NSF & Congress
Dr. Anita Jones
National Science Board
Before the House Committee on Science
Subcommittee on Research
September 6, 2001
Chairman Smith, Ranking Minority Member Johnson, members
of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to
testify today. My name is Anita Jones. I am Vice Chair
of the National Science Board and Chair of the Board's
Committee on Strategy and Budget. I am also the Quarles
Professor of Engineering and Applied Science at the
University of Virginia. From 1993 to 1997 I served
as Director of Defense Research and Engineering at
the U.S. Department of Defense. In that position I
was responsible for the science and technology program
of the Department of Defense, including the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency and oversight of
the Department's laboratories.
On behalf of the National Science Board, I thank the
Committee for its long-term support for science and
engineering research and education activities, which
have contributed so substantially to our Nation's
The National Science Board has two statutory roles:
to serve as the governing board of the National Science
Foundation, and to advise the Congress and the President
on national policy issues for science and engineering
research and education.
Today, my comments will focus on the Board's role as
governing board of the Foundation, specifically on
our oversight and approval of the Foundation's support
for large-scale research facilities.
First, I would like to emphasize that the Foundation
has an excellent record -- spanning 50 years -- of
supporting such facilities, in terms of both the quality
of their research and their management. Today, NSF
invests over $1 Billion annually in facilities and
other infrastructure projects. With the exception
of U.S. research facilities in the Antarctic, which
are directly operated by the National Science Foundation,
NSF typically makes awards to other organizations
for the construction and operation of facilities.
The following are examples of major facilities:
- The Large Hadron Collider is a superconducting
particle accelerator. Its purpose is to help scientists
advance the fundamental understanding of matter.
The Collider's construction and operations are
funded through an international collaboration.
- The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory,
or LIGO, will allow physicists and engineers to
collaborate to test the dynamic features of Einstein's
theory of gravity and to study the properties
of intense gravitational fields.
- The National Astronomy Center in Arecibo, Puerto
Rico, supports observations in radio and radar
astronomy and atmospheric sciences.
- Research facilities at the South Pole Station,
currently under renovation, support a variety
of diverse but important research activities that
can only be conducted in the unique cold and pristine
environment at the South Pole.
- The Ocean Drilling Program, involving 20 countries,
supports research in areas including deep ocean
structures, hydrology and geochemical cycles.
These five examples are all major research facilities.
For the most part, they are the research instruments
that make possible research advances that can be accomplished
in no other way. They are all large; each one opens
new research frontiers that could not be entered without
these tools. They are complex; each one involves challenging
engineering tasks in its design, construction and
operation. Hence, each is very costly. As I have illustrated,
the U.S. frequently teams with international collaborators,
not just to assure that the best research is pursued,
but also to help make the facilities more affordable.
And, very importantly, each facility has a very broad
base of researchers who are the users; they frequently
come from multiple disciplines.
Many scientific fields are on the edge of exciting
discoveries that require such facilities. I anticipate
that in the 21st century, the need for
such large, complex research facilities will grow.
In recent years, the Foundation's portfolio of facilities
has grown and diversified to include distributed projects
and complex multidisciplinary projects like terascale
computing systems and ocean observatories that challenge
traditional management and oversight approaches.
National Science Board's Oversight
of Large Facility Projects
The National Science Board plays a critical role in
the oversight and approval of large NSF-supported
facilities. The NSB is well constituted to exercise
its oversight and approval responsibilities. Members
of the Board include executives from industry and
presidents of universities, individuals who have extensive
experience in managing large, cutting-edge research
facilities and instrumentation. Of course, the Board
includes members who have used such facilities.
The Board conducts two activities that focus on the
approval and oversight of facilities. They are the
approval of large awards and the approval of candidates
for the Major Research Equipment account. Typically,
the Board hears briefings from NSF management at almost
every NSB meeting on the subject of large facilities
-- existing and candidate.
NSB Approval for Major Awards:
The Board approves all major projects, including
facilities, whose costs exceed one percent of the
budget of the sponsoring directorate or office budget.
The Board also approves new major programs
whose budget exceeds three percent of the budget of
the sponsoring directorate or office.
The Board's Committee on Programs and Plans (CPP) reviews
large projects at various stages of their development
and makes recommendations to the full Board for the
initiation of new awards and programs. In addition,
the CPP reviews projects for adherence to the NSB
approved criteria for merit review and the Board's
policy regarding the competition, recompetition and
renewal of NSF awards. Throughout the implementation
phase of a project, the CPP reviews its progress and
informs the Board of its status and any issues that
The Board's Committee on Audit and Oversight (A&O)
reviews specific financial and business management
issues raised by the Inspector General and by Foundation
management. Like the CPP, A&O informs the Board of
any issues that arise.
The Major Research Equipment Account:
The Major Research Equipment (MRE) account is an agency-wide
capital asset account used to fund major science and
engineering infrastructure projects that cost far
more than one program's budget could support. The
costs of MRE facilities range from several tens to
hundreds of millions of dollars. The Board sees these
projects multiple times over their lifetime. The Board
takes two kinds of actions. First, it authorizes a
candidate project for possible inclusion by the Foundation
in a future budget. Later, the Board approves specific
funding for an organization or consortium to design
and construct the facility.
Let me briefly outline how the Board oversees MRE projects.
The Director selects candidates for the NSB to review
during one of its five meetings throughout the year.
The Board receives, for approval, candidate projects
that may be included in a future budget request, subject
to availability of funding. Board authorization signifies
that the projects are meritorious and that planning
is sufficiently advanced to justify funding. In giving
its approval, the Board considers the intellectual
merit, societal impacts of the projects, their importance
to science and engineering, balance across disciplines,
readiness to be implemented, and cost-benefit and
The Board authorizes the MRE projects for possible
inclusion in future budgets, but does not rank-order
them to preserve the Foundation's flexibility in a
given budget year. We believe that all projects authorized
by the Board are of unquestioned excellence and worthy
of Foundation support. When the Board approves the
Foundation's budget submission to the Office of Management
and Budget, it reaffirms its support for any MRE projects
included for funding.
After NSF has run a competition and detailed plans
are in place for design, construction and operations,
the project comes back to the Board for the award
of funding at a specific level. Board oversight of
MRE projects continues after an award is made. The
Board's CPP reviews a project's progress at the midpoint
of construction and whenever significant issues arise.
If it appears that a project will exceed the Board's
approved dollar amount by over 20 percent or $10 million,
whichever is less, the Director must return to the
Board to request approval for a higher level of funding.
CPP also receives periodic reports on the status of
all major projects.
NSF Large Facility Projects Management and Oversight
As part of its oversight responsibilities, the Board
began a dialogue with Foundation management about
large facility issues more than a year and a half
ago. Together, we have been discussing the improvement
of the process for identifying candidate projects
and for Foundation oversight of the management of
construction and operation of such facilities.
The Foundation has created a new Large Facility
Projects Management and Oversight Plan. That Plan,
which was requested by the Administration, does two
things. It incorporates and builds upon an existing
facility management process. In addition, it strengthens
I would like to comment briefly on the Board's participation
in the development of the Plan. The full Board received
a draft Plan for comment this summer. At the August
8-9 Board meeting, our Committee on Programs and Plans,
which has the responsibility to review major projects
and facilities, received a briefing on the Plan from
the Deputy Director. Members of our Audit and Oversight
Committee participated in those discussions. Board
members were pleased with the direction, framework,
and elements set forth in the briefing and encouraged
Foundation management to proceed with the Plan's development.
The Board will continue to assess the Foundation's
progress in refining and implementing the Plan.
The Plan institutionalizes and builds on long-standing
- It codifies sound practices already in use,
augments the existing MRE process, and documents
principles of management.
- It ensures that project management will stay
with the scientists and engineers, from planning
through operation. The overall NSF Program
Manager for a particular facility project
is an individual in one of the research directorates
of the Foundation.
- It strengthens Foundation oversight of financial
and business functions. This requires organizational
and managerial changes within the Foundation.
In particular, it calls for the creation of
a Deputy for Large Facility Projects who reports
directly to the Chief Financial Officer and
is responsible for "developing, implementing
and managing, with NSF-wide input and concurrence,
management oversight policies, guidelines
In summary, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:
- The National Science Board supports the general
direction laid out in NSF's Large Facility
Projects Management and Oversight Plan. The
Board will assess the Foundation's progress in
refining and implementing the elements of the
Plan, particularly to ensure the integrity of
the evaluation and oversight of the financial
and business aspects of the facility project throughout
- The implementation of the Plan will ensure that
the Foundation, with Board oversight, has the
policies and organization required for sound management
of unique, complex, world-class research facilities.
Thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks.
I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.