Biological Sciences        Page 4

The Bottom Line

   Through these investments, NSF's portfolio sets the stage for a 21st Century research and education enterprise that continues to lead and shape the information revolution, addresses key national priorities in such areas as global change and the environment, improves teaching and learning at all levels of education, and commits itself to reaching out and advancing public understanding of science and technology. Guiding all of these activities is the Foundation's longstanding commitment to merit-based investments in learning and discovery that adhere to the highest standards of excellence.

   A wealth of evidence testifies to the impressive returns generated by these investments. One ground-breaking study funded by NSF and published in the Fall 1997 issue of the journal Research Policy found a rapidly growing linkage between industrial innovation and scientific research. The study examined patents in key areas of industrial technology, including biomedicine, chemistry, and electrical components. It found that nearly three-fourths of the research papers cited by U.S. industry patents are what the study termed "public science" –papers authored at universities, government laboratories, and other public and non-profit centers. Furthermore, the research underlying the cited papers was found to be heavily supported by NSF and other federal agencies.

   These latest findings add to an already compelling body of evidence on the contributions of fundamental science and engineering to economic growth, productivity and innovation. As President Clinton noted in a speech given on December 16, 1997: "Half our economic growth in the last half-century has come from technological innovation and the science that supports it."

   Recent NSF-supported work, for example, has led to:
  • Identification of genes that control flowering and self-fertilization in crops,
  • Environmentally-friendly processes for manufacturing the aluminum-based ceramics used in circuit boards and car parts,
  • An "optical resonator" that could increase the capacity of fiber optic cables by a factor of 10,
  • New approaches to drug development that can aid in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and
  • Computer-aided text and speech generation and recognition systems to aid persons with disabilities.

   NSF's FY 1999 request seeks to increase the already high returns on the taxpayer's investment. A special emphasis is placed on activities that improve the productivity and efficiency of research and education. Providing larger award sizes with longer award durations, for example, can enable forefront research, improve research productivity, and contribute to reducing the administrative burden on both NSF and the university community. Similarly, priority is given throughout the Foundation to activities—such as the GOALI program—with strong ties to industry and other potential users of the results generated by NSF-supported activities.

   This request marks a significant step forward for U.S. science and engineering. The requested increase of 10 percent provides a level of investment in keeping with the wealth of opportunity that science and engineering offer to our society. In addition, rigorous priority setting within the investment framework, with its emphasis on multi disciplinary approaches and the integration of research and education, will help position America to remain a world leader in the information-driven economy of the 21stCentury.

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