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Photo of Dr. France A. Cordova

Dr. France A. Córdova
National Science Foundation


"National Science Foundation - A New Chapter"
At the Roll-out of FY2018 Budget Request
Arlington, VA

May 23, 2017

Photo: NSF/Stephen Voss

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

Title slide title: National Science Foundation Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request

Slide words: Dr. France A. Córdova
Director, National Science Foundation

Slide image: illustration depicting some of NSF's discoveries and impacts

Image credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, NSF

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the National Science Foundation. We are here today to share with you the President's FY2018 Budget Request for NSF.

That video is a great visual overview of NSF's impact and contributions, which touch the lives of Americans every day. NSF supports research that enhances our Nation's security, drives the U.S. economy, and advances our knowledge to sustain America's global leadership.

We appreciate your interest in NSF, and with the engagement of the Assistant Directors of our individual Directorates, we will answer your questions about the Budget Request following my presentation. I'm also pleased to note that Dr. Diane Souvaine, Vice Chair of the National Science Board, has joined us for this important event.

Slide title: NSF by the Numbers

(Other than the FY 2017 enacted, numbers shown are based on FY 2016 activities.)

Slide image: diagram of NSF funding showing the following:

  • 93% funds research, education and related activities
  • $7.5B FY 2017 enacted
  • 50,000 proposals evaluated
  • 2,000 NSF-funded institutions
  • 12,000 Awards funded
  • 362,000 people NSF supported
  • Fund STEM education & workforce
  • Fund research in all S&E disciplines
  • 223 NSF-funded Nobel Prize winners

Image credit: NSF

As you know, NSF is the only federal agency dedicated to the support of basic research and education across the full spectrum of science and engineering. This slide provides an overview of NSF's funding, administration, and impact on the Nation.

As a reminder, about 93 percent of our budget goes to support research and educational activities in states and communities across the country, engaging the talents of more than 360,000 professionals.

We must be doing something right, because at last count we supported 223 Nobel Laureates -- many early in their careers, long before they were recognized for their breakthrough discoveries.

Slide title: NSF Funds Research and Education across all Fields of Science and Engineering

Slide words: (top left to right) Biological Sciences; Engineering; Mathematical & Physical Sciences; Computer & Information Science & Engineering; Geosciences (including Polar Programs)
(bottom left to right) Integrative Activities; Education & Human Resources; Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences; International Science & Engineering

Slide images: (top left to right) image of a cancer cell and lymphocytes; illustration of a carbon nanotube; illustration of an exoplanetary system; photo of Stampede supercomputer; photo of Ellsworth Range in Antarctica
(bottom left to right) photo of two students with high-temperature high-vacuum molding system; photo of two Rutgers students working in a research lab; abstract photograph of a crowd of people; digital image of Earth's horizon

Image credits: (top left to right) Thinkstock; Christine Daniloff; Gemini Observatory/AURA; Sean Cunningham, TACC; James Yungel/NASA IceBridge
(bottom left to right) Eddy Perez, LSU University Relations; Nick Romanenko; Thinkstock (2)

We fund research in all fields of science and engineering, as shown in this slide. We also support research in STEM education and development of the STEM Workforce.

The Foundation's annual budget represents just four percent of the total federal budget for research and development, yet it accounts for 27% of the total federal support for basic research conducted at U.S. colleges and universities.

Slide title: NSF Support of Academic Basic Research in Selected Fields
(as a percentage of total federal support)

Slide image: bar graph showing percentage of total federal support

  • 83% Computer Science
  • 69% Biology
  • 68% Social and Psychological Sciences
  • 64% Mathematics
  • 63% Environmental Sciences
  • 46% Engineering
  • 45% Physical Sciences
  • 27% All Science and Engineering Fields

Image credit: NSF

In many fields, NSF is the primary source of federal academic support. For example, in computer science, we account for 83 percent of that support.

We fund curiosity-driven ideas that push the frontiers of knowledge and discovery. As you just saw in the video, these gains in knowledge have led to innovations with tremendous impact - for example, solar panels, 3-D printing, the Internet, lifesaving technologies and therapies, and much, much more.

Slide title: NSF FY 2018 Budget Request
Total: $6.65 billion

Slide image: cover of National Science Foundation FY 2018 Budget Request to Congress

Illustration credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller/NSF, modified by HRC designers

Now let's turn to the President's Budget Request for FY2018, which totals $6.65 billion, a decrease of 11 percent from the FY2017 budget as enacted in the omnibus appropriations bill signed by the President earlier this month.

The FY2018 proposed budget reflects the Administration's emphasis on the safety and security of the American people. This request protects NSF's core values as an agency, including cross-directorate participation, which allows for cooperation across scientific disciplines, even as we pursue emerging interdisciplinary research opportunities.

While tough choices had to be made, you'll see that we are continuing to selectively invest in fundamental research and talented people who make the innovative discoveries that will transform our future.

We've carefully looked at all our programs and taken the approach to reset some of our investments closer to the levels you would have seen in NSF's budget a decade ago.

NSF remains committed to our mission - to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense. With this proposed budget, we will continue that vital work.

More details of the proposed Budget Request are contained in the handouts available to you and on the website.

Slide title: Continued Investment in NSF Research Infrastructure

Slide words: (top left to right) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope; LSST; RCRV
(bottom left to right) LIGO; Cyberinfrastructure; ALMA

Slide images: (top left to right) illustration of Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST); illustration of the LSST summit facility and Calypso, a small adjacent telescope; illustration of Oregon State University Regional Class Research Vessel (RCRV)
(bottom left to right) aerial photo of LIGO Observatory in Livingston, Louisiana; photo of Yellowstone supercomputer; photo of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile

Image credits: (top left to right) Tom Kekona, K.C. Environmental, Inc; LSST; Oregon State University, rendering by Glosten Associates
(bottom left to right) LIGO Scientific Collaboration; ©UCAR, photo by Carlye Calvin; ALMA

Through the FY2018 Request, we continue our robust investments in research infrastructure to enable transformative discoveries. For example, we will continue construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, which will be the world's largest solar telescope. DKIST will enable the study of solar and magnetic phenomena to better understand and predict space weather events that can impact our telecommunications and the U.S. power grid.

We will also continue building the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which will collect nearly 40 terabytes of multi-color imaging data every night. This telescope, sited in Chile, will produce the deepest, wide-field sky image ever. Ninety-five percent of the universe contains matter or energy that is unknown to us, and we have the wherewithal to explore these mysteries with this telescope.

NSF will also begin construction of the first of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV) that will enable oceanographic research on the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts, and provide jobs for U.S. workers.

We will continue commissioning planned upgrades to the laser interferometer systems for the LIGO experiment, which discovered gravitational waves in 2015. These upgrades will allow improved sensitivity to cosmic phenomena at vast distances from Earth.

We will invest in the scientific foundations for cyber-infrastructure, as well as training the next generation cybersecurity workforce.

Our budget request also continues our investment in the ALMA observatory, extending its capabilities and keeping it on track to reach steady-state operations within a few years.

Slide title: NSF's Ten Big Ideas

Slide words: (clockwise from top left): Research Ideas
-Harnessing Data for 21st Century Science and Engineering
-Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Shaping the Future
-Windows on the Universe: The Era of Multi-messenger Astrophysics
-The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution
-Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype
-Navigating the New Arctic

(clockwise from bottom left ) Process Ideas
-Mid-scale Research Infrastructure
-NSF 2026
-NSF INCLUDES: Enhancing STEM through Diversity and Inclusion
-Growing Convergence Research at NSF

Slide images: (clockwise from top left) word graphic about data science; illustration of creative teams working on giant digital tablets and communicating digitally; aerial photo of LIGO in Livingston, LA; illustration of quantum computation with trapped ions; photo of seedling being watered by hand; photo of radio telescopes at ALMA in Chile; photo of IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica; aerial photo of melting ice in the Arctic
(bottom clockwise from left) photo of a broken bridge; graphic suggesting future ideas; U.S. map with photo montage of diverse people; illustration suggesting convergence

Image credits: (clockwise from top left) James Kurose, NSF; Jesus Sanz/; LIGO Scientific Collaboration; Joint Quantum Institute, University of Maryland; ©; F. Fleming Crim, NSF (2); Roger Wakimoto, NSF
(clockwise from bottom left) ©; ©; design by Trinka Kensill, NSF; National Research Council of the National Academies Press

NSF never forgets that we have the Nation's trust to enable the bold ideas of today's scientists to be transformed into tomorrow's realities.

With this FY2018 Budget Request, NSF will seed "Ten Big Ideas for Future Investment." This exciting initiative presents unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering leadership and to invest in basic research that advances the U.S.' prosperity, security, health, and well-being.

NSF will continue to invest in developing research foundations, piloting select new programs, building capacity in the research community, and supporting the community-wide visioning and planning that will be crucial for effective implementation in the future.

These are ideas on the frontiers of science and technology. They each have targeted goals that are particularly suited to NSF's broad portfolio of Science and Engineering, and can be realized with increased future investment.

Slide title: Partnerships are Critical

Slide image: (clockwise from bottom left) words around NSF logo

  • Interagency
  • National labs
  • States
  • Industry
  • International
  • Academia
  • Foundations
  • Scientific societies

Credit: NSF

We understand and appreciate the apprehension felt by many, particularly in the research community, caused by the potential effects of adjusted funding levels.

NSF remains committed to supporting fundamental research and the development of tomorrow's researchers, and making all investments - no matter the size - meaningful, relevant, and impactful.

It's crucial for us to come together as a community and focus on the importance of the work we do for the country every day.

To do this will require new approaches - and this is where partnerships are important. Partnerships have played - and will continue to play -- a critical role in the science and engineering enterprise. In this slide, you see some of our important partnerships.

Scientific partnerships help leverage federal investments among government entities, academic institutions, foundations, NGOs, and industry.

We believe it is imperative that we keep investing in fundamental science and engineering across all disciplines. This is important not only to remain competitive on the global scale, but to discover the next scientific breakthroughs that will change lives and improve our world.

Slide title: Impacts of NSF Basic Research

Slide words:

  • Expanding the American economy
  • Keeping the nation safe
  • Advancing global leadership
  • Funding research that leads to better medical treatments
  • Preparing our children to compete, prosper

Slide image: photo of teens sharing a laptop

Image credit: Joana Lopes/

We continuously remind decision-makers and NSF constituencies of the substantive impacts that our investments in basic research have had - and continue to have on all of our lives.

Research funded by NSF has underpinned vast segments of the American economy. Consider a few examples: Advances in understanding plant gene networks have led to development of new crops with improved cold tolerance and yield.

We have accelerated the transference of basic research results into the commercial marketplace, leading to many new products made in the U.S. Our research has led to a faster, more secure Internet and created touchscreen functions now found in smartphones everywhere. And it has helped companies personalize customers' on-line experiences with neuroscience-based algorithms.

NSF-funded research is helping police agencies predict and prevent crime; enabling state and federal law enforcement agencies to track and disrupt online hackers and cyberattackers; and giving returning soldiers better access to mental health services.

The world celebrated LIGO's discovery of gravitational waves last year, but NSF's initial funding was made in 1992, a quarter-century ago.

It was the biggest investment NSF has made to date, and it was a big risk. But NSF takes these kinds of risks. We fund trailblazers. That's why the U.S. continues to be a global leader in advancing knowledge.

Today, LIGO has expanded to become the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a group of more than 1,000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries.

NSF-funded basic research in areas of health has made it possible for doctors -- particularly those serving rural communities - to have low-cost, high-precision surgical instruments that reduce patient trauma. Our research has enabled new approaches to combating mosquito-borne diseases; helped mobility-impaired children and adults move more independently; and developed new drugs to treat diseases such as Alzheimer's.

And NSF programs help prepare children for the technology jobs of tomorrow by funding the design and testing of innovative school curricula and programs. These initiatives help students of all ages learn skills such as computer programming and computational thinking, with an emphasis on recruiting women and minorities into the STEM fields.

These examples and so many more remind us what a vital role NSF plays in funding basic research. New products and processes do not suddenly emerge full-grown - they are built on a foundation of new concepts and discoveries - which in turn are painstakingly developed by basic research in the purest realms of science.

Today, it is truer than ever that basic research is the pace-setter of technological progress, a point emphasized in the video.

Slide title: Our Mission from the Beginning

Slide words: "To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense..."

Slide images: 1951 photo of NSF's first headquarters; 2017 photo of NSF's new headquarters

Credit: NSF

For nearly seven decades, the National Science Foundation has empowered discoveries - and discoverers -- across a broad spectrum of scientific inquiry, and we never lose sight of our commitment to explore the unexplored.

NSF's mission remains vital. It is important to the Nation because economic growth depends on advances in science and technology. Our mission contributes to a healthier, more resilient and more prosperous Nation, and a safer, more secure Nation.

We will continue to fund excellent basic research.

We will continue to welcome all disciplines to put forth their best ideas.

We will continue to encourage people to work across disciplinary boundaries to create new approaches to knowledge.

We will continue to invest in high-risk research that has potentially large impact.

We will continue to develop the STEM researchers of the future because they will take us to the frontier of the unknown.

We invite all to join us in this mission. We will continue to fund the very best research because our goal is be the very best.

Slide title: National Science Foundation Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request

Slide words: Dr. France A. Córdova
Director, National Science Foundation

Slide image: illustration depicting some of NSF's discoveries and impacts

Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, NSF

Thank you again for joining us today.

Now we would be happy to answer your questions.