NSF & Congress
Dr. Warren Washington
National Science Board
Before the VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies
Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations
May 15, 2002
Madame Chair, Ranking Member Bond, and members of the
Subcommittee, I appreciate having the opportunity
to testify before you as Chair of the National Science
Board. I am Warren Washington, Senior Scientist and
Section Head of the Climate Change Research Section
at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
On behalf of the National Science Board, I thank the
Subcommittee for its sustained commitment to a broad
portfolio of investments in science, mathematics,
engineering, and technology research and education.
These investments contribute to our Nation's long-term
security and economic vitality and to the well being
of all Americans.
The National Science Foundation's
The National Science Board has approved and supports
the National Science Foundation's budget request for
fiscal year 2003. The 5 percent increase in funding
will allow NSF to continue to nurture the people,
ideas, and tools needed to generate new knowledge
and new technologies. Among the important initiatives
that this budget includes are priorities for the science
and engineering workforce; mathematical and statistical
science research that will advance interdisciplinary
science and engineering; and research in the social,
behavioral, and economic sciences to explore the complex
interactions between technology and society. The budget
continues support for the Math and Science Partnership
program; increases funding for the Foundation's six
priority areas, which have the potential of enormous
payoff for the Nation; and provides a much-needed
increase in annual stipends for graduate fellows--a
critical investment the future U.S. science and engineering
workforce. The NSF Director, Dr. Rita Colwell, will
discuss these and other specifics of the budget request
in her testimony.
As this Committee recognizes, NSF is a major contributor
both to scientific research and science education.
Federal investments in the basic sciences through
NSF have produced new discoveries and new technologies
essential to our national security and economic prosperity.
In addition, NSF supports innovative education programs
from pre-kindergarten through graduate school, preparing
the next generation of scientists and engineers and
contributing to a more scientifically literate workforce
Each year NSF evaluates, primarily through external
peer review, 32,000 proposals from 2,000 colleges,
universities, and institutions. The value of the proposals
is approximately $16 billion. NSF annually makes 10,000
awards, totaling nearly $3 billion, in a highly competitive
merit review process. It is estimated that NSF proposals
representing an additional $5 billion are worthy of
investment if the funds were available.
The Health of the Science and
The new knowledge and technologies emerging today are
a tribute to Federal research investments made years
ago in a spirit of bipartisanship. When those investments
began, no one could foresee their future impact. Revolutionary
advances such as those in information technology,
nanotechnology, materials, and biotechnology remind
us that such breakthroughs with promising benefits
to the economy, the workforce, our educational systems,
and national security require long-term, high-risk
Among Federal agencies, NSF has the unique mission
of advancing the Nation's health, prosperity, and
welfare by supporting research and education in all
fields of science and engineering. NSF plays a critical
role in supporting new discoveries and knowledge as
well as innovative educational programs at all levels.
NSF-funded research and education are critical to
sustaining U.S. strength in science and technology,
a key element of national security.
Despite widespread recognition of the benefits that
result from federally supported scientific research,
as a Nation, we are seriously under-investing in basic
research. In our $10 trillion Gross Domestic Product,
the Federal Government budgets $24 billion to basic
research, which represents one-fourth of one percent
of the Nation's Gross Domestic Product. Of the $24
billion, NSF receives $3 billion to support cutting-edge
science and the search for new knowledge.
Achieving a balanced portfolio in the basic sciences
is as important as the quality and quantity of research
funded. For example, as Congressional leaders and
others have pointed out, the success of the National
Institutes of Health's efforts to find cures for deadly
diseases depends heavily on the underpinning of basic
research supported by the National Science Foundation.
National Science Board Policy
In addition to providing oversight to NSF, the Board
provides advice to the President and the Congress
on matters of science and engineering policy. I would
like to mention some of our current activities related
to major issues affecting the health of the science
and engineering enterprise.
Federal Investment in Science and Engineering
The level of Federal investment is crucial to the health
of the science and engineering enterprise. Equally
crucial is how effectively that investment is made.
The growing opportunities for discovery and the inevitable
limits on Federal spending mean that hard choices
must be made and priorities set.
In its recent report, Federal Research Resources:
A Process for Setting Priorities, the Board offers
its recommendations for a more effective budget process,
including an improved information base and a decision-making
process for allocating Federal funding to research.
The Board's conclusions are based on reviews of the
literature on budget coordination and priority setting
for public research and invited presentations from
and discussions with representatives of the Office
of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and
Technology Policy, the Federal research and development
agencies, congressional staff, high-level science
officials from foreign governments, experts on data
and methodologies, and spokespersons from industry,
the National Academies, research communities, science
policy community, and academe.
U.S. Government Role in International Science and
In the 21st century, advances in science and engineering
will to a large measure determine economic growth,
quality of life, and the health and security of our
planet. The conduct, communication, and use of science
are intrinsically global. New ideas and discoveries
are emerging all over the world and the balance of
expertise is shifting among countries. Collaborations
and international partnerships contribute to addressing
a broad range of international problems. They also
contribute to building more stable relations among
nations by creating a universal language and culture
based on commonly accepted values of objectivity,
sharing, integrity, and free inquiry. The Federal
Government plays a significant role in promoting international
science and engineering activities and supporting
research with international dimensions.
In its recent report entitled Toward a More Effective
Role for the U.S. Government in International Science
and Engineering, the Board concludes that new
approaches to the management and coordination of U.S.
international science and engineering activities are
needed if the United States is to maintain the long-term
vitality of its science and engineering enterprise
and the vitality of its economy. The Board recommends
that the Federal Government (1) increase the effectiveness
of its coordination of international science and engineering
activities, (2) increase international cooperation
in fundamental research and education, particularly
with developing countries and by younger scientists
and engineers; and (3) improve the use of science
and engineering information in foreign policy deliberations
and in dealing with global issues and problems.
U.S. Science and Engineering Infrastructure
An area of constant concern for NSF and the Board is
the quality and adequacy of infrastructure to enable
scientific discoveries in the future. The rapidly
changing environment of new knowledge, new tools,
and new information capabilities has created a demand
for more complex and more costly facilities for scientific
A Board task force is assessing the current status,
changing needs, and strategies needed to ensure that
the Nation will have the infrastructure to sustain
cutting-edge science and engineering research. We
expect to receive the task force's preliminary findings
National Workforce Policies for Science and Engineering
For U.S. leadership in science and engineering, there
is no more important issue than the development of
a skilled technical workforce. As a Nation, we are
not attracting the numbers of science and engineering
students our Nation needs to sustain its leadership.
Nor are we successfully tapping all our domestic resources,
especially under-represented minorities and women.
The pool of potential science and engineering students
will increasingly reflect the growing diversity in
the American workforce and society.
A Board task force on workforce policies for science
and engineering is reviewing U.S. workforce needs,
the role of foreign students and workers, and policy
options for ensuring an adequate science and engineering
workforce for the future. We anticipate receiving
the task force's report by the end of this year.
Madame Chair, at this point I would like to close my
formal remarks. I thank the Subcommittee for its long-time
support of the science community, especially the National
Science Foundation, and for allowing me to comment
on significant national policy concerns, as well as
on the Foundation's budget request.