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Dr. Colwell's Remarks


Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation's FY2003 Budget:
Sustaining U.S. Leadership Across the Frontiers of Scientific Knowledge

February 4, 2002

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.

Good afternoon... and welcome one and all... to our annual NSF budget fest. We have some encouraging news to share with you today. But first let me go over the order of the day. I'll speak for a few minutes... and touch upon a number of points on the upcoming slides... and afterwards, I'll be glad to answer whatever questions you may have. I believe the full text of my remarks, as well as a copy of all the slides you'll see, are in the budget information packages in the back of the room.

(Slide #1) It is with a sense of pride and purpose that we present the National Science Foundation's budget for the coming fiscal year. It is not just a balance sheet. It is a blueprint for our nation's future.

Every year, for more than half a century, the Foundation's investments at the frontiers of discovery have enriched Americans' health, security, environment, economy, and general well-being.

And every year, the Foundation's optimal use of limited public funds has relied on two conditions. Number one is ensuring that our research and education investments are - and continuously re-aimed - at the leading edge of understanding. And number two is certifying that every dollar goes to competitive, merit-reviewed, and time-limited awards that have a clear criteria for success.

When these two conditions are met, our nation gets the most intellectual and economic leverage from its research and education investments.

(Slide #2) This year the National Science Foundation is requesting a bit more than $5 billion. That's an additional $240 million, or about five percent more than last year. For the United States to stay on the leading edge of discovery and innovation, we cannot do less.

(Slide #3) Here you'll see the budget request broken down by the various appropriation categories.

Yet another way to look at it is by our strategic goals of people, ideas, and tools (Slide #4). And this next chart (Slide #5) shows the relative proportions that go to each. Finally, we also break it down into the actual dollar amounts. (Slide #6)

Maintaining the pace of discovery and producing the finest scientists and engineers for the twenty-first century are NSF's principal goals. Investments proposed in this budget are key to developing our nation's talent and increasing the productivity of our workforce.

(Slide #7) You'll see that this year the budget includes a second installment of $200 million for the President's five year Math and Science Partnership program. That's the cornerstone of President Bush's education policy. And it's a top priority for us. This links local schools with colleges and universities to improve preK-12 math and science education. It also helps to train math and science teachers. And it creates innovative ways to reach out to underserved students and schools.

(Slide #8) We need to attract more of the nation's most promising students into graduate level science and engineering. So we are requesting an investment of approximately $37 million to increase stipends for graduate fellows to $25,000 per year.

(Slide #9) We are also requesting funding for six priority areas, shown here. The two largest are for nanotechnology and information technology. Both these areas can only achieve their full potential if they advance hand-in-hand.

(Slide #10) The emerging field of nanoscale science and engineering -- the ability to manipulate and control matter at atomic and molecular levels - promises revolutionary breakthroughs. Advances will come in areas such as materials and manufacturing, medicine and healthcare, environment and energy, biotechnology and agriculture, and, of course, national security.

New paradigms will use advances in quantum computation and nanoelectronics. That will mean radically faster computers that begin to solve problems previous dismissed as "uncomputable." A good example would be a full-scale simulation of our biosphere. Viewing cells as computational devices will help us design the next generation of computers that will feature self organization, self repair, and adaptive characteristics as seen in biological systems.

(Slide #11) NSF's Information Technology Research - now entering its fourth year - will support a wide range of interdisciplinary research that includes strengthening large-scale networks and creating advanced architectures for high-end computing. Other research will focus on providing safe, trusted computing systems in interconnected environments. We will also address fundamental questions about the efficacy of IT in education and the challenge of integrating cutting-edge IT into curricula and classrooms.

(Slide #12) These and other challenges will require new mathematical tools, techniques, and insights. We propose to invest $60 million as part of a new priority area in mathematical and statistical sciences. This research will ultimately advance interdisciplinary science and engineering. Mathematics has become indispensable in fields as diverse as biology, sociology, climate, and proteomics. By using data-mining and by comparing enormous sets of data, we can also find trends, patterns, and insights that are necessary to improve the safety and reliability of our telecommunications network, our electric power grid, and our air traffic control system. And only by modeling the enormous complexity of the living world can we fully understand it.

(Slide #13) Our request also includes $185 million directed toward NSF's Learning for the 21st Century Workforce priority area. A key centerpiece includes $20 million to fund three to four new multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional Science of Learning Centers. We need to improve our understanding of how we learn, how we remember, and how to best use new information technology to promote learning. As we gain new insights into human learning, we will be better able to explore how educational institutions -- at all levels -- foster or inhibit learning. That will help us develop more effective strategies to prepare our future workforce

(Slide #14) We are also requesting $10 million to seed a new priority area in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences. By exploring the complex interactions between new technology and society, we can better anticipate and prepare for the consequences of those interactions.

(Slide #15) Finally, our request includes $79 million for research on biocomplexity in the environment. This builds upon our past investments studying the remarkable and dynamic web of interrelationships when living things at all levels interact with their environment. There will be two new areas of research this year - in microbial genome sequencing and in the ecology of infectious diseases. With new knowledge, we can develop strategies to assess and manage the risks of infectious diseases, invasive species, and biological weapons.

(Slide #16) There are a number of other highlights this year. In particular, I call your attention to 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 to facilitate policy decisions. Additionally, you'll note there are a number of other priorities listed. (EPSCoR, Plant Genome, S&T Centers)

(Slide #17) Just as Olympic athletes need the finest equipment and training protocols to triumph, so do scientists, engineers, and their students need the most modern research instruments that have the best capabilities, the farthest reach, and the finest accuracy.

The budget allocates $30 million for the next phase of construction of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). This will be the world's most sensitive, highest resolution radio telescope used to study stellar evolution, galaxy formation, and the evolution of the universe itself.

Two new construction projects are included in the FY2003 budget. We hope to establish two prototype sites of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) at a cost of $12 million. These sites will help analyze data and detect abrupt changes or long-term trends in the environment. And, indeed, they will serve as an early warning and detection system for a wide array of chemical and biological warfare agents. Additionally, the budget requests $35 million for EarthScope to detect and investigate earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides on the North American continent.

(Slide #18) You'll note that the NSF budget also includes transfers of programs from three other agencies, shown here (Slide #19) and there will also be some enhancements to the NSF workforce.

Let me take just a minute to call your attention to the facts on this slide. Over the past dozen years, the NSF budget has doubled. The number of proposals has grown. In 2001, 2000 more proposals than the previous year alone. And so has their complexity. Yet our staffing levels have remained the same. But this year, help at long last is on the way!

I also call your attention to the last point. The Director of OMB, Mitch Daniels, recently said at the National Press Club that NSF deserved to be singled out and strengthened. He added, and I quote, "NSF is one of the true centers of excellence in the government where 95% of the funds that taxpayers provide goes out on a competitive basis directly to researchers pursuing the frontiers of science at a very low overhead cost."

(Slide #20) Finally, on a personal note, I'd like to close with these thoughts. Let me return to the transformational event almost five months ago that has left all of us heartsick as a nation.and how it affects the entire NSF family across the whole United States.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, the stakes for all of these investments could not be higher. The future of our nation -- indeed, the future of our world -- are more dependent than ever before upon advances in science and technology. An inspired American scientific community is now focused on ensuring not just our security... but our very quality of life.

We well remember that our national security includes the strength of our spirit... and the ingenuity of our workforce... as much as the size of our arsenal. And we are heartened by the echo of the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his secret letter to J. Robert Oppenheimer in 1943 ... and I quote: "Whatever the enemy may be planning, American science will be equal to the challenge."

Americans have always had a passion for discovery and a sense of adventure. Those deeply rooted American qualities have enabled us to reach our distant horizons, and then set out for new ones in our restless quest for knowledge. The Foundation's investments are essential to our strategy for attaining our overarching national goals.

We can not be sure which areas of fundamental science and engineering will yield ground-breaking discoveries, what those discoveries will be, or how they will impact other disciplines, and, eventually, benefit our daily lives.

But what the National Science Foundation can help ensure is that the United States remains at the forefront of scientific capability by sustaining our investments in basic research... thereby enhancing our ability to shape a more prosperous and secure future for ourselves, our children, and future generations.

Thank you very much.



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