Appropriations no later than April 1, 1999.
The conferees believe that the ''Grand Challenges'' identified in the National Research Council's recent report, ''Opportunities in Ocean Science,'' contains valuable perspectives on the benefit derived by broad coordinated research investigations. The NSF director shall communicate the findings of the report, and counsel with The National Ocean Leadership Council and the Office of Management and Budget, to define ocean science initiatives that will help realize the economic and environmental benefits described in the report.
Within amounts provided in this account, $1,500,000 is for continued operation of the RaDiUs database program. The conferees note that this database may represent a useful tool in the analysis of all research and development expenditures throughout the Federal government, and request the Foundation to report by May 1, 1999 on its assessment of the value and usefulness of this program. The amount provided is in addition to other amounts provided to the Foundation for CTI services.
MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT
Appropriates $90,000,000 for major research equipment as proposed by the House instead of $94,000,000 as proposed by the Senate. Included within this amount is $9,000,000 for the Millimeter Array, $22,000,000 for the Large Hadron Collider, $20,000,000 for Polar support aircraft upgrades, and $39,000,000 for continued maintenance and construction of new facilities in Antarctica.
EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES
Appropriates $662,000,000 for education and human resources instead of $642,500,000 as proposed by the House and $683,000,000 as proposed by the Senate. The conferees have included bill language renaming the Alliances for Minority Participation (AMP) Program after retiring Congressman Louis Stokes. The purpose of the AMP Program is to build partnerships among different kinds of institutions of higher education for the express purpose of attracting and retaining minority students in academic programs that lead to degrees in science and engineering. Congressman Stokes has been equally committed to building partnerships and alliances throughout his distinguished career. It is therefore fitting that this program which embodies these important principles be redesignated the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program.
Within the amount provided, $46,000,000 is for the Informal Education Program, and an increase of $10,000,000 above the budget request is provided for the EPSCoR program.
The conferees have provided $13,500,000 through the education and human resources account for education reform initiatives targeted to underrepresented populations served through the nation's historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Of these amounts, $7,500,000 shall be allocated for graduate level activities, and $6,000,000 for undergraduate activities under the UPUR program established in House Report 105-297. The undergraduate funds are to be augmented with an additional $2,000,000 from the research and related activities account for a total UPUR program level for fiscal year 1999 of $8,000,000.
For fiscal year 1998, $6,000,000 was provided for this program by the NSF instead of $12,000,000 as intended by the conferees. As a result, fewer institutions were given the opportunity to compete for available resources. It is the intent of the conferees that all eligible institutions, including those which were granted awards in fiscal year 1998, be given equal opportunity to compete for funds provided for fiscal year 1999. It is also the intent of the conferees that awards be of sufficient size so as to meet the needs of the competing institutions. However, it is not the intent of the conferees that NSF establish either a minimum or a maximum award size in the determination of grant recipients. Rather, each application should be judged on its merits without regard to its proposed cost. Finally, the Foundation is urged to indicate in its fiscal year 2000 budget submission how it intends to sustain the UPUR initiative at appropriate funding levels.