Dr. Neal Lane


February 2, 1998

Community Briefing -- FY 1999 Budget

(See also related slides.)

Good afternoon and thanks for joining us here at NSF.

It's safe to say that all of us have had a hand in generating the good news of the day. Two years ago, we didn't see much good news on the funding horizon. The sky was pretty dark in fact. There were even signs that it might be falling.

Since then, we've pulled together as a community -- reaching across our various disciplines and societies -- and we've built awareness about the importance of investing in research and education. That, along with the fact that the budget came into balance five years ahead of schedule, has given us all reason to smile today.

I think of this growing level of support as both a vote of confidence and a challenge -- a vote of confidence in our capabilities as a community, and a challenge to continue advancing learning and discovery in ways that spark progress across our economy and society.

1. Science Odyssey -- "Then and Now" Images

If you caught last month's PBS series, 'A Science Odyssey,' which NSF helped to fund, you saw how far science and engineering have brought us over the past 100 years. We've seen a century of progress -- in medicine and health, physics and astronomy, human behavior, earth and life sciences, engineering, and technology.

To quote from producers of the series: "In the past 100 years, not only what we know has changed dramatically, but also how we have come to know it."

This perspective provides an appropriate backdrop for the President's FY 1999 budget request for NSF and for research and education generally. As the President made clear in his State of the Union Address, our goal is nothing less than to carry this century of progress into a new century.

2. FY 1999 Request

This ambitious commitment is reflected in the bottom line for NSF.

  • The total budget comes to just under $3.8 billion.

  • This represents a substantial increase -- 10% overall -- over $340 million.

  • If enacted, this would be the largest dollar increase the Foundation has ever received.

  • It's all made possible by the President's Research Fund for America.

3. Budget by Appropriation

Let me break these numbers down in a couple of different ways.

First, I'll quickly review the levels as displayed in our five different appropriation accounts.

Our appropriations for research and related activities and education and human resources both receive strong increases -- 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

The appropriation for major research equipment declines by $15 million. That's driven largely by the fact that we received significant up-front funding for South Pole Station in our current budget.

And, our appropriation for salaries and expenses increases by over 5 percent, and the Office of Inspector General is up by over 7 percent.

4. Budget by Key Program Function

If you've been following our budget presentations for the past couple of years, you'll know that we have been moving toward a different and we think more instructive presentation of our budget -- the key program functions.

Here you'll see that this increase is well distributed across our major categories of activities.

Research project support, which supports research grants and centers, increases by 12 percent to over $2.1 billion. This portends some very good news. All of us here know that because of stagnant budgets we haven't been able to address a number of serious issues related to grant size and duration. This has given rise to an unacceptable administrative burden both here at the NSF and in the community. It's led to too many proposals chasing too few dollars.

This 12 percent increase for research project support gives us the chance to work on this and to begin taking steps to provide larger awards for longer durations.

Our support for education and training increases by 11 percent. We have lots of plans for this investment, not the least of which is to get 22,000 more teachers involved in training and professional development activities.

For research facilities, you'll see that even with the decrease in the major research equipment account, facility investments across the Foundation are up by over 5 percent.

Finally, our administration and management activities get a 5.3 percent increase, which will keep the lights on and help to bolster our technology infrastructure here at NSF.

When we stand back and look at figures like these, it's only natural to ask what we're getting for our investment. What are we buying?

More than anything else, this investment allows us to cultivate the kinds of activities needed to keep U.S. science and engineering at the leading edge. It enables us to continue our tradition of supporting a diverse array of research and education activities ranging from individuals working on their own, to large, collaborative activities involving groups and teams of scientists and engineers.

This is the defining strength of our system of university research, and it makes clear why the President has highlighted academic research in the Research Fund for America. By cultivating this strength, we will extend and take advantage of capabilities in research and education that have emerged in just the past 10 years and in some cases much more recently.

Let me illustrate this with an example from an ongoing project.

5. SHEBA Position

As we speak, an icebreaker sits frozen into the pack ice in the Arctic ocean, 300 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. It's been drifting with the ice floes since October. You may have seen it when "Good Morning America" dropped by for a visit.

It's part of the project known as SHEBA, which stands for Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean. It pulls together data and information on how the sun, clouds, air, ice, and ocean interact and affect the annual melting and re-freezing of Arctic sea ice. It's a multi-agency project led by the University of Washington with significant international participation as well. It's findings have already given us dramatic insights into the mysteries of the global climate.

6. SHEBA "Camp Map"

Friends have asked me: "What's so noteworthy about freezing a boat in the ice? My uncle up in Minnesota does it every winter..."

It's true there is nothing special about letting a ship freeze into the ice. What makes it worth doing -- intentionally -- is another matter. We now possess the capability to bring together all the different data sources shown in this illustration.

This is the SHEBA camp. It draws upon satellite images, airborne observations, balloon readings, plus data collected on the ice and from underneath by U.S. Navy submarines. In total, there are over 30 different data sources, each giving us a different lens on our world, and each involving any number of disciplines and sub-disciplines.

Just a few years ago, we had neither the technology -- nor would I say the inclination -- to create a unified picture from these different types of data and disciplinary approaches. The different disciplines spoke what amounted to different languages, which in turn translated into different and usually incompatible data formats.

For this reason, projects like SHEBA give us a sneak peak at the future of science and engineering. It took advances in both the technology and the practice of science and engineering to overcome these hurdles and obstacles. The fact that we have been able to do this speaks very well for our entire enterprise.

Just as important is that we can now build an educational component into these kinds of investments. K-12 classrooms can take virtual field trips to these extreme frontiers -- be they at the north pole or at the bottom of the ocean. That's another capability that simply did not exist as recently as five years ago.

These themes resonate throughout the priorities and directions that shape this budget request.

7. Priorities and Directions

The touchstone for all our investments is to advance science and engineering at and across the frontiers. Our work to improve grant size and duration is central to this.

We're also stepping up our efforts to move forward in key multidisciplinary areas that relate to our broad themes: Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence and Life and Earth's Environment.

You'll also see a continuing emphasis on the integration of research and education, related to our theme of Educating for the Future.

8. KDI

Turning now to some of the highlights.... We are adding over $75 million for new investments in interdisciplinary areas that relate to Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence. This encompasses a range of activities that advance the leading edge of the information revolution.

The four major KDI-related components -- the Next Generation Internet, Knowledge Networking, Learning and Intelligent Systems, and New Challenges to Computation -- are designed to spur progress across all of science and engineering. The map shown here of the old NSFNET is meant to illustrate this. Our investments in networking have advanced learning and discovery across the board -- and we also know they have given the economy a nice boost as well.

Our investments in KDI are motivated by this same goal. They seek to transform how we discover, collect, represent, transmit, and apply information in ways that benefit both science and society.

9. LEE

Our efforts under the theme of Life and Earth's Environment work toward a similar goal. Here, we are investing an additional $88 million in activities that advance a wide range of science and engineering fields and at the same time address key national priorities.

Global Change is a centerpiece of this effort, and we are continuing our investments in Life in Extreme Environments and Urban Communities. We are also increasing our focus on such areas as environmental technologies, integrated environmental research challenges, and environmental observatories. Underlying all of this is a desire to understand living systems and their environments -- wherever they might be.

10. EFF

Educating for the Future is a third theme that brings together programs across the Foundation. It receives an increase of $107 million. Here, we are investing in a diverse set of activities aimed at meeting the very real challenges of preparing students and readying the workforce for the 21st Century.

This budget advances two partnerships with the U.S. Department of Education.

The K-8 Mathematics Initiative addresses the need for improved middle school mathematics education.

  • The TIMSS studies, for example, found that U.S. students fall below international averages in mathematics between grades four and eight.

  • The request provides $30 million for joint efforts with the Department of Education to focus on the professional development of teachers and the implementation of standards-based instructional materials.

The request also provides $25 million to launch a joint program for Research on Education and Training Technology. This is aimed at determining the most cost-effective ways to use technology to improve student learning.

11. Educational Technologies

It's safe to say that this is an overdue investment. It follows-on the recommendations issued last year by the PCAST -- the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology.

  • As this chart makes clear, computers can be found in virtually all U.S. schools.

  • The vast majority of schools even have computers powerful enough to handle multimedia applications.

  • And, nearly two-thirds of schools have connections to the Internet.
Unfortunately, we have yet to do our homework on how best to take advantage of this impressive capability. That's what this initiative is all about. It will support basic research to determine the most effective approaches and practices for educational technologies.

12. EFF/Integration of Research and Education

Our investments in Educating for the Future also continue to emphasize our core strategy of integrating research and education. A host of programs receive substantial increases:

  • Now in its second year, our flagship effort to broaden graduate education -- the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training program -- increases by nearly 35 percent.

  • The Faculty Early Career Development program receives a 16 percent increase.

  • And, our long-standing and highly successful Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program increases by just under 15 percent.
Finally, our Educating for the Future portfolio also includes $9 million to begin a Children's Research Initiative that focuses on children's cognitive development and readiness to learn.

13. Facilities

As you look over the request, you'll also see that we are upholding NSF's tradition of investing in the infrastructure needed to extend the frontiers of science and engineering. Some notable examples for FY 1999 include:

  • Initial investments in the construction of detectors for the Large Hadron Collider.

  • The ongoing modernization of South Pole Station.

  • Reconfiguration of Polar Support Aircraft.

  • Construction of the Polar Cap Observatory.

  • And, LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, is now moving into the operational stage. While no new funds are needed for construction, we are seeking $20 million through the research account for operating staff and infrastructure. That's a major milestone for this pathbreaking project.

14. Other FY 1999 Highlights

It is of course impossible to do justice to the totality of what is contained in the request. Let me just call your attention to a number of other highlights before I close.

  • There is $40 million in the request to maintain investments in the Plant Genome Research Program. This builds on a base of ongoing activities that totals approximately $20 million.

  • Arctic Research and Education is a new initiative that builds upon a number of ongoing activities. Funding for research and education activities in the Arctic increase by 20 percent to $59 million, which includes a doubling of funding for Arctic logistics. When you add in construction of the Polar Cap Observatory, the bottom line comes to $80 million for this Arctic initiative.

  • Our GOALI program -- also known as Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry -- has been very successful. It continues to receive strong increases.

  • We are also adding special emphasis to nanoscale science and engineering. This overall effort totals roughly $75 million and encompasses activities across the Foundation.

15. Summary Points

That brings us back to the bottom line. As I said at the outset, the President's commitment to research and education represents both a vote of confidence and a challenge.

Over the past two-plus years, we've worked together as one community to make the case for America's future. We've spread the word about the importance of investing in research and education. This budget makes clear that we've been heard, and the President has given us this unprecedented vote of confidence.

Now comes the challenge. Step #1 is to continue building on the bipartisan goodwill in Congress toward science and engineering.

Then it's up to all of us to help keep our nation on a course to a brighter and more prosperous future. That's what this budget is all about.

  • It extends the frontiers of science and engineering while simultaneously promoting progress across our economy and society.

  • It also promises to deliver higher returns on the taxpayer's dollar -- thanks to our continuing emphasis on boosting efficiency and productivity in research and education.
When you put it all together, what this investment does is set the stage for a new century of progress through learning and discovery. That means our science odyssey may well be just beginning, and that's the best news of all.

- NSF -

See also: