2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:10 PM


SCHIFFRIES, Craig M., National Council for Sci and the Environ, 1707 H Street, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006, Craig@NCSEonline.org

By an overwhelming vote of 397 to 25, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on June 5, 2002 that authorizes a $2.5 billion increase in the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget over the next three years. Under the legislation, the NSF budget would increase by 15 percent per year, from $4.8 billion in FY 2002 to $7.3 billion in FY 2005. The bill would put NSF on track to double its budget in five years.

When the NSF authorization act was introduced on May 7, 2002, the bill included language about the allocation of funding among "the physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering." References to "physical sciences" as opposed to all fields of science could have negative consequences for the geosciences, environmental sciences, non-biomedical life sciences, social sciences and interdisciplinary science. An informal coalition of scientific organizations worked with congressional staff to craft an amendment that replaced "physical sciences" with "sciences" and made related revisions in the NSF authorization act. The House Science Committee passed the amendment to the NSF authorization bill on May 22, 2002.

The Committee Report (House Report 107-488) that accompanies the NSF authorization bill provides further guidance on the amendment: "While the Committee is of the opinion that the mathematical, physical, and information sciences and engineering disciplines have been significantly underfunded, the Committee also recognizes that greater science funding for other disciplines, including the non-biomedical life sciences and the social sciences is also necessary... The committee strongly believes that all disciplines for which NSF provides support should receive significant budget increases."

The initiative to double the NSF budget follows a successful effort to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over five years. Congress remains highly supportive of NIH, but there is growing concern that funding for NSF has fallen "dangerously out of balance," according to a letter signed by 130 Members of Congress on June 9, 2002. The NSF authorization act is designed to improve the balance of the federal R&D portfolio. The bill, which is entitled the "Investing in America’s Future Act of 2002" (H.R. 4664), must still be considered by the Senate.