Dr. France Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Dr. Dan Arvizu, Chairman of the National Science Board, found a generally supportive bipartisan audience during their recent fiscal year 2017 (FY 17) budget overview hearing before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology.
Dr. Córdova began her remarks by saying, “NSF is where discoveries begin,” but, that they also say, “NSF is where discoverers begin.” She spoke of how many National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) projects and many Nobel-winning scientists get their start as NSF-funded projects, before remarking on the decline in NSF federal funding since 2010, leading to a historically low NSF funding rate for grants and research proposals of 20%. With NSF’s FY 17 budget request she aims to start to correct that negative trend, with a funding increase of $400 million. This is a small step toward the $4 billion needed to fund all of the high-quality research requests received last year, but it is a step in the right direction.
Subcommittee members’ questions focused mostly on STEM education and ranged from “How does NSF plan to implement the STEM Act?” (Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21)) to “What is working with STEM education?” (Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (VA-10) to questions on the scalability of STEM education programs (Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5)). Other topics of discussion, revolved around the value and inter-disciplinary nature of the social and behavioral sciences, NSF’s $70 million request for the CyberCorps, and the value of NSF’s geoscience directorate and work at the nexus of food, water, and energy. Both sides of this House Subcommittee shared appreciation for the role NSF plays and were generally supportive of NSF programs. How that plays out with the Appropriations Committee, we will have to wait and see.