President Clinton requested nearly $4 billion for the fiscal year 2000 budget designated for the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF; Arlington, VA; 703-306-1200)a record high budget request. The request focuses on funding for information technology and environmental biocomplexity. In addition to fueling education and Arctic research programs, NSF plans to invest $25 million to launch a new group of U.S. science and technology centers.
President Clinton called for a 6.9% hike in the NSF's research and related activities, and a 5.8% overall increase for the agency in the proposed new budget that was sent to Congress on Feb. 1, 1999.
If the budget is passed, NSF will increase investments by $146 million in new research and high-end computing capabilities. These are highlights of the Administration's multi-agency Information Technology for the Twenty-First Century (IT²) Initiative. About $110 million of the NSF budget is planned for fundamental IT research including: design and development of accessible, reliable, fault-tolerant software systems; human-computer interactions; information management; high-end computing, including advances in modeling and simulation; and other long-term research including socioeconomic and workforce impacts of IT. Another $36 million is planned to enhance the supercomputing infrastructure for the academic research and education communities.
Reasons for this major investment aren't difficult to find. Analysts estimate that the information-technology industry already constitutes $700 billion of the total U.S. economy, and they say the industry has generated about a third of all U.S. economic growth over the past decade. Yet prospects for sustained growth are questionable because corporate R&D expenditures as a fraction of sales have dropped almost by half over a seven-year period (1989-96). In addition, there has been a detectable shift toward short-term, product-oriented developments in the IT industry as a whole. A recent report by the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) called for a strong and sustained investment in fundamental IT research. In doing so, the report emphasized the sharp and growing contrast between reduced support provided for long-term research and the increased importance of IT to the overall U.S. economy.
In the new budget, NSF will also invest $50 million for research in biocomplexity in the environment, an agency-wide coordinated activity in environmental science, engineering, and education. This research attempts to understand the complex interdependencies among living organisms and the environments that affect, sustain, and are modified by them.
Biocomplexity research will cover three overlapping and highly interactive areas within NSFglobal and environmental change, biodiversity and ecosystems dynamics, and environment and the human dimension. Core research efforts will focus on the idea that research on individual components of environmental systems provides only limited information about their behavior as whole systems.
Among NSF's educational priorities for FY 2000 is an investment in a national science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education digital library. This is a national resource facility to link K-16 schools, academic institutions, students, teachers, and faculty to standards-based educational materials and learning tools. NSF will also move forward in its cooperative Education Research Initiative with the Department of Education. NSF will continue efforts to place undergraduate and graduate students in K-12 classrooms to assist teachers with content, while exposing and preparing the college students to the needs of K-12 education.
In FY 2000, NSF also plans to continue support for Arctic research programs, invest in upgrades to polar aircraft, continue substantial support to plant genome research, and maintain its strong commitment to the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Also, NSF will invest $25 million for a new group of science and technology centers to explore interdisciplinary research problems and to support innovative efforts to integrate research and education.
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