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EARTH SCIENCES $153,140,000

The FY 2003 Budget Request for the Earth Sciences Subactivity is $153.14 million, an increase of $26.74 million, or 21.2 percent, over the FY 2002 Current Plan of $126.40 million.

(Millions of Dollars)


FY 2001

FY 2002
Current Plan

FY 2003




Earth Sciences Project Support






Instrumentation and Facilities






Total, EAR






Totals may not add due to rounding.

The Earth Sciences Subactivity (EAR) supports research and educational activities to improve our understanding of processes that govern the behavior and characteristics of the Earth's surface environment and determine its internal structure, composition and dynamics. Funding is provided for theoretical, computational, laboratory and field studies, and for state-of-the-art scientific infrastructure needs. The new understanding gained from such studies provides the scientific basis for the prediction of natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and droughts, and the mitigation of their impacts; the discovery and use of mineral, energy, and water resources; and for environmentally sound decision-making. Supported projects often occur in partnership with and complement focused efforts by other federal and state agencies. EAR plays a crucial role in advancing both research and education in the Earth Sciences. Included in EAR support are those funds provided for programs transferred from other agencies, as previously described: $10.0 million for the Sea Grant program, $2.50 million for the Environmental Education program, and $9.72 million for the Hydrology of Toxic Substances program.

Earth Sciences is increasing its support of educational activities. These activities are emerging at a time when there is growing national awareness of the need to improve science education, and an appreciation of the opportunities offered by the Earth Sciences to engage students of all levels in the exploration of the world around them. With strong encouragement and support, education programs are becoming an integral part of EAR facilities and research programs. The Educational Seismology Network (ESN), for example, is an emerging national consortium designed to advance inquiry-based learning in the geosciences at the high school and college level by capitalizing on students' natural interest in earthquakes, earthquake hazards, and the nature of the interior of the Earth. Through ESN, working seismometers are being installed in individual schools. Students and teachers can measure seismograms from earthquakes and other sources, share their data with other schools via the Web, and the data collection activity is supported by a high-quality curricula.

Educational activities are also linked to the research activities of Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), the international seismology consortium. IRIS uses a two-pronged approach to reach the K-12 teacher population: initially through workshops held at national professional scientific and education meetings, and then by training seismologists in the research community to run teacher workshops. This facilitates contact and communication between practicing research seismologists and the local K-12 education community. This philosophy exemplifies EAR's intention to impact education nationally but also locally through engaging our EAR researchers in broader educational endeavors.

The FY 2003 Budget Request includes $116.94 million for Earth Sciences Project Support to provide funds for three main activities. The first is support for individuals and groups of scientists whose research provides the foundation of excellence and capability across all disciplines of the Earth Sciences. Supported programs include disciplinary studies in geology and paleontology, petrology and geochemistry, tectonics, geophysics, and the hydrologic sciences. The second is support for interdisciplinary research to help understand the parameters and processes that govern the behavior of complex global systems and gain insight into the character and behavior of the Earth's environment. This funding will enable continued support for U.S. scientists and engineers to participate in coordinated national and international research activities as well as an increased emphasis on water quality and collaborative multidisciplinary studies to understand the Earth as a functioning dynamic system. The third is the integration of research, education and public awareness through the support of outreach projects, digital libraries and other human resources activities within the geosciences. Priorities for FY 2003 include support for:

  • Multidisciplinary studies of the hydrological and biogeochemical cycles, and processes that govern water quality and the character and dynamics of the Earth's surface and the intersection of the geosphere and biosphere;

  • Improving understanding of natural hazards such as floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions;

  • Enhancing of the geophysical observational capabilities of the Earth Sciences in order to better understand the structure, dynamics and evolution of the North American continent;

  • Expanding capabilities for computationally challenging planetary research such as dynamic modeling of earth system processes, managing very large data sets, and integrating and synthesizing data between disciplines;

  • Enabling national and international continental scientific drilling focusing on the mechanics of earthquake initiation, and the detailed mechanisms that control eruptive volcanism; and

  • Supporting science activities related to the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD), an interagency research effort designed to monitor a seismically active fault zone and expand our understanding of earthquake physics.

Support for the Instrumentation and Facilities Program and infrastructure activities totals $36.20 million. This supports shared research facilities such as Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) for seismological research, the University Navstar Consortium (UNAVCO) for precision geodetic measurements using Global Positioning Systems (GPS), accelerator-based mass spectrometers, ion-beam microprobes, and synchrotron beam lines. The program also funds the research and educational needs for instrumentation and computational infrastructure at universities and colleges throughout the nation. Priorities for FY 2003 include support for:

  • Enhancement of seismic, geodetic and other geophysical observational platforms on the North American continent to obtain higher resolution imaging of Earth structures underneath the continent and improved understanding of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and related active tectonic processes;

  • Development of ultra-high pressure technology enabling laboratory investigations of Earth and other planetary bodies under extreme conditions existing in deep planetary interiors;

  • The IRIS facility, to enhance operation and deployment of the Global Seismic Network, continue making available portable seismic arrays to facilitate focused geophysical research, and to sustain the Data Management System which makes available data on seismic events to researchers world-wide; and

  • Development of a dedicated InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite mission, carried out jointly with NASA and USGS, to provide spatially-continuous strain measurements over wide geographic areas.

Change in Budget Structure

In order to streamline management within the EAR Subactivity, the Continental Dynamics budget line has been combined with Earth Sciences Project Support. This new budget structure arranges program groupings by research function and is expected to improve internal efficiencies and promote effective management of budgetary resources.

(Millions of Dollars)


FY 2002 Old Structure


New Structure

Earth Sciences
Project Support

and Facilities



Earth Sciences
Project Support





and Facilities





Total, EAR





Totals may not add due to rounding.

  Last Modified: Sep 17, 2004


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National Science Foundation Summary of FY 2003 Budget Request to Congress NSF Logo