A new threat to the NSF and basic research

JOSEPH H. KIRKBRIDE jkirkbride at ASRR.ARSUSDA.GOV
Tue Sep 21 08:28:00 CDT 1993


From:   AS8250::WINS%"V442MECZ at ubvmsb.cc.buffalo.edu" 20-SEP-1993 15:32:49.78
To:     JKIRKBRIDE
CC:
Subj:   write your Congressperson!

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From: V442MECZ at ubvmsb.cc.buffalo.edu
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From:   UBVMS::BIOBISS      18-SEP-1993 17:10:39.74
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Subj:   Looks bad for NSF!

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From: mhollowa at ic.sunysb.edu (Michael Holloway)
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Subject: Basic research budget to be slashed 60%, time to panic
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I'm passing these posts on from YSN since I don't see any evidence that any
kind of alert has been posted to these groups frequented by biology
researchers.  The physicists seem to take more notice of these things.

The first post has Senate Report 103-137 on H.R. 2491, the appropriations
bill for the VA, HUD, NSF, etc.  The language is extremely blunt.  It orders
that NSF spend 60% of its budget on "targetted research", that oversite be
set up to make sure that this money isn't being given to "curiousity driven"
research (a deprecating term for basic research) being disguised as targetted
research, and states that the NIH is following a similar policy.  If NSF doen't
want to play it Congress's way, their money will go to other agencies.

NIH and NSF then are going to be used as fronts for Congress decreasing
support to basic research.  Congress will continue to fund the agencies but
the agencies will be ordered to start sending the bulk of the funding away
from basic research.  How has this been allowed to happen?  These people don't
know what they're doing.  Another poster in YSN, on an entirely different
topic, notes that she's glad for her knowledge of French:

 > As I note the militant focus on applications in the recent
 > report of the Senate subcommittee on the future of the NSF (which
 > states, among other things, that "not less than 60 percent of the
 > agency's annual program research activities should be strategic in
 > nature"), it becomes more and more clear to me that I must continue to
 > strengthen my contacts and collaborations with my colleagues in France
 > in order to continue to get the time and the environment I need to do
 > any serious thinking at all about basic research.

Mike Holloway
mhollowa at ccmail.sunysb.edu


>From root Mon Jan  1 00:00:00 1970

Date: Wed, 15 Sep 93 09:18:55 MDT
From: rmfye at cs.sandia.gov (Richard M. Fye)
Subject: #1 FYI -> the future of the NSF
To: ysn at zoyd.ee.washington.edu

I thought that this might be of interest to YSN members...

[ ysn-adm note: FYI from AIP is an excellent (and free) email summary of
  US science policy and politics.  Ordinarily I don't forward FYI into
  YSN since you can get it separately if you want.  However, this does
  serve as a reminder of its existence.  JDSahr ]

*********************************************************************

The Other Shoe Drops: Senate Appropriations Report Language on NSF

FYI No. 116, September 14, 1993

"Not less than 60 percent of the agency's annual program research
activities should be strategic in nature." -- Senate Report 103-137

An important component of the annual appropriations process is the
committee report accompanying a bill.  Last week, Senator Barbara
Mikulski's (D-Maryland) Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent
Agencies submitted a report outlining its recommendations for the
National Science Foundation.  If implemented, the recommendations set
forth in this report would have a very important bearing on the future
of the NSF.

Following Senate floor passage of H.R. 2491, the VA, HUD, Independent
Agencies Appropriations Bill, a conference will be held between
members of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees.  At that
time, final conference report language will be adopted for NSF.  This
language, while not having the force of law, is "the next best thing,"
and is ignored only at peril.

Below, in total, is the section entitled "The Future of the NSF,"
taken from Senate Report 103-137, pp. 166-169.

                THE FUTURE OF THE NSF

The Committee believes that the National Science Foundation is at a
crossroads in its future.  Either the Foundation will evolve as
envisioned by the Commission on the Future of the NSF, commonly known
as the Massey Commission, or it will drift in a direction that moves
it further and further from broad national interests in science and
technology.  In short, the Foundation can be at the heart of helping
to shape the administration's science and technology policy in pursuit
of specific national goals, or it can diminish into becoming nothing
more than a national endowment for science.

The conference report accompanying last year's NSF appropriations (H.
Rept. 102-902) made clear the Committee's concern about the future
direction of the Nation's science and technology policy.  Its concern
was based upon a report of the National Science Board titled, "The
Competitive Strength of U.S. Industrial Science and Technology:
Strategic Issues."  This report outlined a sober assessment of the
condition of the U.S. competitive position.  It found that our Nation
spends too few dollars on research and development in industrial
science and technology; does not allocate R&D expenditures well; and
does not utilize the R&D investments that are made well.

The Massey Commission raised the Committee's hopes that the Foundation
and the Nation's scientific community had made the strategic turn that
is needed to engage our country's basic research enterprise to focus
more clearly on the transfer of knowledge and technology for broader
national goals and objectives.  During the Presidential transition,
however, with the departure of the Director , the Foundation and the
Science Board have given mixed signals whether the bold vision forward
to which the Massey Commission sought to pull science will continue.
Even the recent National Academy report, "Science, Technology, and the
Federal Government: National Goals for a New Era," seems to suggest
that performance milestones, greater accountability, and an ability to
provide a strategic focus on basic research must occur if science is
to be a full partner in helping the United States regain its
competitive edge.  As the Academy stated: "Despite the increasing
internationalization of science and technology, the linkages between a
nation's internal scientific and technological capabilities and its
well-being will continue to be strong.  The countries that best
integrate the generation of new knowledge with the use of that
knowledge will be positioned to be the leaders of the 21st century."
The National Science Foundation, by virtue of its strong links to our
university research base and State governments, is uniquely situated
to help the United States pursue the goals highlighted by the Academy.

It is time for the Foundation to move beyond rhetorical statements
about the value of strategic research or the importance of using
science for the transfer of knowledge and technology.  That, in the
Committee's view, is a fact of life and political reality.  Instead,
it is now the time for the Foundation to move to identify that which
is specific, immediate, and realizable in pursuit of this broader
mission.  The agency must spell out how much of its mission should
clearly be strategic and applied in nature, and then to implement
these parameters through its budget process.  Just as the Committee is
insisting that the Office of Science and Technology Policy set
specific performance milestones for Federal critical technology
programs, so too must the NSF.  This must be done directorate by
directorate.  If the NSF and its constituent members choose not to do
this, future Federal R&D budgets should instead be allocated more
generously to agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and
Technology, NASA, the national energy labs, or the National Institutes
of Health, all of whom seem poised to pursue critical technologies
with entrepreneurial vigor and enthusiasm.

Such a transition, as painful and as difficult as it might prove for
some in the scientific community, is as necessary and vital for the
future of the Nation as was Vannevar Bush's revolutionary vision for
this community more than 40 years ago.  Rather than seeing this
challenge as a threat to the status quo, the academic research
community should see it as perhaps the last, best chance to seize the
opportunity to be an integral part of the solution to the scientific
and technological problems our country and its economy now confront.
Science is fundamentally about pursuing new ideas and new ways of
thinking.  This era of change is in that spirit, and is about the
renewal of science rather than its diminution.

Therefore, the Committee directs the Foundation to revise its
strategic plan, for submission by the time the President's fiscal year
1995 budget is submitted to the Congress, in the following manner:

- -To specify, with particularity, in each NSF program directorate and
in each initiative that is part of the FCCSET interagency process,
annual, quantifiable performance milestones.  These milestones should
include a vigorous evaluation component that guarantees that programs
which begin can be terminated if they lose their effectiveness or are
displaced by higher priority initiatives.  These milestones should
also specify the degree of industrial participation in each of the NSF
components of these initiatives and the justification for whatever
threshold is proposed.  They should also provide the basis for a
vigorous evaluation that will ensure an increased ability to determine
overall program effectiveness and assist in determining relative
priorities in times of funding constraints.  As a prelude to this
revised strategic plan, the 1994 operating plan should employ this
process.

- -To outline the balance between strategic research objectives and
other, more generic research, in the budget process.  Not less than 60
percent of the agency's annual program research activities should be
strategic in nature.  The Foundation should make clear how it
specifically defines each area so as not to shroud curiosity driven
activities under the rubric of strategic activities.  The multiyear
budget submission should outline how this balance will be effected,
again with particularity.  In addition, the NSF and the Science Board
should outline a plan for increasing the scientific community's
understanding of the vital need for this balance to exist.

- -To establish a new and bold program that addresses lingering
problems with the academic research infrastructure in the United
States.  Research facility and instrumentation backlogs at the
Nation's colleges and universities are staggering.  Refurbishing these
facilities will bolster the research enterprise, while creating jobs
in the construction and manufacturing sectors.  This infrastructure
program should constitute a large proportion of the Foundation's
annual budget.

- -To create new initiatives that systematically link State-based and
State-operated science and technology programs in a formal partnership
with the Foundation.  Such activities exist throughout the agency now.
This new step would strengthen these relationships, expecting cost
sharing from State governments and even the private sector where
appropriate.

- -To review the status and funding of all existing NSF supported
research centers to determine what level of industry involvement is
viable, and then to establish private sector participation thresholds
for each category of NSF center.  The Committee believes that by not
dictating a floor for such participation, it has given the agency
sufficient flexibility to develop an initial proposal for the
Committee's review and comment.  This review should be inclusive of
all categories of NSF research centers.  The Committee has included a
review by the National Academy of Public Administration as part of
this effort.

- -To evaluate the structure, composition, and role of the National
Science Board, including future mandatory industrial memberships,
given the changes in the new world order.  This action is taken
without prejudice for the current or past members of the Board, to
whom the Committee is grateful for their public service.  Nor is it a
desire for some sort of dismissal for the existing Board.  Instead, it
is done with the recognition that the forces shaping the science and
technology enterprise have changed, and changed dramatically, and that
the composition of the Board may have to shift as well.  Therefore,
broadening the Board's membership and responsibilities should be
considered.

- -To outline in the annual budget justification submission, the
particular, incremental milestones for individual programs and activities.

- -Finally, to outline clear and detailed working relationships with
other Federal agencies like NIST, NIH, NASA, EPA, the Advanced
Research Projects Agency, and the Departments of Education and Energy.
These plans should be more than descriptive documents that outline
broad principles that are the basis for a memorandum of understanding.
Instead, they should articulate clear role differentiation and
collaboration on strategic research and education activities, with
expectations for multiyear goals and outcomes included therein on as
specific a program level as is possible.  For example, the Foundation
should provide a detailed action agenda for math and science education
teacher retraining which shows how all NSF and Department of Education
programs compliment each other, and working toward measurable, annual
milestones.

Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
Contact: Richard M. Jones or Audrey T. Leath  (fyi at aip.org)
(202) 332-9661/9662

-----------------------------

Date: Fri, 17 Sep 93 15:05:26 EDT
From: Eric Schmidt <schmidt at sunset.larc.nasa.gov>
To: ysn at zoyd.ee.washington.edu
Subject: #6 ASLA Report on HR2491

The following information I find of critical interest to the life of
science (& and YSN members) in the US....please call or write if
you can and are interested!             Eric S.

                From ASLA at KOSMOS.AGU.ORG Fri Sep 17 14:53:47 1993
The Senate's Appropriation Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and
Independent Agencies has submitted a report with H.R. 2491, the
appropriations bill for all those agencies, that explains the
contents of the bill.  When one reads the report, especially the
section on the future of the NSF, there is a tendency to cry out
that whoever wrote the report obviously knows nothing about the
importance of basic research or why the National Science
Foundation exists.  To do that would probably be exactly the
wrong approach to what is a growing trend in the Congress and
within the Administration that science must relate to society in
a way that is visible and understandable to the general taxpayer.

Although the Senate report is blunt, in fact it is arrogant, it
must be viewed as another strong signal that times have indeed
changed in the support of science in the United States.  It is
incumbent upon the scientific community now to show the public
and especially the Congress that science, and in particular basic
(or to use the new NSF term, curiosity driven) research, is
important to the long-term goals of the United States and it must
continue to be well supported.

The Senate report has been released as a part of the
appropriations process.  It's language most probably will not be
changed, although there is a small chance that such could happen.
Therefore, persons who want to take action on this situation
should contact their Senators and tell them that when H.R. 2491
comes to the floor for a vote, the overall budget of the National
Science Foundation should be increased to at least the level of
the House mark of $3,021.3 M.  Furthermore, the Senate should not
reduce research and related activities by $210 M as is proposed
by the appropriations subcommittee, but leave it at the 1993 level.

For those of you who live in districts or states that have
members of either the House or Senate appropriations subcommittee
for VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies, contact your
representatives and tell them to hold the line at the House mark
and to address the language and the tone of the Senate report in
the Conference report. A telephone call to the District office or
to the Washington office is better than a letter because time is
an important element.  It is anticipated that the Conference
Committee will meet during the week of September 20th, although
this could be delayed by the outcome of the Senate vote on Space
Station that is expected to take place on September 20th about 3:00 PM.

The message then is CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES, HOUSE AND
SENATE, AND INFORM THEM HOW IMPORTANT NSF IS TO THE STRENGTH OF
THE  SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY.  ALSO INFORM THEM THAT YOU WILL BE
WATCHING HOW THE VOTES ARE CAST.

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE ON VA, HUD AND INDEPENDENT
AGENCIES; telephone 202-224-7231

Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), J.
Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Bob Kerrey
(D-Nebr.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Phil Gramm (R-Tex.),
Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Christopher Bond
(R-Mo.), and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE ON VA, HUD AND INDEPENDENT
AGENCIES; telephone 202-225-3241

Chairman Louis Stokes (D-Ohio), Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), Jim
Chapman (D-Tex.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), William Natcher (D-Ky),
Esteban Torres (D-Calif.), Ray Thornton (D-Ark.), Jerry Lewis (R-
Calif.), Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), Dean Gallo (R-N.J.)
                        --------------------
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