NSF Budget Is Looking Up

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Science  18 Apr 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5311, pp. 343
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5311.343b

National Science Foundation (NSF) officials hope an unusually warm reception last week from legislators who set the agency's budget will translate into more than the 3% increase in 1998 (to $3.367 billion) requested by the president.

“I think we can do better,” said Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA) after chairing an all-day hearing of the House panel that writes the NSF spending bill. [NSF's authorizing committee also seems prepared to increase its budget (see p. 347).] During the hearing, NSF officials made the unusual disclosure that the agency had initially requested a larger budget–roughly $3.5 billion–but that the White House had turned it down.

Although it may be weeks before the House panel completes its bill, members appear to favor increases in NSF's research and education accounts as well as an accelerated schedule for the agency's proposed renovation of the South Pole station. While the 7% increase sought by a coalition of scientific societies–which squares with NSF's earlier request–may be out of reach, one panel aide says a 5% hike “seems doable.” National Science Board President Richard Zare told Lewis the board places a high priority on two new programs–networked computing and research in extreme environments.

Despite the overall positive tone of the hearing, Representative James Walsh (R-NY) grilled NSF on its decision to phase out two supercomputing centers, including a facility at Cornell near Walsh's upstate district, as it begins a new program (Science, 4 April, p. 29). Although Walsh suggested more money for the losers during the 2-year transition, Lewis said he didn't think it was needed “at this time.”

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