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NSF Press Statement


NSF PS 02-01 - February 4, 2002

Media contact:

 Mary Hanson

 (703) 292-8070


Statement by Dr. Rita Colwell
Director, National Science Foundation
On The National Science Foundation's FY2003 Budget: Sustaining U.S. Leadership Across the Frontiers of Scientific Knowledge

Cover, NSF Summary of FY 2003 Budget Request to Congress

It is with a sense of pride and purpose that we present the National Science Foundation's budget for the next fiscal year. It is not just a balance sheet. It is a blueprint for our nation's future.

Every year, for more than half a century, the Foundation's investments at the frontiers of discovery have enriched Americans' health, security, environment, economy, and general well-being.

And every year, the Foundation's optimal use of limited public funds has relied on two conditions: Ensuring that our research and education investments are aimed - and continuously re-aimed - at the leading edge of understanding; and certifying that every dollar goes to competitive, merit-reviewed, and time-limited awards with clear criteria for success.

When these two conditions are met, our nation gets the most intellectual and economic leverage from its research and education investments.

The National Science Foundation is requesting $5.036 billion for FY2003, $240 million or five percent more than the previous fiscal year. For the United States to stay on the leading edge of discovery and innovation, we cannot do less.

Maintaining the pace of discovery and producing the finest scientists and engineers for the twenty-first century are our principal goals. Investments proposed in the FY2003 budget are key to developing our nation's talent and increasing the productivity of our workforce. The budget includes a second installment of $200 million for the President's five year Math and Science Partnership program to link local schools with colleges and universities to improve preK-12 math and science education, train teachers, and create innovative ways to reach out to underserved students and schools.

In order to attract more of the nation's most promising students into graduate level science and engineering, we are requesting an investment of approximately $37 million to increase annual stipends for graduate fellows to $25,000. Another investment of $185 million is directed toward NSF's Learning for the 21st Century Workforce priority area. A key centerpiece includes $20 million to fund three to four new multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional Science of Learning Centers to enhance our understanding of how we learn, how we remember, and how we can best use new information technology to promote learning. As we comprehend the dynamics of human learning, we will be better able to explore how educational institutions at all levels foster or inhibit learning and how to develop more effective strategies to prepare our workforce.

Our request also includes $221 million for nanotechnology research and $286 million for information technology research. Neither area can achieve its full potential without complementary progress in the other.

The emerging field of nanoscale science and engineering -- the ability to manipulate and control matter at atomic and molecular levels - promises revolutionary breakthroughs in areas such as materials and manufacturing, medicine and healthcare, environment and energy, biotechnology and agriculture, computation and information technology, and, of course, national security.

New paradigms will use advances in quantum computation and nanoelectronics to devise radically faster computers that begin to solve problems previous dismissed as "uncomputable," such as full-scale simulations of our biosphere. Viewing cells as computational devices will help enable the design of next generation computers that feature self organization, self repair, and adaptive characteristics seen in biological systems.

These and other challenges will require new mathematical tools, techniques, and insights. We propose to invest $60 million as part of a new priority area in mathematical and statistical sciences research that will ultimately advance interdisciplinary science and engineering. Only by mining and comparing enormous data sets can we find the patterns, trends, and insights needed to improve the safety and reliability of critical systems such as our telecommunications network, our electric power grid, and our air traffic control system. And only by modeling the enormous complexity of the living world can we fully understand it.

We are also requesting $10 million to seed a new priority area in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences to explore the complex interactions between new technology and society to better anticipate and prepare for their consequences.

The budget request includes $79 million for research on biocomplexity in the environment, building upon past investments in the study of the remarkable and dynamic web of interrelationships that arise when living things at all levels interact with their environment. Research in two new areas this year -- microbial genome sequencing and ecology of infectious diseases -- will help develop strategies to assess and manage the risks of infectious diseases, invasive species, and biological weapons.

Additionally, as part of the Administration's new multi-agency Climate Change Research Initiative, we will implement a $15 million research program to advance understanding in highly focused areas of climate science, to reduce uncertainty, and to facilitate policy decisions.

Just as Olympic athletes need the finest equipment and training protocols to triumph, so do scientists, engineers, and their students need the most modern research instruments with the best capabilities, the farthest reach, and the finest accuracy. The budget allocates $30 million for the next phase of construction of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) -- the world's most sensitive, highest resolution radio telescope used to study stellar evolution, galaxy formation, and the evolution of the universe itself. Two new construction projects are included in the FY2003 budget. Two prototype sites of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will be established at a cost of $12 million to analyze data and detect abrupt changes or long-term trends in the environment; they could also serve as an early warning and detection system for a wide array of chemical and biological warfare agents. Additionally, the budget requests $35 million for EarthScope to detect and investigate earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides on the North American continent.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, the stakes for all of these investments could not be higher. The future of our nation -- indeed, the future of our world -- are more dependent than ever before upon advances in science and technology. An inspired American scientific community is now focused on ensuring not just our security, but our very quality of life.

We well remember that our national security includes the strength of our spirit and the ingenuity of our workforce as much as the size of our arsenal, and we are heartened by the echo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's words in his secret letter to Robert Oppenheimer in 1943: "Whatever the enemy may be planning, American science will be equal to the challenge."

Americans have always had a passion for discovery and a sense of adventure. Those deeply rooted American qualities have enabled us to reach our distant horizons, and then set out for new ones in our restless quest for knowledge. The Foundation's investments are essential to our national strategy for attaining our overarching goals. At the dawning of a new millennium with its unparalleled possibilities, it is impossible to predict which areas of fundamental science and engineering will yield ground-breaking discoveries, what those discoveries may be, or how they might impact other disciplines, and, eventually, benefit our daily lives.

Who can be absolutely sure what will be needed to maintain our national security and our strong economy, and to clean up the environment, and develop a healthier and better-educated citizenry?

What the National Science Foundation can help ensure is that the United States remains at the forefront of scientific capability by sustaining our investments in basic research, thereby enhancing our ability to shape a more prosperous and secure future for ourselves, our children, and future generations.


See also:

For additional information about the NSF FY2003 Budget Request, see the budget page.



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