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Comments on Draft NSF Strategic Plan for 2006-2011

July 17, 2006

Dr. Arden Bement
Director
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230

Dr. Kathie Olsen
Deputy Director
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230

Dear Drs. Bement and Olsen:

The American Institute of Biological Siences (AIBS) submits the following in response to the National Science Foundation (NSF) request for public comment on "Investing in America's Future," NSF's draft strategic plan for 2006-2011.

AIBS is pleased to see that NSF continues to recognize the vital role that the Biology Directorate plays in advancing the basic biological and environmental sciences, leading to innovations that ultimately contribute to breakthroughs in the biomedical, biotechnology, and agricultural sciences, among others. Indeed, NSF provides roughly 65 percent of federal funding for basic biological research conducted at our nation's universities. Moreover, the plan recognizes that in addition to continued support for disciplinary research, many of society's most pressing challenges require the efforts of interdisciplinary research teams. For instance, social scientists are collaborating with biologists to understand the human dimensions of environmental problems. Biologists, computer scientists, and behavioral scientists are working together to improve our understanding of learning, the operation of neurological networks, and to develop innovative artificial intelligence systems that will contribute to robotics and computer technology. Mathematicians and biologists collaborate to develop models of complex biological systems.

Importantly, the plan recognizes the importance of investing in our research infrastructure. The development of the next generation of cyber infrastructure is certainly important to our ability to ask and answer research questions. Additionally, however, it is important that NSF continues to maintain existing research infrastructure. For example, biological field stations, marine laboratories, natural science collections/museums, and other research facilities require a sustained investment in their facilities and personnel. AIBS encourages NSF to continue to work with the research community to ensure that appropriate investments are made in the places, people and technology that biologists require for their research.

AIBS is also pleased that the draft strategic plan recognizes the important role that NSF plays in formal and informal science education. For example, museums, botanical gardens, professional societies, and the media serve all citizens. Often, a museum community outreach program may provide a young child with their first introduction to science. Many of these students may become captivated with science and elect to pursue it as a career. Equally as important to future recruitment of scientists, these children will almost certainly leave the museum with a better understanding of the world in which they live. Moreover, research facilities provide a valuable community-based resource for science educators. A sustained commitment to these and other informal science education programs is essential as individuals are increasingly called upon to make informed decisions about the role of science in their daily lives.

The formal science education programs administered by NSF are essential to our nation's ability to recruit and train a diverse scientific workforce and to prepare highly qualified science educators for the preK-16 classroom. Particularly valuable to our ability to prepare the next generation of scientists are the research opportunities that NSF provides to undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral scientists.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft strategic plan and for your thoughtful consideration of these important issues. Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Robert Gropp, Director of Public Policy, or myself if we might provide any further assistance to you on this matter.

Sincerely,

Richard O'Grady, Ph.D.
Executive Director

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