The National Science Foundation requests $3.3 billion for FY 1997 to invest in almost 20,000 research and education projects in science and engineering. Today's investments in people, in ideas, and in the exploration of the unknown will help determine the course of the United States in the 21st century. Based on history, it can be said with confidence that the return on these investments will be instrumental in propelling the nation into a future of progress and prosperity.


Research Project Support (56%)
Research Facilities (20%)
Education&Training (20%)
Administration & Management (4%)

Embedded in this request are some of the most forward-looking activities sponsored by the Federal government. They explore the unknown, open new frontiers, and emphasize innovation in fulfilling a mission that is as appropriate today as it was when the Foundation was created in 1950. That mission, to promote progress in science and engineering in the service of the nation, gives NSF broad license to invest in research and education in science and engineering that will make a difference to the nation's future. NSF is committed to being a catalyst for progress, to addressing today's difficult questions, and to seeing that the American people get the best possible return on their investment.

NSF's FY 1997 request emphasizes:

FY 1997 Request by Account

                          (Millions of Dollars)


Extending the Frontiers

Being a pioneer is both exciting and risky. It engages the imagination and demands a high level of skill and perseverance to meet the challenges of the frontier. NSF invests in today's pioneers who work on the frontiers of science and engineering, exploring an unprecedented wealth of opportunities for advancement. Sometimes their successes are small, almost imperceptible; sometimes they are spectacular and all of humankind advances.

NSF-supported science and engineering projects range from opening new windows on the universe through astronomy and gravitational physics, to exploring the world of subatomic particles. They unlock the secrets of life and living systems through breakthroughs in molecular biology and biophysics. From the cold climes of the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropical oceans, NSF-supported researchers explore the dynamic processes of the Earth and the influence of local conditions on global climate. Using nanoscale technologies that can trace the path of a virus and see eye to eye with an atom, scientists and engineers are developing medical devices, industrial tools, probes and detectors that will help the nation move ever farther out on the frontiers.

NSF invests in tomorrow's pioneers through programs in science and engineering education that seek to improve the education available to all Americans. Excellent education in science, mathematics and engineering opens new dimensions for the students, giving them new territory to explore, new ways of thinking about the world around them, and skills that prepare them to face unknown and uncertain frontiers.

To remain a world leader in science and engineering, the United States must be willing and able to reach frontiers wherever they are. NSF serves as a vehicle to provide the capacity to respond when pioneering research and education are poised to offer benefits to the nation.

Delivering the Benefits

By enabling leadership across the frontiers of science and engineering, NSF's investments bolster the nation's quality of life and standard of living. As noted economist Paul Romer said in a recent comment on the roots of economic growth, "If we didn't keep finding new ideas, there really would be limits to growth. It's ideas -- the whole process of discovery -- that cause growth."

NSF is alert to opportunities that might advance growth. Recent advances from NSF investments bear witness to this. Researchers using the NSF-adopted model plant Arabadopsis have found the genetic switch that triggers flowering in plants, creating the potential for more rapid crop development and other benefits. Investigation of the most basic properties of composite materials bridges the fields of engineering, physics, chemistry, and modeling and simulation. Results are already familiar to us in recreational applications such as tennis racquets, golf clubs, and sailboats; at higher performance levels, the success of our satellite program, earth-orbiting systems, and stealth aircraft depend on fundamental research in composite materials.

NSF has focused its education programs on delivering benefits to the American people. Already, teachers in schools across America are discarding outdated textbooks and methods and are engaging students through hands-on, dynamic approaches to mathematics and science education. We are now moving toward unleashing the power of advanced technologies in improving the teaching of mathematics and science in the nation's schools.


The goals and core strategies of NSF's strategic plan, NSF in a Changing World, guided the development of the FY 1997 Budget Request. Another influence was the second phase of the National Performance Review (NPR). NPR required NSF to reexamine its mission and functions, and whether this mission was appropriate for the Federal government. From this process, the need for NSF's mission was strongly reaffirmed. As a result, we have combined NSF's stated goals and strategies with an understanding of the rapid change experienced by other components of the science and technology enterprise, and established a small number of principles for developing this Request.

Balanced Portfolio

NSF is the only Federal agency with responsibilities that cover research and education in all science and engineering fields. Through its activities, NSF invests in specific research and education projects, facilities and instrumentation, not only for the immediate results they produce, but for the groundwork they lay for the future. Maintaining a balanced investment that enables the agency to move rapidly to address the most compelling opportunities is a key principle in budget development.

Balance Across Major Fields of Science. NSF's leadership role in support of research and education in colleges and universities requires both sustained, balanced support and the flexibility to move quickly into new and emerging areas.

In FY 1997, NSF's Research and Related Activities Account increases by 8.7% to $2.5 billion. The major disciplinary science and engineering activities funded through that account experience comparable percentage increases. Within the activities, priorities shaped by emerging scientific opportunities result in significant variation at the sub-activity and program levels.

Balance Across Key Program Functions. The second phase of NPR led to the organization of NSF's modes of support into a few key program functions (research project support, research facilities, education and training, and administration and management) through which NSF carries out its work.

Budget by Key Program Function

                         (Dollars in Millions)

NSF supports multi-user research facilities that are characteristically large, complicated, and expensive, requiring long-term commitments of support. In FY 1997, NSF devotes particular attention to this function.

Action to Bridge across Boundaries

Nature and excellence know no boundaries, yet there are many boundaries, either real or perceived, in the funding of research and education in science and engineering. NSF is undertaking positive action to eliminate organizational and other barriers to interdisciplinary research, to reinvigorate the interaction between research and education, and to draw upon the full range of perspectives and approaches for promoting progress in science and engineering.

Reformulating and Promoting Partnerships

Partnerships bring together the best minds in our society as they help to share the fiscal responsibilities for research and education. Promoting partnerships is a core strategy from NSF's strategic plan that is particularly relevant to today's rapidly shifting environment for science and engineering. Whether it is the transformation in roles and priorities caused by the end of the Cold War or changes in scale or scope as a result of attempts to balance the Federal budget, there are substantive policy questions about how the academic, private sector, and government members of partnerships can and should interact. Difficult issues that require attention as partnerships are reformulated include: what is the role of the Federal government in support of research and education? what is an appropriate role for the private sector? what does world leadership mean? and how can we assure the American public reaps the benefit of these investments? For NSF, there is the additional question of NSF's role and the impact on NSF programs and functions of changes in activity or funding levels at other agencies.

NSF's principal partners are the institutions and individuals of academia who conduct the research and education projects in which NSF invests. Together, academia and NSF are developing new approaches to research and education activities, involving in the process the private sector, other agencies, and others with a stake in the science and engineering enterprise.

Even as NSF works to address the difficult policy issues described above, this strategy has been successfully incorporated into activities across the Foundation. Examples include: the GOALI program (Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry); Alliances for Minority Participation; memoranda of understanding and joint program activities with approximately 20 other Federal agencies; and international partnerships that provide opportunities for collaborative research, research visits to laboratories and academic institutions in other countries, coordinated international research programs, and joint funding of major research equipment.




While America's system of higher education is the best and most inclusive in the world, the educational system overall traditionally does not prepare the vast majority of students for dealing with the rapidly changing, scientifically and technically challenging situations predicted for the 21st century. Through education programs, research activities that aim at better understanding the learning process, and activities that link learning and education, NSF is working to position the nation to meet the learning needs of the 21st century.

Systemic Reform: NSF's focus is on treating whole systems as the most effective way to make improvements in science and mathematics education. Building the capacity for change through the commitment and involvement of broad partnerships in the development of goals, solutions and actions can result in significant, long-lasting impact. Total system reform is based on the underlying belief that all students can learn and achieve in science and mathematics at much higher levels than presently attained. Investment in the systemic reform of K-12 education continues to increase in FY 1997. Funding for the Urban Systemic Initiatives increases by 20 percent to $67 million. The Rural Systemic Initiatives increase four-fold to more than $10 million. These increases will be offset by a $13 million decrease in the Statewide Systemic Initiatives, as part of the phase-out of awards planned at the program's inception.

Learning and Intelligent Systems: We are in the midst of a revolution in the interaction between human learning and technology, similar in potential impact to the revolution created by the invention of movable type and the printing press. Research is now beginning to yield tantalizing insights into how both living organisms and artificial systems process information to achieve remarkable levels of performance across a wide range of activities. Research in various fields bearing on learning and intelligent systems is at a juncture where seminal, concerted action will result in significant, even revolutionary, intellectual advances. NSF has used the Opportunity Fund to provide seed funding for this emerging area. Investments across the Foundation for these activities in FY 1997 are estimated at $23 million.

Technology for Education: The dramatic breakthroughs in information technology and communications have the potential to revolutionize the future of education. Instructional methods and curricula will need to change as schools provide computers for their students and are linked to national and international information resources. Building the effective use of technology into education programs, including the systemic reform programs, will be a key component of NSF's activities aimed at preparing students for the challenges of the next century.

Integration of Research and Education: This core strategy from NSF's strategic plan is a key component of the Foundation's vision for establishing a linkage between learning and discovery. Educating today's students in a discovery-rich environment will better prepare them to meet tomorrow's challenges. Likewise, history has shown that research in an education-rich environment yields an exceptionally dynamic and diverse enterprise.


NSF has had a strong presence in research on the environment for many years. The focus of NSF programs has been on enhancing the understanding of complex dynamics among natural systems and humans and developing the knowledge important to preserving, managing and improving the environment.

NSF also participates in the interagency Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) initiative.


NSF provides state-of-the-art computing and communications capabilities essential for advanced work in all fields of science and engineering through its supercomputer centers and networking activities. Over the past decade, access to such capabilities has driven a sea change in many fields of science and engineering, providing new means for testing theories and for running different kinds of experiments. Information, always the lifeblood of science and engineering, is now being collected and analyzed in new and different ways, providing valuable tools for predicting the behavior of diverse phenomena.


America has entered an exciting, even revolutionary era for research and education in science and engineering. In just the last few months, American scientists and engineers have detected planets with the potential for sustaining life trillions of miles from earth, have accomplished genetic breakthroughs with implications for health and food supply, and observed a new state of matter at temperatures near absolute zero. Progress in computing and telecommunications has continued to accelerate. More and more schools have begun injecting the thrill of discovery into the teaching of mathematics and science.

The National Science Foundation has been at the center of these and countless other discoveries and advances that excite our imagination and secure our future. For FY 1997, NSF has established priorities for research and education investments that directly reflect this commitment to advancing learning and discovery in the nation's interest.

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