"The United States of America must maintain and improve its pre-eminent
position in science and technology in order to advance human
understanding of the universe and all it contains, and to improve the
lives, health and freedom of all peoples."
Unlocking Our Future: Toward A New National Science Policy
"As our research into science and information technology goes, so will
go our jobs, our incomes and the prosperity of our nation. Put simply,
the success and health of our families in the next century will depend
on the decisions and the investments we make today."
Vice President Al Gore
"What's needed is a serious stimulant to basic research, which has been
lagging in recent years. Without continued gains in education and
training and new innovations and scientific findings the raw materials
of growth in the New Economy the technological dynamic will stall."
Business Week February 15, 1999, p. 122
In 2000, the National Science Foundation, the leading federal agency supporting fundamental scientific and engineering research, will be 50 years old. As we approach the new millennium, our country and our futures depend more than ever upon science and technology for continued progress, health, and productivity. The time is now for Congress to recognize, celebrate, and build boldly upon the 50 years of successful NSF sponsored research. The sparks that will ignite from a significant increased investment in NSF will glow throughout the next century to improve the lives of all Americans and people around the globe.
Therefore, the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), a group of organizations who support the National Science Foundation's efforts to maintain America's pre-eminence in basic research, recommends a budget of $4.3 billion for the NSF in FY 2000. This is a $562 million or fifteen percent increase over FY 1999 funding. This figure matches NSF's judgment of its needs in FY 2000 in its request to OMB.
Every dollar invested in the NSF returns many-fold its worth in economic growth. The House Science Committee made this point repeatedly in its report: Unlocking Our Future: Toward a New National Science Policy. As the report indicates, the federal investment in science and engineering has yielded stunning payoffs. The investments have spawned not only new products, but also entire industries, such as biotechnology, Internet providers, e-commerce, and geographic information systems. The report recommends: "Because the scientific enterprise is a critical driver of the Nation's economy, investment in basic scientific research is a long-term economic imperative. To maintain our nation's economic strength and our international competitiveness, Congress should make stable and substantial federal funding for fundamental scientific research a high priority."
Fundamental research is the underpinning for achieving advances that save lives, promote prosperity, and improve society. The Council on Competitiveness report Going Global: The New Shape of American Innovation confirmed this view: "For the past 50 years, most, if not all, of the technological advances have been directly or indirectly linked to improvements in fundamental understanding. Investment in discovery research creates the seedcorn for future innovation."
For example, fundamental research in nuclear physics and data gathering techniques led ultimately to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), a vital diagnostic tool in biomedical research and health care. Recent research has discovered newer diagnostic techniques for improved breast cancer detection and more precise eye surgery. Research in cognitive science informed us how children learn, helping teachers teach and better preparing their students for the 21st Century. Basic research in earthquake detection and mitigation as well as the identification and tracking of El Nino help decision makers predict and cope with natural disasters. Plant genomic research will lead to enhanced crops, a more robust agricultural sector, and new pharmaceutical products to deter disease.
Increased Funding Means More Excellent Science and Engineering From More Excellent Scientists and Engineers. NSF's lack of funds leads to abysmal success rates experienced by new grant applicants to many NSF programs, who are successful only about half as often as an investigator already in the system. If this trend continues, it will result in long-term damage to our next generation of research scientists and engineers, and thus to the continued growth of our economy and standard of living.
NSF research grants are not large enough or long enough. This discourages scientists who could provide the breakthroughs we seek in areas that lead to safer, more productive and prosperous lives. Without a major infusion of money, NSF cannot increase the size or the length of grants without further limiting new investigators.
NSF's past investments in basic research and education have played an important role in the transformation of the United States from an industrial nation to an information-based-society, whose economy is the wonder of the late 20th century. Almost one-third of the nation's robust economic growth for the past three years can be attributed to the impact of information technology. NSF needs additional funds to support the fundamental research that will drive this growth into the future.
In NSF's first 50 years, with a small portion of federal spending, the agency has had a powerful impact on national science and engineering. All the 1998 Nobel Prizes winners in Chemistry, Physics, and Economics are current or former NSF grantees. Since 1950, NSF has supported about half of the 95 American Nobel Laureates in Chemistry and Physics, and about sixty percent of the American Nobel Laureates in Economics. In addition, 17 of the 18 U.S. mathematicians who have won the Fields Medal since World War II have NSF support.
NSF supported research played a major role in the development of powerful computing technologies that led to the Internet, the vital communications link for every aspect of American life and business. In the next few years, through proposed funding of fundamental research in computing, communications, and related fields, NSF will help create revolutionary information technologies and applications to further enhance human lives. These will provide advanced telemedicine for our most remote communities, software that can make machines speak, understand, and translate between human languages in real-time, and high performance computers that can predict global change and catastrophic phenomena like tornadoes, not to mention everyday weather.
Every generation requires a group of skilled and innovative scientists and engineers to make the new discoveries that propel society into the future. NSF's educational programs from pre-kindergarten to graduate school train the next generation of inventors and provide for a more scientifically and technologically literate public. As citizens of the 21st Century, all people will need to understand and use science and technology.
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