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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary: National Science Foundation Fiscal 2003 Budget Request
House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies

April 11, 2002

Dr. Rita Colwell, Director of the National Science Foundation, and Dr. Eamon Kelly, Chairman of the National Science Board, testified on the NSF Fiscal Year 2003 budget request before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA-HUD, and Independent Agencies.

Dr. Colwell outlined the NSF budget request and Dr. Kelly summarized recent NSB reports on national research priorities, coordinating international science and engineering, and addressing the nation's science and engineering workforce needs.

Chairman Walsh (R-NY) noted that after factoring in proposed transfers of programs from EPA and the USGS, the overall increase for NSF was only 3 percent. With the bulk of this increase going to priority areas, the result is flat funding or reductions in some of the core research areas. Dr. Colwell responded that the priority areas actually support researchers in the core areas and encourage research in interdisciplinary activities.

A recurring theme in the hearing was the priority given to funding research instrumentation. Dr. Kelly responded to a question regarding the priority given to already initiated major research equipment by stating that funding for ongoing projects continues to be high priority, subject to annual review.

Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, questioned the administration's real research priorities, which seem to favor NIH over NSF. He also probed about the rationale for proposing a transfer of the Sea Grant program from NOAA and the hydrology program from USGS.

Rep. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) expressed his ongoing concern that the public is not sufficiently aware of the research that NSF supports, and Congressman Price (D-NC) expressed his disappointment in the decline in support for the Advanced Technology Education program. Dr. Colwell stated that NSF support for programs focused at two-year colleges had not declined overall.

Several Members expressed interest and support for the nanoscale science and technology priority area, a topic that stimulated an extended discussion about the time frame in which it is reasonable to expect a return on investments in basic research.

Science, engineering, and technology workforce issues, particularly as they relate to under-represented groups, as well as support for community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities were topics of particular interest to Rep. Meek (D-FL) and Rep. Cramer (D-AL).

The final round of questioning touched upon progress in rebuilding the South Pole Station and other needs to upgrade research and logistics support in the Antarctic, the goals for the National Ecological Observatory Network, and performance metrics for research.

Links to Dr. Colwell's and Dr. Kelly's full testimony:

Dr. Colwell's Testimony
Dr. Kelly's Testimony