When President Clinton presented his 1998 budget request to Congress yesterday , science funding was one of the few areas favored with an increase. The request asks for a 4% rise in civilian R&D and a 1% boost in defense R&D, bringing total R&D spending to $75.5 billion. Here's how the four big science agencies fared:
The National Institutes of Health: NIH plans to put about three-quarters of its proposed $337 million increase into extramural science, or "research project grants" that are based on proposals from individual scientists. That would raise the total number of such grants from 25,746 to 26,679, including a record number of 7100 new grants. The research areas that get special attention in this budget are: HIV-AIDS research (up $40 million), the biology of brain disorders (up $37 million), microbe sequencing and new approaches to pathogenesis (up $35 million), disease prevention (up $51 million), new therapeutics development (up $40 million), genetic medicine (up $41 million), and advanced instrumentation (up $20 million).
National Science Foundation: The biggest single new activity in NSF's proposed 1998 budget is a $58 million increase for a program--Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence--that focuses on how new technologies are changing the way people collect information and learn. "We want to take what we already have one level higher. It's high risk, but that's what NSF is supposed to do," says director Neal Lane. NSF has also requested a $9 million down payment for a $180 million array of 40 millimeter-wavelength telescopes to explore the early universe and star formation, and $25 million for a radar observatory in Canada to study the aurora and other phenomena in the upper atmosphere. Overall, NSF is requesting a 3.4% increase in its research account.
Department of Energy: Civilian energy research would remain flat at $2.5 billion, but "that's fundamentally a good-news budget," says Martha Krebs, DOE's energy-research chief. The big-ticket item in DOE's request is more than $900 million to build the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. DOE also wants $23 million for studies of a new spallation neutron source and for upgrades to an existing neutron source at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
NASA: Compared with other R&D agencies, NASA is a loser in the 1998 request. Its total budget would drop from $13.7 billion to $13.5 billion. But space science would fare relatively well, scoring a 4% increase, bringing its budget slightly above $2 billion. With that wedge of new funding plus a drop-off of costs in programs nearing completion, NASA wants to prepare a series of Mars probes, telescopes, and other research efforts that are grouped together as part of the Origins program. And Mission to Planet Earth--a constellation of Earth-observing satellites--would continue its steady growth, rising slightly to $1.4 billion. On the other side of the ledger: Life and microgravity sciences and applications would take a hit, falling by $30 million to $214 million. So too would life sciences research, which would decrease from $97 million to $86 million in 1998. And NASA's space-station and space-shuttle programs would continue to feel the pinch: The $5.68 billion budget would drop to $5.33 billion.
For further details on the president's budget, check out ScienceNOW next week, along with next Friday's edition of Science and Science Online.