April 17, 2009
Jenna Jadin, Ph.D.
Public Policy Associate
Robert Gropp, Ph.D.
Director of Public Policy
American Institute of Biological Sciences
1444 Eye Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC, 20005
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) requests that the Committee work to provide the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the $7.015 billion requested by the President for fiscal year (FY) 2010.
AIBS is a nonprofit scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education for the welfare of society. Founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS became an independent, member-governed organization in the 1950s. AIBS is sustained by a membership of some 5,000 biologists and nearly 200 professional societies and scientific organizations; the combined individual membership of the later exceeds 250,000. AIBS advances its mission through participating in coalition activities in research, education and public policy; publishing the peer-reviewed journal BioScience and the education Web site ActionBiosceince.org; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening meetings; and managing scientific programs.
Stimulating economic growth, improving science education, rebuilding our nation's scientific infrastructure, and solving the most challenging problems facing society requires a sustained commitment from the federal government. The NSF is centrally important to this federal response.
NSF funds fundamental research through competitively awarded, peer-reviewed, extramural grants to our nation's universities and research centers. Roughly 66% of extramural federal grant funding for research in environmental biology is provided by NSF. These research grants employ scientists and the personnel required to build and maintain research equipment, help early career scientists establish research programs, and employ undergraduate and graduate students to do research while pursuing their education. In short, NSF grants are essential to the nation's goal of sustaining our global leadership in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
NSF's Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) is vital to our nation's continued global scientific leadership. BIO provides grants for the foundational disciplines within the biological sciences, such as botany, ecology, microbiology, zoology, and basic molecular and cellular biology, among others. Moreover, the BIO directorate provides essential support for research infrastructure. BIO funding enables natural science collections to modernize storage of biological specimens and helps collection managers catalog institutional holdings in databases that allow researchers to answer questions that could not otherwise be addressed. Biological field stations and ecosystem research centers also seek NSF grants to help facilitate and conduct research at their facilities.
Transformative research in the biological sciences has propelled forward our understanding of complex living systems and is leading us toward the resolution of major problems. As NSF Director Dr. Arden Bement testified before your Committee in February 2008, we are living in "the bio century." As Dr. Bement discussed, the biosciences are "where the fundamental work is being done." NSF's Dr. Tim Killeen, Assistant Director of Geosciences, testified on 12 March 2009 before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that while the general patterns of the carbon cycle are well known, the "sink side...which is an ecosystem and oceanographic function" is not well known. Biological sciences research helps to resolve these gaps in our knowledge.
Biological sciences research contributes to the development of new technologies and has advanced our understanding of life, including genomics, infectious diseases, ecosystem services, climate change, and nanotechnology. For example, researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered a bacteria "battery" that produces electric current when attached to a conductive surface. This discovery has potential applications, such as powering ocean sensors or generating electricity while cleaning water in wastewater treatment plants.
Biology informs policy and business practices related to current problems, including such issues as infectious disease, conservation of biological diversity, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and the mitigation of global climate change. Thus, it is important that NSF and the BIO directorate receive an appropriate, predictable, and sustainable investment.
In 2008, the average grant award from the BIO directorate was for 2.73 years and totaled $128,999. Yet, even at this modest size, roughly 80% of grant applications submitted to BIO were rejected. A number of the grants turned down for funding were in reality competitive enough to be funded if NSF had the funds to make the award. As you are well aware, funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is intended to fund many of these high quality grants. However, additional, annual appropriations are required to prevent another build-up of unfunded but competitive grants. The President's budget request seeks funding to enable NSF to fund highly competitive grant proposals in FY 2010.
The President's budget request includes funding for the BIO directorate's five core programmatic areas: 1. Molecular and Cellular Biosciences; 2. Integrative Organismal Systems; 3. Environmental Biology; 4. Biological Infrastructure; and 5. Emerging Frontiers. Additionally, funding would be provided for research infrastructure. There is a growing awareness that our natural science collections and field research stations are centrally important components of our nation's research enterprise. As reported in the New York Times on 9 March 2009, the use of scientific collections can be a cost effective way of censusing plant and animal populations. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget have repeatedly drawn attention to our nation's scientific collections in the annual interagency research and development memorandum. A federal interagency working group on scientific collections has completed a survey and prepared a report on the needs of federal science collections. The NSF has also worked to complete a survey to better understand the needs of academic science collections.
Finally, NSF is important to our nation's formal and informal science education systems. Whether through programs such as Research Experiences for Undergraduates, Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeships, or other fellowships for graduate and post-doctoral researchers, NSF grants help recruit, educate, and train our next generation of scientists. The FY 2010 budget request includes funding for the Graduate Research Fellowship and the Faculty Early Career Development program. These prestigious programs help cultivate a robust scientific workforce.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request and for your prior support for NSF. If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact Robert Gropp at 202-628-1500 x 250.