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NSF & Congress
Testimony

Dr. Colwell

Dr. Rita Colwell
Director
National Science Foundation

Testimony
Before the Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies
May 16, 2001

Chairman Walsh, Ranking Member Mollohan, members of the Subcommittee, it is an honor to be here today as Director of the National Science Foundation. I welcome the opportunity to discuss the NSF budget request for fiscal year 2002.

Before I begin with the budget, Mr. Chairman, I would like to commend you for your many years of dedication to sound investments in research and science education. You and the members of the Subcommittee have shown strong leadership in stressing the importance of basic research to the economic wellbeing of our nation. Without this sustained support and vision, NSF would not be where it is today. I am deeply appreciative of your efforts and your wisdom.

Now let me first lay out the big picture of what's being proposed for FY 2002. NSF is requesting a total of $4.47 billion--that's $56 million more, or a 1.3 percent increase, above FY 2001. The highlight is the request for Education and Human Resources (EHR), which receives an 11 percent increase. We have also provided solid increases for administrative accounts, which are very important in insuring wise stewardship of tax dollars. In other areas, the Research and Related Activities account will basically maintain its current level of support, and the Major Research Equipment account will drop by one-fifth.

Let me put these numbers in a different context. The FY 2002 Budget Request reflects the strength of the Foundation--a broad base of research and education activities that provides the nation with the people, the ideas, and the tools needed to fuel innovation and economic growth.

In our FY 2002 request, investments in people are up 13 percent from last year. We cover kindergarten to career development. This investment encompasses much of our Education and Human Resources Directorate as well as many activities funded across the Foundation. NSF directly supports about 200,000 people -- including teachers, students, researchers, postdocs, and others. Moreover, the benefits of NSF programs are felt throughout the population in terms of new discoveries, scientific and technological advances, and improved math and science educational opportunities that affect all of our lives.

Now, let's look at the highlights.

Math and Science Partnerships Initiative

We are particularly pleased that the President's budget has designated NSF to lead the Math and Science Partnerships element of the No Child Left Behind education initiative. At the center of the FY 2002 request is an initial $200 million of a planned $1 billion over 5 years which will be used to improve K-12 science and math education through partnerships. NSF will provide funds for states and local school districts to join with institutions of higher education--mathematics, science, and engineering departments of local colleges and universities--to strengthen K-12 math and science education. The request includes $90 million in new funds and a redirection of $110 million from existing EHR programs with similar strategies and goals.

This investment will provide K-12 students with enhanced opportunities to perform to high standards. This important component of the President's education initiative will help states address teacher quality; math and science curricula and textbooks; enrollment numbers in advanced science and math courses; and assessment.

Graduate Student Stipends

The second key opportunity this request addresses is something that is long overdue: increasing graduate student stipends. The FY 2002 Budget provides $8 million to increase stipends for the Graduate Research Fellowships, the Graduate Teaching Fellowships in K-12 Education, and the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship programs. Stipends will increase from $18,000 to $20,500 for academic year 2002-2003.

This increase is extremely important. According to an NSF survey of recent S&E bachelor's recipients, more than one-third stated that they would not pursue graduate studies because of financial reasons. We must work to ensure that adequate numbers of students are willing and able to enter graduate S&E programs.

Although graduate student enrollment in U.S. science and engineering programs increased in 1999 after five consecutive annual decreases, students with temporary visas accounted for the entire upswing. If we do not boost the number of skilled U.S. workers the nation will certainly suffer.

Interdisciplinary Mathematics

A centerpiece of NSF's core investments in FY 2002 is the Interdisciplinary Mathematics Research program funded at $20 million. Our total investment in mathematical sciences will increase 16.5 percent. Mathematics is a powerful tool for insight and a common language for science and engineering. This emphasis on the mathematical sciences recognizes its increasingly critical role in advancing interdisciplinary research. This investment will bring cutting-edge mathematics to address problems in the physical, biological, and social sciences. Some examples include studies of brain function, communication networks, modern economic behaviors, and the modeling and prediction of major weather events, such as tornadoes or hurricanes.

Priority Areas

In addition to investments in core research and education, NSF identifies and supports emerging opportunities in priority areas that hold exceptional promise to advance knowledge. The FY 2002 Budget emphasizes four priority areas - Biocomplexity in the Environment, Information Technology Research, Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and Learning for the 21st Century. All of these areas receive increased investment over last year's amounts.

Biocomplexity and the Environment

The FY 2002 budget request builds on past investments in our Biocomplexity in the Environment portfolio and increases funds by nearly 6 percent, to $58 million. Computational and information technologies, real time sensing techniques, and genomics are providing insight into the interactions among ecological, social, and physical earth systems. For example, recently investigators have been studying contaminant flux of the lower Mississippi River, dynamics of an invasive non-native species on the Pacific Coast, and marine mammal abundance in the western Arctic Ocean. Developing new research instruments and software that advance cross-disciplinary studies in the environment will continue to improve our understanding of the planet and its systems.

Information Technology Research

The Information Technology Research budget request expands fundamental research in another multidisciplinary area. Our requested $273 million investment, 5 percent over last year, allows us to explore ways of making large-scale networking, software, and systems more reliable, stable, and secure. This will permit diverse applications from telemedicine, to interactive education, to the remote operation of experimental apparatus--such as the telescope at the South Pole. Other research will improve our understanding of human-computer interactions and investigate the impact of IT on our society, on our economy, and on our educational system. Because the information technology sector has contributed significantly to recent U.S. economic growth, these investments remain a top priority.

Nanoscale Science and Engineering

In nanoscale science and engineering--colloquially known as nanotechnology--activities range from investigation of biologically based systems that exhibit novel properties to the study of nanoscale control of the structure and composition of new materials. Recognizing the importance of this emerging discipline, NSF is increasing its investment by 16.1 percent to $174 million in FY 2002.

Fundamental research programs will investigate biosystems at the nanoscale--such as nanoscale sensors to detect cancer. Research will focus on system architectures, nanoscale processes in the environment--for instance, the trapping and release of contaminants--multi-scale modeling, and large-scale computer simulation of processes at the molecular or atomic level. Grand challenges include major long-term research objectives in nanoscale electronics, nano-based manufacturing, and nanostructured materials by design.

Learning for the 21st Century

Learning for the 21st Century addresses two interrelated challenges: understanding how we learn; and transferring that knowledge for use in schools, homes and other learning environments. Research, development, and testing of educational tools incorporating information technology will give us a much better understanding of how they can be used effectively in the classroom. Accordingly, the NSF request for these activities, $126 million, is a 3.3 percent increase over last year.

A key component of this priority area is the Centers for Learning and Teaching program. Like the Math and Science Partnerships, these link K-12 and higher education. They allow opportunities for teachers to gain new skills in the use of information technology in education, new knowledge in science and mathematics, and--most importantly--allow them to integrate these with new research on learning. Applications of research results will increase opportunities for higher achievement and, ultimately, produce a workforce able to meet the challenges of rapid scientific and technological change.

Other FY 02 highlights

I'd like to bring this overview to a close by noting some other highlights.

I am a firm believer in the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR--which enables researchers to participate more fully in NSF research activities. FY 2002 funding for EPSCoR will total nearly $100 million. This includes about $75 million provided through the EHR appropriation and another $25 million provided through NSF's Research and Related Activities account.

The FY 2002 budget provides about $65 million to support ongoing research on the genomics of plants that have major economic importance. The long-term goal of this program is to understand the structure, organization, and function of plant genomes that are very important to agriculture, the environment, and health.

Along that same line, the 2010 project will support research to determine the functions of the 20,000 to 25,000 genes in the recently sequenced Arabidopsis genome.

On another front, the FY 2002 budget provides about $26 million to initiate a new cohort of Science and Technology Centers in areas that span the range of disciplines supported by NSF.

As provided in recent legislation to strengthen the technology workforce, approximately $144 million is anticipated from H-1B nonimmigrant visa application fees. These funds support Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics (CSEM) Scholarships and Private-Public Partnerships in K-12.

The budget request also includes $26 million for the GK-12 program. That will put hundreds of graduate students in K-12 classrooms to learn the art of teaching. They will share their research with younger students and serve as role models that are so important, especially in inner-city schools.

Major Research Equipment

Finally, the Major Research Equipment account for FY 2002 will fund three continuing projects:

First, $24.4 million is requested for the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. This is a national collaboration of approximately 20 geographically-distributed, shared-use experimental research equipment sites that seeks to improve the seismic design and performance of U.S. civil and mechanical infrastructure systems.

We will invest $16.9 million to continue funding the Large Hadron Collider, the internationally supported collaboration at CERN. This superconducting particle accelerator will advance our fundamental understanding of matter.

Additionally, $55 million is requested to support the infrastructure to allow access to terascale computing systems. This will enable all researchers and engineers access to leading-edge computing capabilities.

Conclusion

We know from past experience that NSF funding should cover a broad base of disciplines to insure constant sources of innovation. NSF should open the potential for every field to be connected and to contribute. Science and engineering today are integrated and answer each other's questions, and inspire future generations.

In order for the nation to be able to use new knowledge for economic and social progress, we have to make a national commitment to support these efforts. In the current fiscal climate, this budget lays the foundation for sustained increases over the long term while also providing opportunities in all fields of science and engineering.

We all have a responsibility to convince the public that long-term investments in science and engineering make our economy stronger and our lives easier and more rewarding. As we work more efficiently within budget constraints, we must plan for the future--ensuring a steady stream of investments. Working together, we can set the stage for increased investments over the long haul. Thank you.

 

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