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Thursday, June 30, 2011

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 Research and Related Activities (R&RA), $400.0 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC), $100.0 million for Education and Human Resources (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 Math and Science Partnership program, and $15.0 million used solely for the Professional Science Master’s Program.

The FY2012 request for the NSF totals $7,767.0 million, a 13.0% increase ($894.5 million) over the FY2011 enacted level of $6,859.9 million. The FY2012 request provides support for seven major directorates and other programs and activity accounts. The R&RA account is proposed at $6,253.5 million in the FY2012 request, 12.4% above the FY2011 level of $5,563.9 million. R&RA funds research projects, research facilities, and education and training activities. R&RA is also 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.

On April 15, 2011, the President signed into law the Department of Defense and Full-Year Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10). The act provides, among other things, funding for the NSF through the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Act, 2011. The legislation provides a total of $6,859.9 million for the NSF in FY2011, an approximate 1% reduction from the FY2010 level.

Date of Report: June 23, 2011
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: 95-307
Price: $29.95

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