Mike the Mad Biologist

NSF Funding to Be Doubled?

According to the text of HR1 (pdf), NSF will be getting an additional $2.5 billion as part of the ‘stimulus’* package. From HR1 (pp. 54-55):

For an additional amount for ”Research and Related Activities”, $2,500,000,000: Provided, That $300,000,000 shall be available solely for the Major Research Instrumentation program and $200,000,000 shall be for activities authorized by title II of Public Law 100-570 for academic research facilities modernization: Provided, That for peer-reviewed grants made under this heading, the time limitation provided in section 1103(b) of this Act shall be 120 days.

For an additional amount for ”Education and Human Resources”, $100,000,000: Provided, That $60,000,000 shall be for activities authorized by section 7030 of Public Law 110-69 and $40,000,000 shall be for activities authorized by section 9 of the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002 (42 U.S.C. 1862n).

For an additional amount for ”Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction”, $400,000,000, which shall be available only for approved projects.

Translated into English, NSF gets an additional $2.5 billion:

  • $300 million goes to the Major Research Instrumentation program
  • $200 million to modernize academic research facilities
  • $100 million for education and scientific training

This means that $1.9 will be spent, and spent rapidly–120 days after the Act would be passed (Note: This doesn’t mean checks will start rolling out, but that monies will be allocated to agencies, etc.).

I think the specific items are good, since there’s a lot of deferred maintenance and upgrades that need to be addressed. And funding rates are so low (for some sections, under ten percent), that there’s a lot of good science not getting funded that should be funded.

But like ScienceBlogling Jake, I’m worried that if this is a one-time spending bolus in terms of general research funding, this will create a massive imbalance once the money goes away. Not only will lines of research cease to exist, but, despite best intentions, institutions will experience unwarranted optimism–you might call it a bubble–and overexpand, leading to a research contraction (I would prefer to see a sustained increase over a five to fifteen year period).

Hopefully, this isn’t a one-time kickstart, but the beginning of a shift towards more funding for NSF.

It is nice to see that Congress agreed to my call to double the NSF budget though….[/snark]

*Calling this a stimulus was the worstest framing EVAH! We do need a stimulus, but more importantly, our economic needs a restructuring.

Comments

  1. #1 TSS
    January 26, 2009

    I am really hoping that this stimulus money, for both NIH and NSF, will translate into a few more jobs. I just finished my doctoral training and after 30-ish years of education I have joined the worst job market in those 30 years. Disheartening.

  2. #2 Tlazolteotl
    January 26, 2009

    Certainly there would be a lot of labs who could use some new instrumentation. Nice!

  3. #3 MattXIV
    January 27, 2009

    Without getting into too much detail, the reason it is “framed” in terms of stimulus is because the term has a particular meaning in the framework for short-run macroeconomics that Keynes came up with. According to the Keynsian framework, some recessions can be prevented or eliminated by temporarily getting people to consume more and save less than they normally would. The propensity to consume is refered to as aggregate demand and the spending package is designed to increase it, thus aggregate demand stimulus, or stimulus for short. It is only desirable to shift aggregate demand upward temporarily since the long run consequences of sustaining the extra spending are undesirable.

    It is not wise to lobby for including research funding in a stimulus package, since the expectation is that stimulus funding levels will only be sustained until the economy recovers. If it is not a “one time kickstart”, it has no business in a stimulus package.

  4. #4 Stephanie Boyd
    January 29, 2009

    Trust you to see a gloomy side to it – “funding bolus”: hmmphpfpf!. Got to love any resources coming into the pipeline for science research. Better yet, this administration has an open ear to the logical suasion of past generations. How much more funding optimism can fit on the collective diner plate?
    Stephanie

  5. #5 Mike the Mad Biologist
    January 29, 2009

    Stephanie,

    I only think there will be problems once that money goes away (I would like that to be a permanent level).

    And remember, it’s Thursday….

  6. #6 yurek
    August 22, 2009

    very thanks for article

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