NSF & Congress
Dr. Rita Colwell
National Science Foundation
Before the Senate Committee on Health,
Labor and Pensions
June 19, 2002
Chairman Kennedy, Senator Gregg, and Members of the
Committee, thank you for providing this opportunity
to discuss the President's budget request for the
National Science Foundation.
America's present and future strength, prosperity and
global preeminence depend directly on fundamental
Every year, the Foundation's optimal use of limited
public funds has relied on two conditions -- number
one, ensuring that our research and education investments
are aimed - and continuously re-aimed - at the frontiers
And number two, certifying that virtually every dollar
goes to competitive merit- reviewed, and time-limited
awards with clear criteria for success.
Moreover, NSF puts the greatest share of its resources
where they will do the most good: in the nation's
colleges and universities where, in addition to generating
the truly new ideas that define the future, every
dollar invested contributes to developing and training
the next generation of researchers and educators.
NSF has been proactive in implementing the President's
Management Agenda, and we welcome -- and apply --
input from many sources to continuously improve the
way we manage programs at NSF.
When these conditions are met, our nation gets the
most intellectual and economic leverage from its research
and education investments.
The National Science Foundation is requesting $5.036
billion for FY2003, $240 million or five percent more
than the previous fiscal year. For the United States
to stay on the leading edge of discovery and innovation,
we cannot do less.
Let me stress that the priority setting process at
NSF results from continual consultation with the research
community. New programs are added or enhanced only
after seeking the combined expertise and experience
of the science and engineering community, the Director
and Deputy, and the National Science Board.
Programs are initiated or enlarged based on considerations
of their intellectual merit, broader impacts of the
research, the importance to science and engineering,
balance across fields and disciplines, and synergy
with research in other agencies and nations. NSF coordinates
its research with our sister research agencies both
informally -- by program officers being actively informed
of other agencies' programs – and formally, through
interagency agreements that spell out the various
agency roles in research activities.
Partnerships among agencies are proliferating mainly
because they offer the best hope for finding answers
to some of the most challenging research problems.
These partnerships are truly changing the face of
science. NSF is the lead agency for two multi-agency
Administration initiatives in the most promising research
fields, information technology and nanotechnology.
Knowledge breakthroughs in these two areas alone will
fundamentally change the face of research in research
areas across the board.
I am keenly aware and deeply appreciative of this committee's
strong interest in improving the quality of education
in this country, so I wanted to take a few minutes
to discuss some of the steps NSF is taking to strengthen
our math and science education.
How can it be that a nation that spends more than $300
billion on public K-12 education invests less than
one-tenth of one percent of that amount to determine
"what "actually works," and to find ways to improve
educational technologies? NSF does not have a magic
wand, but we do have an impressive portfolio of research
and education programs designed to help address these
and other challenging problems.
One of the most encouraging highlights of our FY03
budget request is a second installment of $200 million
for President's Bush's national five-year, $1 billion
Math and Science Partnership Program (MSP) to ensure
that "no child is left behind." The strategic focus
of MSP is to link the nation's higher education institutions
with local, regional and state school districts and
other partners. MSP calls for a significant commitment
by colleges and universities to help improve the quality
of science and mathematics instruction in our schools.
Additionally, the program calls for greater investment
in the recruitment and professional development of
highly competent science and math teachers. I would
like to note that NSF and the Department of Education
are working closely together to effectively manage
this joint investment in math and science education.
Review panels are currently underway for the first
round of MSP proposals, and Department of Education
staff is fully involved in this process along with
For MSP to succeed we must first ensure that productive
partnerships are established between schools and colleges.
A second distinguishing feature of MSP is that it
will not be an isolated set of local partnerships,
but will become part of a national science, technology,
engineering and mathematics (STEM) education portfolio
of interconnected sites that will share successful
methods so that all students benefit. MSP seeks to
improve student achievement in mathematics and science
by all students, at all pre-college levels. NSF doesn't
have all the answers, but through programs like MSP,
our education portfolio is evolving to meet the critical
needs of our nation's future workforce.
And that S&T workforce should also reflect the face
of America. We must attract more of our youngsters,
especially minorities and women, to pursue careers
in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering.
We must draw upon our full talent pool. One of the
steps NSF is taking to attract more of the nation's
most promising students to science and engineering
is an investment of approximately $37 million in FY03
to increase annual stipends for graduate fellows to
encourage them to pursue technical careers. Other
NSF programs geared toward helping this underrepresented
segment of our population can hopefully make a difference
in their recruitment, retention, and advancement in
The budget also includes funding for six priority areas,
including $221 million for nanotechnology research,
$286 million for information technology research,
and $60 million as part of a new priority area in
mathematical and statistical sciences research that
will ultimately advance interdisciplinary science
and engineering. $185 million is directed toward NSF's
Learning for the 21st Century Workforce priority area
– including $20 million to fund three to four new
multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional Science of
Learning Centers to enhance our understanding of how
we learn, how the brain stores information, and how
we can best use new information technology to promote
We are also requesting $10 million to seed a new priority
area in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences
to explore the complex interactions between new technology
and society so that we can better anticipate and prepare
for their consequences.
The budget requests $79 million for research on biocomplexity
in the environment. This builds upon past investments
to study the remarkable and dynamic web of interrelationships
that arise when living things at all levels interact
with their environment. Research in two new areas
this year -- microbial genome sequencing and ecology
of infectious diseases -- will help develop strategies
to assess and manage the risks of infectious diseases,
invasive species, and biological weapons.
I should add that as part of the Administration's new
multi-agency Climate Change Research Initiative, we
will implement a $15 million research program to advance
understanding in highly focused areas of climate science,
to reduce uncertainty and facilitate policy decisions.
Our budget also includes $76 million for programs
slated to be transferred to NSF from NOAA, EPA, and
Although we did not seek these transfers, we take considerable
pride in the fact that of the 26 Federal agencies
judged by OMB in five key management areas, only the
National Science Foundation received a green light.
NSF is noted for its expertise and success in funding
competitive research, and this was certainly a factor
in this recognition.
In large facilities, we will continue support for the
next phase of construction of the Atacama Large Millimeter
Array (ALMA). New construction projects in the FY2003
budget include two prototype sites of the National
Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) at a cost of
$12 million to analyze data to detect abrupt changes
or long-term trends in the environment. The budget
also requests $35 million for EarthScope to detect
and investigate earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and
landslides on the North American continent.
The events following September 11 demonstrated our
capacity to engage the research community in ways
that are immediately responsive to national needs
– ranging from the analysis of a catastrophic structural
collapse to the use of robotics in victim location.
We owe this flexibility to a highly trained scientific
and engineering workforce capable of selecting the
most interesting and challenging problems for their
research. It is this flexibility, enabled by the merit
review system that makes our science and technology
enterprise the envy of the world.
The Bush Administration has recognized that we need
to invest more in scientific and technological research
– across the board. Other nations are building up
their R&D commitments. US investment in broad-based
fundamental research – which takes place largely in
our universities – must not be allowed to slip. I
think Harold Varmus said it best when he said, "The
NIH does a magnificent job but it does not hold all
the keys to success. The work of several science agencies
is required for advances in medical sciences, and
the health of some of those agencies is suffering."
The National Science Foundation is the only Federal
agency whose primary mission is to advance science,
engineering and mathematics across all disciplines.
By doing so we support national defense, help our
country remain internationally competitive, and provide
a better standard of living for our citizens. As we
work to develop the finest scientists and engineering
for the 21st century, our human resources policy must
move beyond simply the supply and demand of personnel
and address the composition of our science and engineering
workforce. There is much room for needed improvement
and continued policy considerations.
Mr. Chairman, for those who want to examine the NSF
budget in detail, it is fully laid out on our web
site. I would be pleased to respond to any questions
that the committee may have.
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