NSF Fares Well in President’s FY 2012 Budget Proposal

In releasing his proposed budget for FY 2012, the President proposed a five-year freeze on all discretionary spending outside of security programs. In doing so, however, he held true to the priority areas announced in his State of the Union address—innovation, education, and infrastructure. The President stated in his budget message that the budget required hard choices, but added “in an increasingly competitive world in which jobs and businesses are mobile, we also have a responsibility to invest in those things that are absolutely critical to preparing our people and our Nation for the economic competition of our time.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that we can win this competition,” he stated. "The United States is home to the world’s best universities and research facilities, the most brilliant scientists, the brightest minds, and some of the hardest-working, most entrepreneurial people on Earth. But our leadership is not guaranteed unless we redouble our efforts in the race for the future.”

The National Science Foundation was a clear winner in the President’s budget, with a proposed 13% increase above the 2010 enacted level, or $7.8 billion. The President views research and development as a driver of economic growth, and the proposed budget continues the path to double funding for the agency. Funding for the six research directorates ranges from an increase of 6% to 22.1%. The Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate is set to receive a proposed 18% increase over 2010 enacted levels. Within SBE, the Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences Division would receive a 12% increase over 2010 numbers, and the Social and Economic Sciences a 14.9% increase.

According to NSF documents, SBE funded research provides about 58 percent of the federal funding for basic research in the SBE sciences at academic institutions around the country. NSF sees SBE as a “significant partner” in cross directorate programs such as the Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) research portfolio, and indeed, SBE investment in clean energy research through this cross-directorate initiative is proposed to increase 174.2% over FY 2010 levels. Meanwhile, NSF will begin a “gradual phasing down” of the Science of Learning Centers Program, decreasing the proposed SBE investment in FY 2012 by $5.43 million.

In the President’s budget, NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate would receive a 4.4% increase, the bulk of which (15.2%) would be provided to the Division of Human Resource Development to broaden participation in STEM education and research. The Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings is projected to receive a 1.6% increase in the FY 2012 budget proposal.

At NIH, the President’s FY 2012 budget includes an additional $745 million over FY 2010, or 2.4%. Despite the increase, the amount is less than the $1 billion increase proposed in the President’s FY 2011 budget and spans a two-year period. In addition, NIH budget documents indicate that the FY 2012 budget would fund a total of 9,158 research project grants, a decrease of 228 from the FY 2010 level.

In his budget overview, NIH Director Francis Collins highlighted “one major area of extraordinary opportunity,” the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). He also identified three areas that are “exceptionally ripe" for investment: technologies to accelerate discovery; comparative effectiveness and personalized medicine research to enhance the evidence base for health care decisions; and support for new investigators. Other priorities include autism, cancer, and alzheimer’s disease research.

The Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences would also see an increase of $101.5 million over FY 2010 under the President’s budget. IES priorities for 2012 include $40 million in new research and development grants in early learning and elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education; new evaluations of interventions to improve college enrollment, persistence, and completion; statistics and assessment programs; and longitudinal student data systems.

Outside these research priorities, the Administration is also investing significantly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. The Department of Education’s budget includes $80 million to expand effective models of teacher preparation to help prepare STEM teachers and $90 million for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Education (ARPA-ED) to promote breakthroughs in educational technology.

President’s Request for NSF »

SBE Specifics in FY 2012 Budget Request [PDF] »

President’s Request for NIH [PDF] »

President’s Request for IES (page 67) [PDF] »