Biological Sciences

The Biological Sciences (BIO) Activity fosters understanding of the underlying principles and mechanisms governing life. Research ranges from the study of the structure and dynamics of biological molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, through cells, organs and organisms, to studies of populations and ecosystems. It encompasses processes that are internal to the organism as well as those that are external, and includes temporal frameworks ranging from measurements in real time through individual life spans, to the full scope of evolutionary time. The 3.3 percent increase, to a total of $330.82 million in FY 1998, will continue to support research in microbial biology, including studies of microbial life-forms in extreme environments, increase support for young investigators and undergraduates involved in research, and enhance support for research in activities related to the Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI) effort, such as bioinformatics and computational neuroscience.

Computer and Information Science and Engineering

The Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Activity supports research on the theory and foundations of computing, system software and computer system design, as well as prototyping, testing and development of cutting-edge computing and communications systems to address complex research problems. CISE also provides the advanced computing and networking capabilities needed by academic researchers for cutting-edge research in all science and engineering fields. The 7.6 per cent increase to a total of $294.17 million in FY 1998 is directed principally towards activities related to the Foundation-wide Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence effort. The transition from the Supercomputer Centers program to the new Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure program will continue in FY 1998. To accelerate development of next generation network applications and services, $10 million will be provided to enhance Internet capabilities for research and education at colleges and universities as part of the interagency Next Generation Internet initiative.


The Engineering (ENG) Activity seeks to enhance the quality of life and national prosperity by pursuing new ways for engineers to educate students, conduct research, and extend the frontiers of knowledge. ENG also makes critical investments in facilities, networks, and people to assure diversity and quality in the nation's infrastructure for engineering education and research. The ENG Activity's 3.6 percent increase, to a total of $360.47 million for FY 1998, will support research in areas such as Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence, civil infrastructure systems, environmental technologies, and the synthesis and processing of nano-particles. Funds are included to meet the mandated level for the Foundation-wide Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.


The Geosciences (GEO) Activity supports research in the atmospheric, earth, and ocean sciences. Basic research in the geosciences advances the scientific knowledge of the Earth, including resources such as water, energy, minerals, and biological diversity. GEO supported research also advances the ability to predict natural phenomena of economic and human significance, such as climate changes, weather, earthquakes, fish-stock fluctuations, and disruptive events in the solar-terrestrial environment. The 1.5 percent increase, to $452.61 million in FY 1998, will support fundamental research and national user facilities across the geosciences, including emphasis on the U.S. Weather Research Program and National Space Weather Program, activities contributing to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, studies on coastal ocean processes and global ocean circulation, activities related to the Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence effort, activities at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the mid-life refit of the Ocean Drilling Program drillship the JOIDES Resolution.

Mathematical and Physical Sciences

The Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Activity supports research in mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and materials science. Major equipment and instrumentation such as particle accelerators and telescopes are provided to support the research needs of individual investigators. The 2.8 percent increase, to $715.71 million in FY 1998, will continue to support fundamental research and national user facilities, with an emphasis on the multidisciplinary areas of computational science and engineering, nanoscience, optical science and engineering, biomolecular materials, undergraduate and graduate activities in education, and to enhance support for instrumentation and facilities.

Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences

The Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) Activity supports research to build fundamental scientific knowledge about human characteristics and behavior. SBE also supports the Foundation's international activities, providing U.S. scientists and engineers with access to centers of excellence in science and engineering research and education throughout the world. To improve understanding of the science and engineering enterprise, SBE provides informational tools for tracking the human and institutional resources that make up the nation's science and engineering infrastructure. The 6.5 percent increase to $129.66 million in FY 1998 will provide increased support for multidisciplinary research on topics including Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence and human capital. It will also support increased activities to provide international experiences for young researchers and to develop new data sources on graduate education.

Polar Programs

Polar Programs, which include the U.S. Polar Research Programs and U.S. Antarctic Logistical Support Activities, support multi-disciplinary research in Arctic and Antarctic regions. The polar regions are geographic frontiers which provide premier natural laboratories. They play a critical role in world weather and climate and provide unique research opportunities ranging from studies of the earth, ice and oceans to research in atmospheric sciences and astronomy. In FY 1998, Polar Programs increase 2.0 percent, to $228.53 million. Increases are provided for studies of human dimensions of the Arctic system and for Arctic logistics, as well as for research on Antarctic ice sheets and oceans. Increases also sustain the science facilities and operations that make Antarctic research possible. Continued investment in South Pole Station infrastructure is addressed though the Major Research Equipment account.

Critical Technologies Institute

The Critical Technologies Institute is a Federally-Funded Research and Development Center established in 1992 by Congress to support the complex task of devising and implementing science and technology policy. Specifically, the Institute provides analytical support to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to identify near-term and long-term objectives for research and development and identify options for achieving those objectives.

Education and Human Resources

Education and Human Resources (EHR) supports a cohesive and comprehensive set of activities which encompass every level of education and every region of the country. EHR also plays a major role in the Foundation's long-standing commitment to developing our nation's human resources for the science and engineering workforce of the future. The FY 1998 Budget Request for EHR is $625.50 million, an increase of 1.1 percent, over FY 1997.

Major Research Equipment

The Major Research Equipment (MRE) appropriation was established in FY 1995 to support construction of major research facilities that provide unique capabilities at the cutting edge of science and engineering. The FY 1998 request of $85.0 million is a $5.0 million increase, or 6.3 percent, above the FY 1997 Current Plan. Projects supported by this Account push the boundaries of technology and offer significant expansion of opportunities, frequently in totally new directions, for the science and engineering community.

Four projects currently comprise the Major Research Equipment Account: the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), the Millimeter Array (MMA), the Polar Cap Observatory (PCO) and the South Pole Station. In FY 1998 support will allow for the completion of LIGO construction and transition to operations, begin the Design and Development Phase for the MMA, provide full funding for construction of the PCO, and enable NSF to start the process of modernizing the U.S. South Pole Station. In addition, the South Pole Safety Project was fully funded in FY 1997.

Salaries and Expenses

The FY 1998 Request for Salaries and Expenses (S&E) is $136.95 million, an increase of 2.0 percent over the FY 1997 level of $134.31 million. Salaries and Expenses provides funds for staff salaries and benefits, and general operating expenses necessary to manage and administer the NSF. The Request level provides for current administrative levels, and continues the investment in information technology for administrative processes.

Office of Inspector General

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in administering the Foundation's programs; to detect and prevent fraud, waste, or abuse within NSF or by individuals that request or receive NSF funding; and to identify and resolve cases of misconduct in science. The FY 1998 request for the OIG is $4.85 million, an increase of $160,000, or 3.4 percent, over the FY 1997 level.

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