NSF & Congress
Dr. Eamon M. Kelly
National Science Board
Before the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on VA/HUD & Independent
Agencies U.S. Senate
June 6, 2001
Madam Chair and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate
the opportunity to testify before you. I am Eamon
Kelly, Chairman of the National Science Board and
President Emeritus and Professor in the Payson Center
for International Development & Technology Transfer
at Tulane University.
On behalf of the National Science Board, I thank the
Subcommittee for its commitment to long-term investments
in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology.
Your support has enabled the scientific community
to provide a broad base of research and education
activities that have contributed to our Nation's well-being.
The National Science Board has two roles: it serves
as the governing board of the National Science Foundation
and, by law, it advises the President and Congress
on national policy issues for science and engineering
research and education.
I would like to begin by commenting on the National
Science Foundation's FY 2002 budget request and then,
in the second role, highlight some critical policy
issues affecting the health of the science and engineering
The National Science Foundation's Budget Request
First, in its role as governing board of the Foundation,
the National Science Board has approved and endorses
the National Science Foundation's budget request for
Fiscal Year 2002. Adequate funding for the Foundation's
priority areas in Fiscal Year 2002 will allow the
National Science Foundation to do what it does best:
nurture the people, ideas, and tools needed to generate
new knowledge and new technologies. The National Science
Foundation Director, Dr. Rita Colwell, will discuss
the specifics of that budget request in her testimony.
I commend my colleague for her far-sighted and energetic
leadership of the broad scope of activities in the
National Science Foundation's portfolio.
As this Committee recognizes, the National Science
Foundation is a major contributor both to scientific
research and science education.
Federal investment in the basic sciences through the
Foundation have produced
- New industries, such as E-commerce and biotechnology,
- New medical technologies, such as MRI and genetic
- New discoveries with great future promise in
areas such as nanoscale science, cognitive neuroscience,
In addition, the National Science Foundation supports
innovative education programs from kindergarten through
graduate school, preparing the next generation of
scientists and engineers and contributing to a more
scientifically literate workforce and society.
The Health of the Science and Engineering
Enterprise: Some Issues
As a policy advisory body, the National Science Board
is also looking at the broader context for Federal
investment in basic research and education. Critical
issues that the Board has addressed recently in that
capacity include research, education, and assessment
on the environment; the U.S. role in international
science and engineering; the quality of K-16 education;
and the allocation of Federal resources for research.
We have begun two important new studies: one on the
national science and engineering infrastructure and
a second on national workforce policies. The latter
study is examining the collection of policies and
practices, including immigration and admission to
higher education, that affect the composition and
adequacy of our science and technology workforce.
Federal Investment in Science and Engineering
A basic element in maintaining the health of our science
and engineering enterprise is public recognition of
its importance. After the phenomenal 1990s, the public
is increasingly aware that science and technology
contribute to growth of the economy. Americans recognize
that innovations improve the quality of life and that
benefits accrue to the entire society, not just to
a few industries or entrepreneurs.
The President affirmed the importance of science and
technology on March 28, stating that "Science and
technology have never been more essential to the defense
of the nation and the health of our economy."
It has been said that future historians will label
the 21st century the "science and technology century."
Clearly we are on the edge of exciting discoveries
and radically new technologies in many scientific
fields. To turn this potential into reality requires
substantial and sustained Federal investment in basic
The new knowledge and technologies emerging today are
a tribute to Federal research investments made years
ago in a spirit of bipartisanship. When those investments
began, no one could foresee their future impact.
Revolutionary advances in these fields--such as those
in information technology, geographic information
systems, genetics, and medical technologies such as
MRI, ultrasound, and digital mammography, to mention
just a few--remind us that although science and engineering
require long-term, high-risk investments, they also
hold great promise of high payoffs. These payoffs
affect all aspects of American life: our economy,
the workforce, our educational systems, the environment,
and our national security.
In a speech before the American Association for the
Advancement of Science on May 3, Larry Lindsey stated
that "the average annual real rate of return on corporate
investment in America is about 9 percent." Compare
that to a conservative estimate that the return on
Federal investment in basic research is about 30 percent.
Despite the recognition of the widespread benefits
that result from Federally supported scientific research,
we are seriously under-investing in basic research.
Of our $10 trillion Gross Domestic Product, the Federal
government budgets $23.3 billion to basic research,
which represents only two one-thousandths of one percent
of the Nation's Gross Domestic Product. The President,
members of Congress, and both the Republican and Democratic
parties--even the media--speak in favor of investing
in basic research. Support appears everywhere except
in the budgets.
The recently issued report by the U.S. Commission on
National Security for the 21st Century, led by Gary
Hart and Warren Rudman, clearly states the importance and
the current condition of scientific research and education
to America's world leadership. I quote:
"Our systems of basic scientific research and education
are in serious crisis.... If we do not invest heavily
and wisely in rebuilding these two core strengths,
America will be incapable of maintaining its global
position long into the 21st century."
Achieving a balanced portfolio in the basic sciences
is also important. As former NIH Director Harold Varmus
and Congressional leaders have pointed out, the success
of the National Institutes of Health's efforts to
cure deadly diseases such as cancer depends heavily
on the underpinning of basic research supported by
the National Science Foundation.
In addition, Federal investment in the basic sciences
is critical for the development of the science and
engineering workforce on which our society and economy
depend. The measure of our success will be not just
the research we support but also the trained and talented
workforce we develop. We need to produce more scientists
and engineers, certainly, but even future workers
who are not directly engaged in scientific endeavors
will need to be scientifically literate to perform
their tasks. And to be an informed voter will require
a basic appreciation for scientific knowledge and
Today we are losing many of our best and brightest
science students to other fields, and our record of
attracting minorities and women to science and engineering
is poor. The pool of potential science and engineering
students will increasingly reflect the growing diversity
in American society. Population trends indicate that
by 2010 about two-thirds of students will be female
The level of Federal investment is key to the health
of the science and engineering enterprise. But even
if Federal investment were to increase substantially,
the difficult issue of how to allocate the funds would
Allocation of Federal Resources
For the past two years, at the request of Congress
and the Office of Management and Budget, the Board
has grappled with how the Federal government should
set priorities and allocate its approximately $90
billion annual budget for defense and non-defense
research and development. That question is critically
important, given the growing opportunities for discovery
and the inevitable limits on Federal spending.
On May 21 and 22, the Board's Committee on Strategic
Science and Engineering Policy Issues, which I chair,
hosted a stakeholders' symposium to discuss our findings
to date and evaluate potential approaches to Federal
budget coordination and priority setting. The symposium
was highly productive, and we are in the process of
incorporating the stakeholders' views into our report,
which we will provide to the Subcommittee.
At this stage of our analysis, based on our discussion
with Executive branch representatives and Congressional
staff, the Board suggests that the Federal budget
process in both the Executive branch and the Congress
would benefit from instituting a continuing advisory
mechanism for considering U.S. research needs and
opportunities within the framework of the broad Federal
A possible process would include an evaluation of the
current Federal portfolio for research in light of
national goals and would draw on systematic, independent
expert advice, studies of the costs and benefits of
research investments, and analyses of available data.
The process would identify areas ready to benefit
from greater investment, address long-term needs and
opportunities for Federal missions and responsibilities,
and ensure world-class fundamental science and engineering
In addition to an improved process, a strategy is needed
to ensure commitment by departments, agencies, and
programs to gather timely, accessible data that could
be used to monitor and evaluate Federal investments.
The Federal government would need to invest in the
research necessary to build the intellectual infrastructure
in the higher education sector (1) to analyze substantive
effects on the economy and quality of life of Federal
support for science and technology and (2) to improve
methods for measuring returns on public investments
The appropriate level of Federal investment and the
allocation of Federal funds are keystone issues for
the science and engineering enterprise. They are also
extremely difficult, complex issues for policy makers.
Madam Chair, at this point I would like to close my
formal remarks. I thank the Subcommittee for its long-time
support of the science community, especially the National
Science Foundation, and for allowing me to comment
on critical national policy concerns, as well as on
the Foundation's budget request. I look forward to
future opportunities for discussion of these highly
important national issues.
EAMON M. KELLY
Eamon Michael Kelly was born in New York City and attended
Columbia University from 1960 to 1965, where he earned
the master and Ph.D. degrees in economics. Following
graduation from Columbia, he joined the Penn State
faculty at University Park, Pennsylvania.
In 1968, Kelly was appointed to U.S. government service
by the President, serving as Director of Policy Formulation
with the Economic Development Administration of the
U.S. Department of Commerce. He was later named Special
Assistant to the Administrator of the Small Business
Administration, where he participated in planning
and initiating the federal government's first minority
economic development program. Kelly joined the Ford
Foundation in 1969 and served as Officer-in-Charge
for the Office of Social Development, the Foundation's
largest domestic and civil rights division.
In 1977, Kelly served as a special consultant to the
U.S. House of Representatives where he participated
in drafting legislation that provided a $1.7 billion
guarantee to prevent the insolvency of New York City.
Later that year he was appointed Special Assistant
to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.
In that position, he successfully directed a government-wide
investigation of the Teamster's $1.4 billion Central
States Pension Fund and led negotiations resulting
in the Fund being transferred to private management.
After leaving the Labor Department, Kelly returned,
at the request of the Secretary of Labor, to direct
efforts that led to the end of a nationwide coal strike.
In 1981, he was chosen to serve as the 13th president
of Tulane University. In July 1998, Kelly retired
as president of the university. Currently, Kelly,
whose area of specialized interest is international
urban and rural development, holds the rank of professor
in the departments of Economics, Latin American Studies,
and International Health and Development at Tulane.
He is also a founding member of the Payson Center
for International Development and Technology Transfer.
Kelly is active on the boards of many professional,
philanthropic, civic, and corporate organizations.
In 1995, he was appointed by President Clinton to
serve on the National Science Board (NSB), the governing
body of the National Science Foundation, which sponsors
scientific and engineering research, develops and
supports educational programs, and helps guide national
policy. In 1998, Kelly was elected chairman of the
NSB. He was reelected chairman in 2000.