Budget Brief: National Science Foundation

(This is part of series of Budget Briefs CRD Associates is posting on key facets of President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal to Congress. Today’s post spotlights the National Science Foundation.)

The president’s fiscal year 2013 budget contains $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), an increase of $340 million, or five percent, over the current funding level. Investments are made in research priorities and savings of $66 million are realized through terminations and reductions in lower-priority programs, with the administration proposing to leverage its priorities to improve the economy and make America more competitive. The proposal builds on existing initiatives, continuing several multi-year efforts.

Of note, the proposal contains $3.2 billion for the core fundamental research grant programs at NSF, including $63 million for the second year of an interdisciplinary research and education initiative that changes the way the agency solicits and funds innovative cross-disciplinary proposals that may not have fared well under the standard peer review process.

To encourage interdisciplinary research for a future bio-economy, the budget provides $30 million for innovative proposals at the interface of biology, mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering. The administration proposes $106 million, an increase of $28 million, for the second year of a cyber infrastructure initiative that will accelerate the pace of discovery in all research disciplines. In an effort to strengthen long-term competitiveness of American manufacturing, the budget proposes an increase of $39 million for basic research targeted at developing new manufacturing technologies in partnership with other Federal agencies and the private sector. This advanced manufacturing research is part of a larger $257 million research initiative aimed at transforming static systems, processes, and infrastructure into adaptive, pervasive “smart” systems with embedded computational intelligence that can sense, adapt, and react. This larger research initiative also provides $28 million for NSF’s contribution to the National Robotics Initiative, which will accelerate the development and use of robots in the US.

The budget also contains an increase of $55 million for two agency-wide science and engineering workforce development programs: the graduate research fellowship program and the faculty early career development program. These two programs recognize and support the best and brightest scientists and engineers at the formative stages of their careers. The budget will also provide $49 million for a new effort within NSF to integrate and leverage STEM education research to improve learning in science and engineering disciplines and to capitalize on the scientific assets across NSF to enhance outcomes in learning and education programs.

In an effort to improve undergraduate math and science Instruction, the budget proposes $20 million for the second year of a teacher training research and development program for undergraduate teachers, designed to transform the way science, engineering, and math are taught to undergraduate students. Competitive proposals will target the teaching of all undergraduate courses and the teaching practices of all faculty members in a department for all, or most, of the relevant departments at an institution. This program will support research on how to achieve widespread sustainable implementation of improved STEM undergraduate teaching practices and student outcomes at major universities, particularly for future K-12 STEM teachers. The budget also proposes $61 million, an increase of 56 percent over 2012 enacted, for NSF’s Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM program. This increase will provide targeted research and development funds to design, test, and implement more effective educational materials, curriculum, and methods to improve undergraduate learning and completion rates in STEM for a diverse population.

Of course, the President’s request is just a starting point, but it's clear from the emphasis placed on interdisciplinary research and strengthening the technological pipeline that for FY013, stakeholders will be jockeying to make America more competitive.

Stay updated on this budget brief series as CRD looks at other aspects of the
President's request in the coming days....

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