The FY 1999 Budget Request for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Activity is $792.03 million, an increase of $76.32 million, or 10.7 percent, over the FY 1998 Current Plan of $715.71 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

The Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Activity supports a strong and diverse portfolio of research and education in mathematics, astronomical science, physics, chemistry, and materials research. The purpose of this work is both to deepen our understanding of the physical universe, and to use this understanding in service to society.

In addition, the mathematical and physical sciences underpin many other scientific endeavors and serve as the training ground for at least half of all doctoral scientists now employed in U.S. industry. Supporting areas of inquiry that are critical for long-term U.S. economic strength and security, MPS provides a substantial portion of federal funding for fundamental research at academic institutions in these areas, and in some of the subfields accounts for most of the federal investment.

The new opportunities are many. Research at the atomic level will result in a period of discovery which could be termed a "molecular revolution." The study of complex chemical and physical systems offers critical insights into climate change and other natural phenomena. Biological systems can be understood and controlled via powerful mathematical and physical techniques, such as the creation of algorithms critical for drug design and for the development of biopolymers, gels, and other biomolecular materials. New tools critical to scientific progress – from advanced magnets, to novel sensors, to more powerful telescopes – are being developed and refined, and will make possible the understanding of physical phenomena at a much more profound level. Essential to achieving these goals is the development of new mathematical tools and algorithms for modeling and simulation of physical and biological phenomena.

MPS places a high priority on multidisciplinary work and on partnerships. The Multidisciplinary Activities Subactivity is designed to catalyze efforts in emerging areas of research and education at disciplinary boundaries. By fostering closer connections with other federal agencies, state governments, and industry, MPS investigators can enhance the impact of their efforts and increase the return on NSF investments.

International partnerships are critical to progress, both intellectually and financially, especially in the areas of astronomy, physics, and materials research, all of which require the use of large facilities. An example is the strong international cooperation that the Astronomy Subactivity has generated in support of the Gemini Observatories. Another is the collaboration with the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Research and with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) that the Physics Subactivity has pursued toward the development of detectors for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

World leadership in science is a critical objective for MPS. Receipt of Nobel Prizes by MPS-supported investigators is a strong indicator of the long-term importance of MPS research. The 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Steven Chu of Stanford University, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji of the College de France and the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and William Phillips of the National Institute of Standards and Technology for their work in applying laser techniques to the cooling and trapping of atoms. Chu's work on laser cooling at Stanford University has been supported by the Physics Subactivity. It has had a seminal effect on atom manipulation and control, and has enabled many other major discoveries, including the development of atom tweezers, the experimental discovery of the Bose-Einstein condensate, and demonstration of the basics of an atom laser.

In FY 1999, MPS will provide support for the Foundation-wide priority multidisciplinary areas of Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI), Life and Earth’s Environment (LEE), and Educating for the Future (EFF).

Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence. MPS will provide an increment of $14.97 million for KDI. Plans will include:

 Life and Earth’s Environment. MPS will provide an increment of $10.64 million for LEE. Plans will include: Educating for the Future. In FY 1999, MPS will provide an increment of $19.65 million for EFF. EFF includes a range of programs supporting innovative approaches to meeting the challenge of educating students for the twenty-first century. Major emphasis for FY 1999 include: Key Program Functions

MPS supports its ongoing and new activities through the following key program functions:

(Millions of Dollars)
1 Includes only costs charged to the R&RA Appropriation. The types of activities supported varies widely across the MPS Subactivities. For example, awards to individual investigators and small groups range from less than forty percent of the budget in Astronomical Sciences to over ninety percent in the Mathematical Sciences. Identifying and maintaining an appropriate balance is essential for the health of each field, and MPS works in close partnership with the research communities to identify and implement a balanced, forward-looking investment portfolio. Approximately 4,300 awards are made each year, with a median award size of $63,000 and an average duration of 2.8 years.

Research Project Support

Research Project Support provides funding for research projects and centers that span all the mathematical and physical science disciplines. Research projects account for two-thirds of the MPS Activity, while centers account for an additional ten percent. These awards range from support of single investigators to group or center awards designed to meet the research needs of a collaboration. These award mechanisms promote the competition of ideas, rapid innovation arising from new scientific opportunities, and flexible approaches to complex scientific problems.

In FY 1999, MPS will implement efforts to address the Foundation-wide concern about grant sizes by increasing the average size and duration of awards and providing more support for researchers with particular attention to new investigators. These efforts will also contribute to increasing the efficiency of the Foundation’s merit review process and achieve greater cost-effectiveness for both NSF and the university community.

Within Research Project Support, funding for research projects will increase in FY 1999 by $40.98 million, to total $519.26 million. MPS will participate in a new Foundation-wide initiative on Research on K-12 Education and Training Technologies, a partnership with the Department of Education. MPS will provide $2.0 million to support efforts such as basic research on educationally relevant technologies; research aimed at developing educational software and technology-enabled pedagogy; and studies to determine the most effective educational approaches and practices.

In terms of ongoing efforts, MPS will increase its investments in the Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI), to a total of $12.60 million, and in the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program, to a total of $21.26 million. MPS will also increase support for undergraduate education for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI), to levels of $12.37 million and $9.36 million, respectively. MPS will continue to support Collaboratives to Integrate Research and Education (CIRE), a jointly funded program initiated during FY 1998 with the EHR Activity to establish long-term research and education relationships between minority-serving institutions and NSF-supported centers and facilities. Multidisciplinary areas of interest include astrophysics, computational science and engineering, nanoscience and engineering, optical science and engineering, plasma science and engineering, environmental research, and research related to biological systems.

The MPS disciplines require a wide variety of state-of-the-art equipment and instrumentation to make scientific and educational progress. In addition, instrument development to open new frontiers of scientific endeavor is an important aspect of MPS-supported research. For example, the development of adaptive optics enables new types of astronomical observations; chemical and materials research depend critically on synchrotron radiation beam lines and advanced lasers to study structures at the atomic scale; and the molecular synthesis and processing of novel complex molecules and advanced participation in materials requires techniques of ever-increasing sophistication. All of the MPS disciplines increasingly rely on computers to carry out simulations and visualizations, and to aid in the analysis of large data sets. In FY 1999, MPS support for equipment and instrumentation acquisition and instrument development will increase by $9.78 million, to $95.70 million. Instrumentation accounts for approximately 12 percent of the MPS budget, and includes MPS's participation in the NSF-wide Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program.

In FY 1999, increased funding will focus on areas that include the following:

  Within the Research Project Support Key Program Function, MPS supports a number of centers:
(Millions of Dollars)
1 Includes National High Field FT-ICR Mass Spectrometry Center and the Center on Human Dimensions of Global Change. Center-based research brings together scientists from diverse disciplines to work on complex problems, often in partnerships with other academic institutions, national laboratories, and industry. Centers are strongly committed to the integration of research and education, at levels from pre-college to postdoctoral, and they maintain sophisticated experimental facilities generally accessible to a broad range of users.

In FY 1998, MPS supports ten Science and Technology Centers (STC) and 24 Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC). The research activities of STCs cover a broad range, from advanced materials, to particle astrophysics, to ultrafast optical science. In the MRSECs, researchers from many disciplines, including engineering, the mathematical and physical sciences, and biology focus on a wide range of materials types, structures, and fundamental processes.

Interdisciplinary groups at a number of MRSECs and STCs are working in close partnership with teachers and educators to bring materials science alive for pre-college students in a variety of programs. For example, the MRSEC at Northwestern University has worked with pre-college teachers to develop its educational Materials World Modules program for schools. The program is now in use in several states in the U.S., and will be distributed internationally. The program features hands-on student learning of scientific principles using materials related modules.

Centers play a significant role in attracting women and other groups that are underrepresented in the scientific workforce to careers in science. The MRSECs support more than 1,700 faculty members and students. Of these, about 350 are women and 160 are from other underrepresented groups. Efforts by the MRSECs to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities will be further enhanced.

Research Facilities

Advances in astronomy, physics, and many areas of materials research depend heavily on user facilities that provide state-of-the-art capabilities, including instrumentation, that enable research at the cutting edge of science. The investment in facilities not only supports ongoing operations and maintenance, but also periodic upgrades that may be needed to provide continued research opportunities at the forefront of science.

(Millions of Dollars)
1 Includes the Indiana University Cyclotron Facility, the Wisconsin Synchrotron Radiation Center, the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source, the Center for High-Resolution Neutron Scattering, the National Nanofabrication Users Network, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and planning funds for the Spallation Neutron Source. In FY 1999, major facilities support includes the following: Education and Training

In FY 1999, MPS will significantly increase investments in education and training that ensure preparation of a diverse, broadly trained and globally competitive scientific workforce, and that help to develop a scientifically literate populace. These investments will support innovative activities in education and training at all levels from K-12 through the postdoctoral experience. Funding identified in the table below includes only dedicated education and training activities and excludes education and training activities supported through research awards and those taking place at centers and facilities.

(Millions of Dollars)

The FY 1999 increase for education and training activities in MPS will be $13.89 million.

Administration and Management

The Administration and Management key program function includes the cost of Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointments and contractors performing administrative functions.