More on NSF's 8.5% Boost; Details Still Scarce

Jeff tries to explain how government works to readers of Science.

The $7.04 billion President Barack Obama has requested for the National Science Foundation in 2010 is a 8.5% increase to the $6.5 billion it received for this year, and concurrent with the Administration's promise of a decade-long budget doubling. Within that overall number is a 10% increase for the agency's six research directorates, to $5.73 billion. Its education programs would inch up by 1.5%, to $858 million.

Those numbers exclude the $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress in February. That one-time money, which must be spent over the next 18 months, will allow NSF to fund some activities that it would otherwise have to finance out of its regular budget. For example, its 2010 request for the account that funds big, new projects would shrink from $157 million to $117 million because NSF was able to move ahead this year with construction of the Alaska Region Regional Research Vessel as well as initiate two projects involving a network of densely instrumented sites—the Ocean Observatories Initiative and the National Ecological Observatory Network.

Although details of NSF's spending plan for 2010 will not be available until next week's meeting of the National Science Board, acting NSF Deputy Director Cora Marrett described some new initiatives during the briefing earlier. Within the research directorates, she said NSF plans to increase climate change research across several disciplines by more than $200 million and boost spending on high-performance computing, simulations, and modeling.

She also highlighted programs that mesh with the president's goal of improving science and engineering education. A $15 million boost in graduate research fellowships, to $122 million, would advance Obama's campaign promise to triple the number of such 3-year awards, to 3000 per year, by 2013. Likewise, a 24% increase in a $52 million program serving community colleges is in step with the Administration's efforts to enlarge the pool of technical workers. And she mentioned a new joint program with the Department of Energy on clean energy education aimed at "increasing public awareness" of the need to develop low-carbon fuels. But Marrett couldn't explain how NSF planned to fund those increases from an education budget that would rise by only $13 million, nor what, if any, programs NSF wants to shrink or end.

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