NSF Director Testifies On FY 2012 Budget Proposal

On March 10, 2011, NSF Director Subra Suresh appeared before the U.S. House’s Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss the President’s FY 2012 Budget Request. The President’s request provides an increase for NSF of 13% and continues his plan to double federal investment in key basic research agencies. The increase would allow NSF to support 2000 more research awards.

Suresh’s testimony provides an overview and rationale for the investments that would be made by NSF with the increased funds. Also included in the testimony is a list of six programs that NSF would terminate or reduce in FY 2012, including the Science of Learning Centers. The SLC's would be phased down as current center funding concludes, shifting resources "where possible to enhance support for the science of learning using non-center mechanisms." Using the concept "OneNSF" to characterize the agency, Suresh stated that "the National Science Foundation will work seamlessly across organizational and disciplinary boundaries to create new knowledge, stimulate discovery and address complex societal problems and promote national prosperity."

Subcommittee members generally praised NSF and commented on the importance of maintaining our global competitiveness, while also asking whether there was some program redundancy that could be eliminated. Suresh cautioned that "if we lose sight of the long-term focus as we react to the short-term needs of the country, it will come back to hurt us."

Members also expressed a great deal of interest in STEM education, including a cutoff grade or age (based on brain maturation) for engaging kids in science. Chairman Wolf inquired about a request he had made to NSF for a report on best practices in K-12 STEM education, stating that he wanted a report that would ensure America’s place on top. Ranking Member Fattah asked about brain research at NSF. Suresh responded that neuroscience research holds "a lot of interest to me" and that NSF can bring multiple disciplines, including engineering to study the brain.