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Photo of Arden Bement

Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr.
National Science Foundation

FY 2008 Budget Presentation
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA
February 5, 2007

(As Prepared)

See also slide presentation.

If you're interested in reproducing any of the slides, please contact the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs: (703) 292-8070.

[Title Slide: NSF FY 2008 Budget Request]
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Good afternoon, and welcome to the National Science Foundation. Thank you for leaving the warmth and comfort of your offices to hear our presentation of the NSF FY 2008 budget.

Appropriate for our chilly temperatures, this title slide depicts a very icy landscape in honor of International Polar Year, which we will launch next month. IPY symbolizes the goals and pillars of exploration and discovery at the farthest frontiers. You might say that, for NSF, IPY signifies our willingness to go to the ends of the earth to advance our knowledge of the universe and our place within it.

Opportunities to advance the frontiers of research and education have never been more promising--not just in the polar sciences, but across every field of science and engineering. No matter what compass you choose, path-breaking research is on the horizon... from the smallest particles of matter to the cosmos... and from the dynamic interactions among humans and our institutions to the intricate complexity of life on earth. The NSF budget for FY2008 sets an ambitious agenda for capitalizing on this potential to discover new knowledge that can boost the nation's economic vitality and improve our quality of life.

But this is also a time of hefty challenges, not least of which is the budget situation for 2007. But I am optimistic about the outlook for NSF. The House has passed a year-long Continuing Resolution that would provide NSF with the full 7.7% increase we requested for our Research and Related Activities account. Overall, this CR would provide a $334 million increase over FY 2006, and it represents a tremendous affirmation of support for NSF by the House.

[Slide #2: Niels Bohr Prediction Quote]
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And as Niels Bohr once said, "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." So I don't intend to read the political tea leaves. The figures I present to you today are based on the 2007 Request. We are still waiting for final Senate action on the CR.

[Slide #3: Crossed Fingers (Hoping)]
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Until we hear from the Senate, we can only cross our fingers and wait for the results. Whatever they may be, I am grateful for the impressive support offered by the science, engineering, and education communities, by industry, and by many friends in Congress. Thank you all.

[Slide #4: NSF FY 2008 Budget Request to Congress]
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NSF's commitment to the science and engineering enterprise comes from an abiding belief that knowledge is a powerful force for progress. NSF works at the frontier of knowledge where high-risk, high-reward research can lay the foundation for revolutionary technologies and tackle complex problems that challenge society.

Quite simply, our investments in fundamental research and education aim to improve the quality of people's lives and keep the nation safe and growing. The NSF budget for 2008 reflects this vital agenda, and I'm pleased to present it to you today.

[Slide #5: FY 2008 Budget Total]
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Let me begin with the numbers. First, the Big Picture. NSF is requesting $6.43 billion dollars. That's an increase of nearly $409 million, or 6.8 percent above the 2007 Request. Funding at this level will keep us on the course set by the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. ACI aims to expand federal research investments over the next ten years to drive innovation and sharpen America's competitive edge. Our task in this ambitious undertaking is to energize the nation's leadership in fundamental research and education that keeps America at the leading edge of innovation.

[Slide #6: Funding by Appropriations Account]
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Funding levels increase for every major NSF appropriations account. Investments in Research and Related Activities increase by 7.7 percent--Education and Human Resources by 4.8 percent--and MREFC by 1.8 percent. Rapid progress in these areas will generate new concepts and tools with far-reaching applications, lay the foundations for next-generation tools and technologies, and develop educational strategies to engage students and prepare them for the fast-changing, global environment. Agency Operations and Award Management increases by 1.3 percent. The budget includes across-the-board increases for every Directorate and Office of NSF.

[Slide #7: FY 2008 Budget Priorities]
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Our budget priorities for 2008 are based on the long-term investment strategies identified in the new NSF Strategic Plan. They are focused squarely on the future.

[Slide #8: Discovery Research for Innovation (FY 2008 Budget Priority)]
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The first priority is Discovery Research for Innovation. In nearly every field of science and engineering, we are moving toward new knowledge that will help us resolve some of society's most stubborn problems... in energy, security, health and the environment. And we are on the threshold of technological innovations that will power the economy well into the future.

Today, the most fertile ground for discovery is often at the interface among disciplines, where insights from one field inform our understanding of another. To explore that territory, our strategy must be to keep all fields and disciplines of science and engineering healthy and strong. We continue to address that objective in 2008.

At the same time, we must be constantly alert to research that has the potential to overturn accepted paradigms and open entirely new fields for exploration. In my remarks today, I'll highlight several of these emerging frontiers. But rest assured--the power of transformational research is ubiquitous today across the social, physical and life sciences, and engineering.

[Slide #9: Cyber-enabled Discovery for Innovation (CDI)]
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The breathtaking power of our new information and communications allows us to investigate phenomena of increasing complexity, scale and scope. But researchers are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the flood of data from our vastly improved observational tools, to assimilate different data formats and ontologies--atomic to the cosmic--and to find ways to store and archive petabyte-sized databases.

In 2008, NSF will invest $52 million in a new initiative we call Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation, or CDI. CDI will explore a new generation of computationally-based discovery concepts and tools at the intersection of the computational world and the physical and biological worlds.

In every discipline, we need new techniques that can help scientists and engineers uncover fresh knowledge from vast amounts of data generated by sensors, telescopes, satellites, or even the media and the Internet.

Understanding complex interactions in systems ranging from living cells... to binary star systems, or from computer networks to societies, also present challenges.

We need improved simulation and other dynamic modeling techniques to support experiments with complex systems--from earthquakes to brains--that are not feasible to perform in the physical world.

Finally, virtual environments have the potential to enhance collaboration, education, and experimentation in ways that we are just beginning to explore. CDI educational research efforts will center on a combination of virtual environments and advanced cyberinfrastructure. CDI will tackle all of these challenging research problems.

[Slide #10: Ocean Research Priorities Plan]
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Understanding the interactions between society and the oceans is of vital importance for ensuring a clean, healthy, stable, and productive ocean environment. The Ocean Research Priorities Plan (ORPP) lays out, for the first time, a national effort to link ocean research to societal issues ranging from the stewardship of ocean resources to the ocean's role in climate.

A new NSF investment of $17 million will support fundamental research and technology development in four areas identified in the Plan as critical near-term priorities.

One area of investigation will look at the complex dynamics that control and regulate marine ecosystem processes... knowledge that is absolutely essential to improve management of marine resources.

A second explores variability of the Meridional Overturning Circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. This is one element of global ocean circulation that is responsible for long-term climate variations along the Eastern Seaboard.

Research will also address the response of coastal ecosystems to events ranging from non-point source pollution to hurricanes.

A fourth priority is the development of new marine sensors. This is also an important objective of the Foundation's Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). OOI--together with other observatories such as NEON, NEES, and GEON--will make an important contribution to GEOSS--the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). This research complements a much more extensive, ongoing program of ocean research and education at NSF.

[Slide #11: National Nanotechnology Initiative]
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Nanotechnology is an emerging field of immense promise, with ramifications for manufacturing, medicine, and next-generation computing. With the promise of nanotechnology, we can anticipate systematic programs to identify or design a broad spectrum of materials with just the right properties for the application in mind.

We are increasing our investment in the interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative by nearly $17 million, to a total of $390 million, to support fundamental nanoscale research and the development of nanomaterials.

[Slide #12: Environmental, Health, and Safety Effects]
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A critical focus of this investment will be a new multidisciplinary effort to better understand the environmental, health, and safety impacts of nanomaterials. This research will explore the interactions between nano particles and materials and the living world at all scales. The development of innovative methods and tools to detect, characterize, and monitor nano materials in the environment, is an important feature of these activities.

[Slide #13: International Science & Engineering]
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International partnerships are now an abiding feature of the global science and engineering landscape. U.S. scientists and engineers must remain connected with researchers around the globe to detect movements at the frontier and capitalize on new concepts. This is essential if we wish to be the first nation of choice for scientists, engineers, and students from abroad.

Moreover, in this era of globalization, international experience is fast becoming an essential element in the training of U.S. undergraduate and graduate students.

NSF will support agency-wide activities to expand international partnership opportunities for U.S. scientists, engineers and students, with an increase of nearly 11 percent for the Office of International Science and Engineering, for a total of $45 million.

[Slide #14: Preparing the Workforce for the 21st Century (FY 2008 Budget Priority)]
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Creating a strong science and engineering workforce for the future is vital to maintaining the Nation's competitive edge. NSF will continue to fund a portfolio of highly successful programs.

[Slide #15: Preparing the Workforce for the 21st Century (cont.)]
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You will recognize all of them:

  • CAREER, aimed at junior faculty;
  • Advanced Technological Education (ATE) and Broadening
    Participation in Computing, designed to train the future IT workforce;
  • Noyce Scholarships, which promote the development of a world-class math and science teaching corps;
  • The STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) and the Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST), both of which aim to broaden participation of underrepresented groups and engage a broader spectrum of institutions, two objectives of vital importance to maintaining America's global competitiveness.

[Slide #16: Math and Science Partnerships]
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In coordination with the Department of Education, NSF will continue funding for the Math and Science Partnership program, aimed at improving K-12 science and math education and teaching. Although the 2008 Request for MSP remains at the FY 2007 level of $46.0 million, approximately $30 million will be available for new awards in 2008.

The budget request also includes funding for an additional 200 Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF). Together with other NSF graduate fellowship, that brings the total number of graduate students supported to about 5,375.

[Slide #17: Transformational Facilities and Infrastructure (FY 2008 Budget Priority)]
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World-class tools and facilities are every bit as essential for discovery. Our strategy is to invest in tools that promise significant advances in a field and to make them widely available to a broad cross-section of investigators.

[Slide #18: Transformational Facilities and Infrastructure (cont.)]
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For FY 2008, NSF proposes one new start in the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account (MREFC): Advanced LIGO, a gravitational wave observatory that will improve by a factor of 10 the sensitivity of current earth-based facilities. Observations made with this instrument could revolutionize the field of theoretical physics.

Scientific breakthroughs that are just over the horizon will require speeds and abilities that even today's supercomputers cannot produce. The development of a petascale computing capability will continue to be an important priority for NSF. Our commitment to support cyberinfrastructure remains equally steadfast. These investments will optimize high-end computing and cyberinfrastructure for science and engineering applications--and contribute to the nation's competitiveness in many other ways.

Funding for the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program increases by about $24 million to a total of $114 million. In addition, we will raise the maximum level of funding within MRI from $2.0 million to $4.0 million. These funds support the design and acquisition of mid-size instruments that are every bit as essential as their big brothers.

[Slide #19: International Polar Year Leadership (FY 2008 Budget Priority)]
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I began by mentioning the International Polar Year, another 2008 budget priority. As the lead agency supporting Polar research, NSF will provide U.S. leadership for IPY activities through support for an intense research and public education effort. The budget request includes nearly $59 million for these activities.

In the Polar Regions, we are discerning the outlines of environmental change, from sea ice extent, retreating glaciers, shifting patterns in flora and fauna, to environmental observations by Arctic natives.

[Slide #20: Arctic Ocean Sea Ice Extent -- Summer Minimum]
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This animation from the National Center for Atmospheric Research depicts the projected decline of summer sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean over the period from 1990 to 2049. This is a particularly dramatic illustration of these changes.

What is more, such change--whether environmental, biological or social--has implications for the rest of the globe. Polar change ripples across the planet on a spectrum of time scales, through the atmosphere, oceans, and living systems.

[Slide #21: Climate Change Science]
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We do not yet fully understand the causes of what we are observing. Now is the time to change this, for new tools make possible the needed observations and synthesis of knowledge. They range from satellites to ships to sensors, and from genomics to nanotechnology, information technology, and advances in remote and robotic technologies.

For these reasons, climate change research and environmental observations will be a major focus for NSF IPY activities. Much of this research will support the goals of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Because the scope and scale of climate change is global, U.S. scientists will collaborate with scientists from around the world.

[Slide #22: Life in Polar Regions]
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Another IPY research effort will explore how life functions and survives in the extremes of the polar regions. A surprising diversity of life flourishes in the McMurdo dry valleys of Antarctica, for example. Research will focus on microorganisms at various scales, but will include a diversity of organisms. Research on humans in polar environments will advance our understanding of our species' place in the complexity of polar phenomena.

IPY offers a fine opportunity for outreach and education to raise public understanding of science and engineering and NSF will continue to support such efforts.

[Slide #23: Stewardship (FY 2008 Budget Priority)]
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Also among our 2008 priorities is Stewardship--our commitment to support excellence in science and engineering research and education by maintaining a capable and responsive organization.

[Slide #24: NSF Stategic Plan FY 2006-2011: Investing in America's Future]
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NSF has just completed a new strategic plan for 2006-2011. As a direct result of the strategic planning process, NSF has established eight new multi-year objectives for stewardship. We will strengthen our traditional partnerships and develop new collaborations with other agencies and organizations. We will also expand efforts to broaden participation from underrepresented groups and institutions in all NSF activities.

NSF leads federal agencies in funding research and education activities based on competitive merit review, with over 88 percent of its research and education funding going to awards selected through a competitive merit review process. Improving the transparency, consistency, and uniformity of the merit review process is a priority for 2008 and into the future.

An objective for 2008 is establishing the Research.gov portal site--a one-stop website for grantees seeking federal funding. The portal will also help research agencies share grants management best practices as part of the Grants Management Line of Business.

[Slide #25: National Science Foundation FY 2008 Budget Request to Congress]
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I have only touched on a few highlights of NSF's comprehensive and exciting program activities. There are many exciting and challenging efforts that I haven't mentioned. They all deserve your attention. I hope you will take the opportunity to attend the Directorate breakout sessions that follow this presentation.

[Slide #26: Universe's Early Years]
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This artist's animation illustrates the early years of the universe, from its explosive formation to its dark ages, to its first stars and mini-galaxies. Seeing this far into the past is a remarkable feat of science and engineering creativity and imagination. It is imperative that we also use our knowledge to illuminate the future. The ultimate reason for the science and engineering enterprise is to put knowledge to work for the growth of the economy and the well being of society.

[Slide #27: Title Slide: NSF FY 2008 Budget Request]
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At the beginning of the 21st century, America has perhaps the world's best cadre of scientists and engineers. We have some of the finest academic institutions anywhere. And maybe most importantly, we have a half century of experience working to perfect what is commonly acknowledged as the most successful system for supporting research, coupled with educating our scientists and engineers.

As this century plays out, there will be an increasing number of competent players in the global competition for ideas, talent, and innovation. In this context, "globalization" is shorthand for a complex, permanent, and challenging environment that calls for sustainable, long-term responses, not just short-term fixes. The nation needs bold efforts, at the most demanding levels of creative enterprise, to sustain a leadership role in the global economy.

In these shifting sands, I believe that America can continue to be on the leading edge of ideas and research that can chart the global path for the next half century. We want our universities and businesses to continue leading the world in discovery and innovation. That means cultivating our strengths--U.S. leadership in fundamental discovery--including high-risk, high-reward transformational research--state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure, and a world-class S&E workforce. These strategies can help us reinvent American competitiveness in the 21st Century.

But make no mistake. Staying at the forefront of discovery and innovation will require the level of investment proposed in the NSF budget. In a science and technology based world, to retreat from the frontier is to put the nation at peril.

The National Science Foundation looks to the future with these important considerations in mind, and we have crafted our 2008 budget to address them.

Thank you.



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