FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News

FY 2012 Senate Appropriations Bill: National Science Foundation

Richard M. Jones
Number 115 - September 21, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill.  This bill provides funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

This FYI reviews those portions of S. 1572 pertaining to the National Science Foundation, and contains selections from the eight pages of Senate Report 112-78 that accompanies the bill.  Readers are encouraged to consult the pdf version of this report to see the full language regarding NSF using the page numbers provided.  See FYI #89 for the House bill.

National Science Foundation (total)

The FY 2011 appropriation was $6,859.9 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $7,767.0 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $6,859.9 million – level funding
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $6,698.1 million, a decline of $161.8 million or 2.4 percent. 

Selections from the committee report starting on page 101 follow:

“In today’s global economy, continued progress in science and engineering and the transfer of the knowledge developed is vital if the United States is to maintain its competitiveness. NSF is at the leading edge of the research and discoveries that will create the jobs and technologies of the future.”

“The Committee appreciates the NSF’s commitment to terminating programs that are outdated, duplicative or no longer can achieve their goals. The Committee accepts NSF’s proposal for reductions and terminations for the following programs: Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, Graduate STEM Fellows in K–12 Education, National STEM Distributed Learning (Digital Library), Research Initiation to Broaden Participation in Biology, Synchrotron Radiation Center, and Science of Learning Centers. These cuts will save more than $55,000,000 from the fiscal year 2011 level and $90,000,000 from the fiscal year 2010 level.”

Research and Related Activities

The FY 2011 appropriation was $5,563.9 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $6,253.5 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $5,607.0 million, an increase of $43.1 million or 0.8 percent
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $5,443.0 million, a decline of $120.9 million or 2.2 percent. 

Selections from the committee report starting on page 102 follow:

“The Committee’s fiscal year 2012 recommendation renews its support for Federal long-term basic research that has the potential to be transformative to our economy and our way of life in the context of a Federal budget that is shrinking. As such, the recommendation endorses the Foundation’s prioritization of multidisciplinary, high-risk research, including investments in advanced manufacturing, cyber infrastructure and robotics. Each of these programs aim to have a transformative impact across science and engineering, especially in areas of national priority first outlined by the National Academies report ‘Rising Above the Gathering Storm.’

Scientific Facilities and Instrumentation. - A critical component of the Nation’s scientific enterprise is the infrastructure that supports researchers in discovery science. Investments to advance the frontiers of research and education in science and engineering are critical to the Nation’s innovation enterprise. The Committee expects the NSF to fully fund world-class U.S. scientific research facilities and instruments to adequately support scientists and students engaged in ground-breaking research to maximize sustained investments in research.

Astronomical Sciences. - The Committee is aware of the need to increase access to 8-meter class telescopes for the U.S. astronomical community. Demand for observing time on large telescopes currently exceeds the available time by a factor of 3 to 4. The Committee recognizes that there is an opportunity to meet this need through an increased U.S. share of the Gemini program and provides an additional $2,000,000 above the request for increased time on Gemini either through a direct increase in the U.S. share or by providing instruments for Gemini.

“The Committee encourages NSF to pursue the astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey’s recommendation to develop a giant segmented mirror telescope and to develop that telescope on domestic soil as a public-private partnership inclusive of international partners, through the agency’s major research equipment and facilities construction process. This will help to continue America’s leadership in optical astronomy, while supporting scientific and technical jobs to maintain our level of excellence in this field.

Radio Astronomy. - United States-based astronomy facilities continue to make groundbreaking discoveries and conduct world-class scientific research. NSF should consider allocating adequate funding within the amounts provided to sustain operations at domestic radio astronomy facilities while transitioning to full operation of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array.

Cybersecurity. - The Committee’s recommendation includes the full request of $156,550,000 for cybersecurity research, including $65,000,000 for NSF’s contribution to the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. NSF provides 82 percent of the total Federal support for basic computer science research at academic institutions.  As government, business and society become more interconnected and dependent on computers, mobile devices and the Internet, it becomes more important that those systems be reliable, resilient and resistant to attacks. The discovery and innovation in cybersecurity supported by NSF will form the intellectual foundations for practical applications that make our information networks safer, more secure, and better able to protect our information.

Experimental Program To Stimulate Competitive Research [EPSCoR]. - Within the amount provided, the Committee provides $146,830,000 for EPSCoR, an amount that is the same as the fiscal year 2011 amount.

Support for Academic Research Fleet. - At a time of rising costs for fuel and material, the Committee is concerned about maintaining an adequate funding level for the Academic Research Fleet and related research to ensure vessels are properly maintained and effectively utilized. The Committee supports the full budget request level for Regional Class Research Vessels of $2,000,000. Within 180 days of enactment of this act, NSF should report to the Committee on the status of planned acquisition of three vessels to provide regional capabilities in the Atlantic, Pacific, and gulf coast regions.

Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope. - The Committee expects NSF to select a Giant Segmented Mirror project for possible Federal partnership by the end of calendar year 2011, as recommended by the National Research Council’s 2010 decadal survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics. This selection should be made by a competitive process or some other means that will provide long-term certainty for the U.S. projects now under development.

Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory [DUSEL].—The Committee notes the National Science Board’s decision to end NSF involvement in DUSEL and appreciates transition funding provided in fiscal year 2011 to coordinate with the Department of Energy [DOE]. In light of the recent Board decision and National Research Council recommendations, the Committee expects NSF to provide a report within 60 days regarding efforts to collaborate with DOE on the use of a future deep underground science laboratory and any current or planned commitments by the Foundation.”

Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction

The FY 2011 appropriation was $117.1 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $224.7 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $100.0 million, a decrease of $17.1 million or 14.6 percent
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $117.1 million – level funding. 

Selections from the committee report on page 104 follow:

“The Committee’s recommendation includes funding at the requested level for the following ongoing projects: the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory [AdvLIGO]; the Atacama Large Millimeter Array [ALMA]; and the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope [ATST]. This amount also includes $83,095,000 to continue construction of the Ocean Observatories Initiative [OOI]. NSF may transfer up to $100,000,000 from its Research and Related Activities account to fully fund OOI or begin work on the National Ecological Observatory Network [NEON].”

Education and Human Resources

The FY 2011 appropriation was $861.0 million
The FY 2012 Administration request was $911.2 million
The House Appropriations Committee recommends $835.0 million, a decrease of $26.0 million or 3.0 percent
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommends $829.0 million, a decline of $32.0 million or 3.7 percent. 

Selections from the committee report starting on page 104 follow:

“The Committee strongly encourages NSF to continue support for undergraduate science and engineering education. At a time when enrollment in STEM fields of study continues to decline, it is important that NSF use its position to support students working towards degrees in these areas.

“Creating a strong science and engineering workforce for the future is vital to maintaining the Nation’s competitive edge. As the National Academies report ‘Rising Above the Gathering Storm’ and, before that, the Hart-Rudman report on ‘Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change’ so illustratively point out, the future of U.S. competitiveness rests on our ability to train the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

The Senate report has language regarding the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, Federal Cyber Service: Scholarships for Service, Informal Science Education, Graduate Research Fellowship Program Eligibility, Professional Science Master’s (PSM) Degree, and Broadening Participation. 

Office of the National Science Board

Under a section entitled Office of the National Science Board starting on page 107 is the following report language:

“Merit Review Criteria. - The Committee is aware that the Board, through its Task Force on Merit Review, is examining NSF’s merit review criteria. While progress has been made in broadening access to STEM education and career opportunities for women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities, more remains to be done to achieve the goals of the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act of 1980. According to the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Education’s 2008 Biennial Report to Congress, ‘Based on NSF’s own research, NSF needs to provide more guidance to principal investigators, institutions, and proposal reviewers on the definition and importance of broadening participation.’  However, broadening participation should remain an essential component of the NSF merit review criteria.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics