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Friday, October 1, 2010

U.S. National Science Foundation: An Overview

Christine M. Matthews
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The National Science Foundation (NSF) was created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (P.L.81-507). The NSF has the broad mission of supporting science and engineering in general and funding basic research across many disciplines. The agency provides support for investigator-initiated, merit-reviewed, competitively selected awards, state-of-the-art tools, and instrumentation and facilities. The majority of the research supported by the NSF is conducted at U.S. colleges and universities. Approximately 82.7% ($3,320.5 million) of NSF’s FY2007 $4,049.4 million research and development (R&D) budget was awarded to U.S. colleges and universities.

On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), 2009, P.L. 111-5 (H.R. 1). The legislation provided slightly more than $3.0 billion for the NSF—$2.5 billion for R&RA, $400.0 million for MREFC, $100.0 million for EHR, and $2.0 million for the Office of Inspector General. Language in the conference agreement directed that within the R&RA, $300.0 million be available solely for the Major Research Instrumentation program. Additional conference language directed that of the total provided to EHR, $60.0 million be directed to the Robert Noyce Program, $25.0 million be directed to the MSP, and $15.0 million used solely for the Professional Science Master’s Program.

The FY2011 request for the NSF totals $7,424.4 million, an 8.0% increase ($551.9 million) over the FY2010 estimate of $6,872.5 million. The FY2011 request provides support for seven major directorates and other programs and activity accounts. The Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account is funded at $6,018.8 million in the FY2011 request, 8.2% above the FY2010 estimate of $5,563.9 million. R&RA funds research projects, research facilities, and education and training activities. R&RA includes Integrative Activities (IA), and is a source of funding for the acquisition and development of research instrumentation at U.S. colleges and universities, disaster research teams, Partnerships for Innovation, and the Science and Technology Policy Institute. The FY2011 request for IA is $295.9 million. The Office of Polar Programs, funded in the R&RA, is proposed at $528.0 million in the FY2011 request.

On July 22, 2010, the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved S. 3636, Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, FY2011 (S.Rept. 111-229). The Senate bill requests a total of $7,353.4 million for the NSF in FY2011, approximately $71.0 million below the Administration’s FY2011 request and $480.9 million above the FY2010 estimate. Included in the support for NSF is $5,967.2 million for the R&RA, $51.6 million below the President’s FY2011 request and $403.3 million above the FY2010 level.

Date of Report: September 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: 95-307
Price: $29.95

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