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Dr. Colwell's Remarks


Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
President's FY 2005 Budget Request for the National Science Foundation

February 3, 2004

Good afternoon, and welcome to the National Science Foundation. Thank you all for leaving the warmth and comfort of your offices to attend our presentation of the NSF portion of the President's FY 2005 budget.

It has been a long cold winter in Washington. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "if the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death."1 Fortunately, NSF's budget is always a hot topic. I don't know how much heat I'll generate today, but I do hope to shed some light on the NSF Budget.

[Slide #1: Title Slide: FY 2005 Budget]
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Our commitment to the science and engineering enterprise comes from an abiding belief that knowledge is a powerful force for progress. As we work to open new frontiers in research and education, we have our eye on the main prize—economic and social prosperity that can benefit all citizens.

The surest way to keep our nation prosperous and secure is to keep it at the forefront of learning and discovery. That is NSF's business—to educate and train scientists and engineers, advance fundamental science and engineering, and provide the tools to accomplish both. The NSF FY 2005 budget request aims to do that, and I am very pleased to present it to you today.

[Slide #2: Total budget, increase, percent increase]
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First, the big picture. This year the National Science Foundation is requesting $5.745 billion dollars. That's an increase of $167 million. It's 3 percent more than what is provided in the FY 2004 budget.

In light of the significant challenges that face the nation—in security, defense, and the economy—NSF has, relatively speaking, fared well. We are pleased to be able to anticipate an increase of 3 percent when many agencies are looking at budget cuts. This is certainly a tribute to the extraordinary performance of the 200,000-plus students, teachers and researchers who are directly supported by NSF each year. It's also a vote of confidence in the National Science Foundation's stewardship of these very important components of the nation's goals.

It would be disingenuous to say that this is all we hoped for. After all, we know that there is gold to be mined from every field of science and engineering, and at every level of education and learning. But let me put the 3 percent in context.

[Slide #3: NSF budget growth]
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The NSF budget has grown steadily—by 68 percent between FY 1998 and FY 2004. It is very clear that there is support for NSF's vision and mission in the Administration and Congress. The NSF Authorization Act, signed by the President in December 2002, endorses substantial increases through FY 2008. That's a good future we look forward to!

Nonetheless, in a year of very tight budgets, we have had to set priorities and make informed choices in a sea of mixed opportunity and constraint.

That is never an easy job, but it is particularly difficult when opportunities to make productive investments are as plentiful as they are in today's promising research and education environment.

[Slide #4: Three Strategic Priorities for FY 2005 Budget]
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The NSF budget identifies what we see as NSF's most pressing needs during the coming year: strengthening NSF's ability to administer a growing number of awards, improving productivity of researchers and expanding opportunities for students, and improving science and engineering infrastructure.

[Slide #5: Budget request by appropriations categories]
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Here you see the numbers represented by the various appropriations categories. There are increases in all categories, with the exception of the Education and Human Resources Account. The largest dollar increase is in the Research and Related Activities Account—$201 million dollars or 5 percent above the FY 2004 level.

[Slide #6: Strategic goals]
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Look at it another way—NSF strategic goals. These reflect more accurately the expected outcomes of NSF activities. People, Ideas and Tools will be familiar to you. This year, for the first time, we add a fourth strategic goal, Organizational Excellence.

[Slide #7: Pie chart divided by strategic goals]
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This chart shows the proportion of the total budget that supports each goal. Of course, these goals work together to give us the best returns in learning, discovery and innovation.

[Slide #8: Budget numbers by strategic goals]
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Here are the actual dollar amounts. The overall decrease in the People goal reflects several changes. We have completed the planned phase-out of the Urban Systemic and Rural Systemic programs. We are also beginning the process of phasing out the Math and Science Partnership program, although we continue to support activities already initiated. By no means does this reflect a lower priority on people.

[Slide #9: Organizational Excellence]
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I'll begin with our investment in Organizational Excellence. This is NSF's single greatest need for the coming year.

We manage and operate NSF with an eye for excellence and a head for figures—and one of the best budget and finance offices in the federal government! We have achieved an integration of budget and finance that is unique among federal agencies.

It is central to NSF's mission to provide effective stewardship of public funds, to realize maximum benefits at minimum cost, and to ensure public trust in the quality of the process.

In FY 2005 we are investing $76 million dollars to ensure that we can continue to make productive investments wisely and efficiently, and perform even better in the future. This represents an increase in the share of the total NSF budget for OE from 5 percent to 6 percent. There are compelling reasons for making this investment in Organizational Excellence such a high budget priority in FY 2005.

[Slide #10: Chart comparing FTEs, Proposals processed, and Budget shares]
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This chart shows that for twenty years NSF staffing has remained level even as NSF's total budget and workload have grown significantly. We have used cutting-edge information technology and innovative business processes to keep productivity high and costs low.

But NSF's work is more complex today. Proposals increasingly involve large, multidisciplinary projects and require sophisticated monitoring and evaluation. If you add to that our increasing responsibilities under the President's Management Agenda and other requirements, then you have the rationale for the FY 2005 investment.

[Slide #11: OE pie chart showing activities and investment shares]
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We have been engaged in a very thorough review of internal operations as part of the work under the President's Management Agenda. We have had external advice from our Advisory Committees and the National Science Board, and comments from many others in the community, including OMB, GAO and Congress. We are convinced that we can move forward confidently with this investment.

[Slide #12: Repeat OE slide]
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The OE investment will streamline and update NSF operations and management by enhancing cutting edge business processes and tools. It will allow us to address mounting workplace pressure, add new skills to the workforce, and improve the quality and responsiveness of customer service.

Finally, $10 million of the total will improve cyber and building security to ensure the safety of employees and to protect our information networks and databases.

[Slide #13: People]
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People are NSF's most important product. This year, our highest priority is capturing the young talent so vital for the next generation of discovery.

[Slide #14: growth in number of graduate fellows.]
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Since our founding in 1950, NSF has supported 39,000 fellows. We will increase Fellowships from 5,000 to 5,500 for NSF's prestigious graduate education programs: the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships (IGERT), Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF), and Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12). Here you see the growth in the number of fellows since 1998.

[Slide #15: growth in stipend levels]
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Our ability to attract the nation's best talent has been facilitated by increasing the level of graduate stipends from a base of $15,000 in 1999 to $30,000 in FY 2004. Stipend levels will remain at the $30,000 level in FY 2005.

[Slice #16: Ideas]
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Now let's look at Ideas. Ideas are the fabric of the science and engineering enterprise. They weave together the intellectual capital and fundamental knowledge that drive technological innovation, spur economic growth, and increase national security and welfare. They also seek answers to the most fundamental questions about the origin and nature of the universe and humankind. Investments total $2.8 billion in FY 2005. They will support the best new discoveries by the science and engineering community.

[Slide #17: Award size]
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Today's science and engineering challenges are more complex. Increasingly, they involve multi-investigator research, as well as a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research. So, increasing award size and duration—across the board—remains one of NSF's top long-term priorities. We will make additional progress in FY 2005 with an increase of $3,000 in average annual award. That brings the total increase to 71 percent over 6 years.

[Slide #18: Centers Programs]
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In FY 2005, NSF will make significant investments in our diverse Centers Programs. Centers bring people, ideas, and tools together on scales that are large enough to have a significant impact on important science and engineering challenges. They provide opportunities to integrate research and education, and to pursue innovative and risky research. An important goal beyond research results is developing leadership in the vision, strategy, and management of the research and education enterprise. The total investment for NSF's Centers Programs is $457 million, an increase of $44 million in FY 2005. Here are some highlights of the Centers.

  • $30 million will initiate a new cohort of six Science and Technology Centers. A key feature of these centers is the development of partnerships linking industry, government, and the educational community to improve the transfer of research results, and provide students a full set of boundary-crossing opportunities.

  • $20.0 million will continue support for multidisciplinary, multi-institutional Science of Learning Centers. These centers are intended to advance understanding of learning through research on the learning process, the context of learning, and learning technologies. The Centers will strengthen the connections between science of learning research and educational and workforce development.

  • The budget request provides for two new nanotechnology centers; two or three centers that advance fundamental knowledge about Environmental Social and Behavioral Science; three Information Technology Centers, and additional funding for the NSF Long Term Ecological Research network. An additional $6 million will fund a number of mathematical and physical science centers, including: Chemistry Centers, Materials Centers, Mathematical Sciences Research Institutes, and Physics Frontiers Centers.

[Slide #19: Ideas slide: International, Innovation Fund]
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Today, discoveries emerge from around the world. It is essential that American scientists and engineers have opportunities to engage with the world's top researchers, to lead major international collaborations, and to have access to the best research facilities throughout the world and across all the frontiers of science and engineering. The FY 2005 budget to carry out these activities through NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering is $34 million, an increase of $6 million, or 21 percent over the FY 2004 estimate.

Finally, NSF will initiate an Innovation Fund at $5 million. The Fund provides an opportunity for the Foundation to respond quickly to rapidly emerging activities at the frontiers of learning and discovery.

[Slide #20: Priority Area Investments]
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NSF invests in emerging areas of research that hold exceptional potential to advance knowledge. NSF will support five priority areas with very promising research horizons in FY 2005.

[Slide #21: Biocomplexity in the Environment Spiral]
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Biocomplexity in the Environment explores the complex interactions among organisms and their environments at all scales, and through space and time. This fundamental research on the links between ecology, diversity, the evolution of biological systems, and many other factors will help us better understand and, in time, predict environmental change. In FY 2005, Biocomplexity in the Environment will emphasize research on aquatic systems.

[Slide #22: HSD graphic slide]
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The Human and Social Dynamics priority area will explore a wide range of topics. These include individual decision-making and risk, the dynamics of human behavior, and global agents of change—from democratization, to globalization, to war. Support will also be provided for methodological capabilities in spatial social science and for instrumentation and data resources infrastructure.

[Slide #23: Math Sciences graphic]
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Mathematics is the language of science. It is a powerful tool of discovery. The Mathematical Sciences priority areas will focus on fundamental research in the mathematical and statistical sciences, interdisciplinary research connecting math with other fields of science and engineering, and targeted investments in training.

[Slide #24: Nano graphic slide]
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NSF's investment in Nanoscale Science and Engineering targets the fundamental research that underlies nanotechnology—which very likely will be the next "transformational" technology.

Investments in this priority area will emphasize research on nanoscale structures and phenomena, and quantum control. NSF is the lead agency for the government-wide National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). NSF is requesting $305 million, an increase of nearly $52 million or 20 percent. This is by far NSF's largest priority area investment.

[Slide #25: Workforce for the 21st Century graphic]
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To operate in an increasingly complex world, we have to produce a general workforce that is scientifically and technologically capable, and a science and engineering workforce that is world class by any measure. The FY 2005 request provides $20 million to initiate the Workforce for the 21st Century priority area. This investment will support innovations to integrate NSF's investments in education at all levels, from K-12 through postdoctoral, as well as attract more U.S. students to science and engineering fields and broaden participation.

[Slide #26: Tools Investments]
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Researchers need access to cutting-edge tools to tackle today's complex and radically different research tasks. If students are not trained in their use, they will be at a disadvantage in today's technology-intensive workplace. The FY 2005 investment in Tools totals one and a half billion dollars, an increase of $104 million. This continues an accelerated program to revitalize and upgrade the nation's aging research infrastructure through investments in cutting-edge tools of every kind.

Nearly $400 million of the FY 2005 investment supports the expansion of state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure. Our new information and communication technologies have transformed the way we do science and engineering. Providing access to moderate-cost computation, storage, analysis, visualization and communication for every researcher will make that work more productive and broaden research perspectives throughout the science and engineering community.

[Slide #27: MREFC investments]
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Here you see the three continuing and three new projects funded by the proposed $213 million investment in Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction.

NEON, the National Ecological Observatory Network, is a continental scale research instrument with geographically distributed infrastructure, linked by state-of-the-art networking and communications technology. NEON will facilitate studies that can help us address major environmental challenges and improve our ability to predict environmental change. Of course, funding for NEON planning activities is included in the FY 2004 estimate.

The Scientific Ocean Drilling Vessel is a state-of-the-art drill ship that will be used by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), an international collaboration. Cores of sediment and rock collected from the ocean floor will enhance studies of the geologic processes that modify our planet. Investigators will explore the history of those changes in oceans and climate, and the extent and depth of the planet's biosphere.

RSVP—short for Rare Symmetry Violating Processes—includes two highly sensitive experiments to study fundamental symmetries of nature. RSVP will search for the particles or processes that explain the predominance of matter that makes up the observable universe. It will focus on questions ranging from the origins of our physical world to the nature of dark matter.

[Slide #28: MREFC planning]
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This second chart shows how NSF plans to invest in major research equipment projects over the next several years. We expect to start funding for two additional projects—Ocean Observatories and an Alaska Regional Research Vessel—in FY 2006.

[Slide #29: Graphic from cover of Budget Book]
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The budget highlights I've just presented don't even begin to portray the variety and richness of the NSF portfolio. We support research programs to enhance homeland security. This includes the Ecology of Infectious Diseases program, jointly funded with NIH, and the Microbial Genome Sequencing program, jointly funded with the Department of Agriculture. NSF participates on the National Interagency Genome Sequencing Coordinating Committee, where our programs have attracted a great deal of interest from the intelligence community, and have been touted as the best. The Critical Infrastructure Protection program, and cybersecurity research and education round out our contributions to enhancing homeland security.

As part of the Administration's Climate Change Research Initiative, NSF supports research to reduce uncertainty related to climate variability and change, with the objective of facilitating decision making and informing the policy process. I encourage you to explore these and other programs in the Overview document.

Let me conclude my remarks by emphasizing once again how carefully and diligently we worked together at NSF to identify clear priorities in a time of tight budgets. We are confident that NSF's FY 2005 investments will have long-term benefits for the entire science and engineering community, and contribute to security and prosperity for all. That is precisely why I have no doubts that NSF's budget merits the $9.8 billion that the President and Congress have authorized through FY 2008. Furthermore, the recommendation of the National Science Board for $19 billion is fully justifiable and, frankly, necessary for the future health, well-being and competitiveness of the United States. I will be pleased to answer your questions.

1 Quoted in Mark Twain and I, Opie Read, 1940
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