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NSF & Congress
NSF Section of S.Rept. 105-53, the Senate VA/HUD Committee Report

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Research and Related Activities
Major Research Equipment
Education and Human Resources
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NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Appropriations, 1997

$3,270,000,000

Budget estimate, 1998

$3,367,000,000

Committee recommendation

$3,377,000,000

General Description

The National Science Foundation was established as an independent agency by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-507) and is authorized to support basic and applied research, science and technology policy research, and science and engineering education programs to promote the progress of science and engineering in the United States.

The Foundation supports fundamental and applied research in all major scientific and engineering disciplines, through grants, contracts, and other forms of assistance, such as cooperative agreements, awarded to more than 2,000 colleges and universities, and to nonprofit organizations and other research organizations in all parts of the United States. The Foundation also supports major national and international programs and research facilities.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends $3,377,000,000 for the National Science Foundation for fiscal year 1998. This amount is $107,000,000 more than the 1997 level and $10,000,000 more than the budget request.

RESEARCH AND RELATED ACTIVITIES

Appropriations, 1997

$2,432,000,000

Budget estimate, 1998

$2,514,700,000

Committee recommendation

$2,524,700,000

Program Description

The research and related activities appropriation addresses Foundation goals to enable the United States to uphold world leadership in all aspects of science and engineering, and to promote the discovery, integration, dissemination, and employment of new knowledge in service to society. Research activities will contribute to the achievement of these goals through expansion of the knowledge base; integration of research and education; stimulation of knowledge transfer among academia and the public and private sectors; and bringing the perspectives of many disciplines to bear on complex problems important to the Nation.

The Foundation's discipline-oriented research programs are: biological sciences; computer and information science and engineering; engineering; geosciences; mathematical and physical sciences; and social, behavioral and economic sciences. Also included are U.S. polar research programs, U.S. antarctic logistical support activities, and the Critical Technologies Institute.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $2,524,700,000 for research and related activities. This amount is $92,700,000 above the fiscal year 1997 level and $10,000,000 more than the budget request.

The Committee recognizes the importance that the agency places on its two new initiatives, knowledge and distributed intelligence in the information age, and life in extreme environments, and also understands the difficulty of establishing milestones and goals for basic research. However, the Committee also believes that the agency must have a plan for the investment of nearly $500,000,000 for the two new initiatives. Therefore, the Committee will not make the new funding for these two initiatives available until the agency submits 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 Committee is aware of the work of the interagency working group on plant genomes convened by the National Science and Technology Council, and supports the group's recommendations for a plant genome initiative. The Committee, therefore, directs the National Science Foundation to accelerate the mapping of Arabidopsis and to move beyond the work it currently supports toward more economically important plant genome projects such as corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans. It is the Committee's view that the corn genome is of particular importance to the health and well-being of the Nation--particularly with respect to agricultural productivity, environmental protection, and food and fiber interests. The Committee is encouraged by the interagency efforts and recognizes the importance of not only a coordinated Federal effort but also the possibilities of a meaningful public/ private partnership and international cooperation. To support these efforts, the Committee directs NSF to spend $40,000,000 in fiscal year 1998 to support a competitive, merit-based initiative, which may include one or more university-based research centers, that will enable the development of a U.S. led public/private research initiative supporting research into plant genomes. This NSF effort should be closely coordinated with related efforts being supported by other Federal agencies.

The Committee is aware that the agency recently revised the criteria for merit review of proposals submitted to the agency for funding, and that the criteria now include consideration of the broader applications of the research to be supported. The Committee encourages NSF to examine how the changes in the merit review criteria have affected the types of research the agency supports, and directs the agency to support a review of the new criteria by the National Academy of Public Administration, to be initiated after the new criteria have been in place for 1 year. In addition, the NAPA study should address the overall criteria-setting process within the agency, including how the agency identifies areas for new initiatives and measures progress in existing initiatives.

In previous years the NSF budget request contained valuable information on interdisciplinary research and education initiatives of broad national interest. Three of these initiatives were biotechnology, environment and global change, and high performance computing and communications. This information was very useful to the Committee as part of the process for setting priorities and understanding outcomes that flow from these efforts. Therefore the Committee requests that, in the future, the Foundation once again include funding information on these initiatives along with a discussion of key priorities and outcomes that occur within each area.

The Committee is aware that two existing supercomputer centers are to be phased out over a period of up to 2 years, and urges that NSF and the two centers reach an expeditious solution to the phase out. The transition should take into account the needs of the users and also the appropriate transition period and costs. Absent an agreement between NSF and the centers, the Committee may be compelled to provide guidance to the agency concerning what constitutes an appropriate transition. It has been suggested that object classification 21 could provide adequate transition funding.

The Committee expects that the agency will comply with all aspects of the Government Performance and Results Act.

The Committee strongly supports the next generation internet initiative, and stresses the importance of equal access to the Internet for students, teachers, and researchers in the rural areas of this country. In addition, the Committee continues to be concerned about representation from all geographical areas on panels and advisory committees, especially those relating to networking and telecommunications. Advanced computing and communications are vital to rural areas. Rural States should participate fully in the connections, computing, and related programs, including new initiatives. The Committee requests a report by December 31, 1997, on participation in current computing and communications programs by States in the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR]. The report should clarify NSF's role and activities within the next generation internet initiative; describe how the agency plans to address equal access, particularly to rural areas; and include the plans for the role of EPSCoR States.

The Committee continues to support strongly NSF's directorate in the behavioral and social sciences, which has made impressive strides since its establishment. These include the development of the human capital initiative, which guides funding priorities by tying basic research to national concerns which have behavior at their core. The Committee understands that the Foundation sponsored a workshop on basic research in psychology that should guide human capital support in cognitive science, social, and developmental psychology, and multidisciplinary research that crosscuts with biology, engineering, education, physics, and others. The Committee applauds this effort and looks forward to hearing about accomplishments of the human capital initiative in the fiscal year 1999 appropriations cycle.

The Committee notes the important role that the National Science Foundation should be playing in the multidisciplinary, multiagency origins program, to understand the origin and evolution of galaxies and planetary systems, and the origin and distribution of life in the universe. The Committee urges NSF to work with NASA and other agencies to develop complementary programs, and to report to the Committee on these activities by December 31, 1997.

MAJOR RESEARCH EQUIPMENT

Appropriations, 1997

$80,000,000

Budget estimate, 1998

$85,000,000

Committee recommendation

$85,000,000

Program Description

The major research equipment activity will support the construction and procurement of unique national research platforms and major research equipment. Projects supported by this appropriation will push the boundaries of technological design and will offer significant expansion of opportunities, often in new directions, for the science and engineering community.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $85,000,000 for major research equipment. This amount is $5,000,000 above the fiscal year 1997 level and the same as the budget request.

The Committee commends the report prepared by the U.S. Antarctic Program external panel in recommending a scaled-down version of a new station to be built at the South Pole. In fiscal year 1998, the Committee directs that $25,000,000 from this account be used to initiate this endeavor. The Committee intends to provide additional funding over the next 4 fiscal years, totaling $90,000,000, from this account to complete the South Pole station.

The Committee recommends $4,000,000 for the Gemini project, $2,800,000 above the request, but has included these funds in the ``Major research equipment'' account instead of ``Research and related activities,'' because they are for final construction contingencies and instrumentation enhancements, more appropriately an activity in this account. Funds for Gemini should be derived from reducing the amount available for the millimeter array project.

The Committee recommends the President's request for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory [LIGO].

The Committee notes that the Foundation has a significant number of major projects involving construction and acquisition of new and unique research facilities. In light of the current ongoing projects as well as those being planned, the Committee believes the Foundation should provide regular updates to the Committee on developments associated with its large-scale facilities and equipment projects. The Committee requests that such updates, which should be submitted as part of the annual budget request and then updated by July 1 each year, include a full description of the status of each ongoing large-scale construction or acquisition effort with an estimated cost of $10,000,000 or more. The status report should include both original and current cost estimates for construction and operations, as well as changes or developments that may impact the final construction or operational costs of the project. In addition to ongoing projects, the report should cover projects which are actively being considered for future budget requests.

The Department of Defense has developed a facility which can serve as a center of excellence for ionospheric research. This facility will allow the Federal Government to complete essential research on characterizing the ionosphere, determining the effects of ionospheric activity on communications systems, and evaluating the opportunity to use the properties of the ionosphere to image underground and underwater objects and to transmit data over great distances. The DOD facility requires an incoherent scatter radar to support measurements of the ionosphere's properties and behavior.

The National Science Foundation has budgeted for the purchase of an incoherent scatter radar; however, this system was to be located at a site outside of the United States which did not consider the opportunity to collocate the NSF radar with the existing ionospheric research capability. The Committee recommendation provides $25,000,000 for an incoherent scatter radar. However, the Committee directs that those funds shall be available only to construct an incoherent scatter radar collocated with the Defense Department's ionospheric research site. Locating the incoherent scatter radar at this site will allow all agencies of the Federal Government to accomplish polar and ionospheric research without wasteful duplicate investments.

EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES

Appropriations, 1997

$619,000,000

Budget estimate, 1998

$625,500,000

Committee recommendation

$625,500,000

Program Description

Education and human resources activities provide a comprehensive set of programs across all levels of education in science, mathematics, and technology. At the precollege level, the appropriation provides for new instructional material and techniques, and enrichment activities for teachers and students. Undergraduate initiatives support curriculum improvement, facility enhancement, and advanced technological education. Graduate level support is directed primarily to research fellowships and traineeships. Emphasis is given to systemic reform through components that address urban, rural, and statewide efforts in precollege education, and programs which seek to broaden the participation of States and regions in science and engineering.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $625,500,000 for education and human resources. This amount is $6,500,000 more than the fiscal year 1997 level and the same as the budget request.

The Committee has included the budget request of $20,000,000 for the new Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training [IGERT] Program. However, the Committee is concerned with the lack of evaluation of previous traineeship programs, and requests that the agency provide, prior to making awards for this program, an evaluation of previous traineeship programs, the problems with those programs that IGERT is designed to fix, and the criteria by which IGERT programs will be funded.

The Committee has included the budget request for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR]. The Committee notes that both the budget justification and testimony indicate that $8,000,000 to $10,000,000 of funding for the program will be available through the research directorates. Since this represents a new approach, NSF has a specific responsibility to work with the individual States to ensure that the program is successful. States should be given full support in making the transition to the new approach and provided the types of assistance which they identify as needed. Furthermore, funds should not be merely shifted from one account to another or replace grants which would otherwise be made. The agency should report back to the Committee on the progress of this new approach by March 1, 1998.

The Committee expects NSF funding of $6,000,000 for an underrepresented populations undergraduate reform initiative to increase the numbers of underrepresented populations in mathematics, engineering, and the biological, computer, and physical sciences through grants to historically black colleges and universities [HBCU's]. The Committee has included these funds because HBCU's have only a small fraction of the minority population yet graduate about 20 percent of the number of minorities with undergraduate degrees in math, engineering, and the biological, computer, and physical sciences. As the Nation undertakes sweeping changes in social policy, it is essential that resources be focused where there is the most likely chance of empowering young people from disadvantaged backgrounds for opportunities for meaningful employment in high technology backgrounds. Funds should be allocated for up to three HBCU institution-based awards, to be awarded competitively and to be matched by an equal amount from the NSF's six other program directorates, to be used for a combination of faculty support, research experiences for undergraduates, and scientific instrumentation.

SALARIES AND EXPENSES

Appropriations, 1997

$134,310,000

Budget estimate, 1998

$136,950,000

Committee recommendation

$136,950,000

Program Description

The salaries and expenses appropriation provides for the operation, management, and direction of all Foundation programs and activities and includes necessary funds to develop and coordinate NSF programs.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $136,950,000 for salaries and expenses. This amount is $2,640,000 above the fiscal year 1997 level and is the same as the amount requested in the President's budget. The Committee directs NSF to examine the key program area of administration and management, and to include costs of salaries and benefits of any person employed at the National Science Foundation headquarters, including Federal employees, Intergovernmental Personnel Act persons, detailees, and contractor personnel in this key program area in the fiscal year 1999 budget request.

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

Appropriations, 1997

$4,690,000

Budget estimate, 1998

$4,850,000

Committee recommendation

$4,850,000

Program Description

The Office of Inspector General appropriation provides audit and investigation functions to identify and correct deficiencies which could create potential instances of fraud, waste, or mismanagement.

Committee Recommendation

The Committee recommends an appropriation of $4,850,000 for the Office of Inspector General in fiscal year 1997. This amount is $160,000 above the fiscal year 1996 level, and is the same as the amount requested in the President's budget.

 

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