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Bullet policy · Jun 07, 2021

NSF Slated for a 20 Percent Increase in Budget, New Technology Directorate

The President has proposed increasing the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) budget by 20 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2022 and creating a new commercialization focused directorate at the science agency.

Overall, NSF would receive $10.2 billion, which is $1.7 billion above the FY 2021 level enacted by Congress. The President proposes investing $50 billion over eight years in a new technology directorate at NSF that will collaborate with other directorates and offices within the agency, as well as with other research, innovation, and education stakeholders to “advance science and engineering research and innovation leading to breakthrough technologies as well as solutions to national and societal challenges, sustaining and enhancing U.S. competitiveness on a global stage” and “accelerate the translation of fundamental discoveries from lab to market.”

The request includes $865 million for the new Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate, of which $200 million would be set aside for new regional innovation accelerators to help expand innovation capacities in communities across the country and $50 million would go towards the operational budget for an office aimed at accelerating public and private partnerships. The TIP Directorate’s budget would include $350 million in funding transferred from existing programs.

The Administration requests $100 million (+50 percent) in FY 2022 for programs aimed at increasing participation in science and engineering of individuals from underrepresented groups. The plan also includes $1.20 billion for climate and clean energy-related research, including research on atmospheric composition, water and carbon cycles, computational modeling of climate systems, renewable energy technologies, materials sciences, and social, behavioral, and economic research on human responses to climate change. In FY 2022, NSF support for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), which coordinates federal research on climate change and its impacts, would increase by 47 percent to $762 million.

NSF will continue to invest in its Big Ideas and Convergence Accelerator. Among the research-focused Big Ideas, Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL), Navigating the New Arctic (NNA), Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR), Future of Work at the Human Technology Frontier, and Windows on the Universe would each receive flat funding of $30 million in FY 2022. Quantum Leap stewardship activities, which are now managed under the broader Quantum Information Science (QIS) portfolio, would also receive $30 million. The Convergence Accelerator would receive a flat funding of $70 million and would be transferred to the TIP Directorate.

Growing Convergence Research at NSF would receive a 51 percent boost, while Mid-scale Research Infrastructure would receive an increase of 53 percent compared to FY 2021. NSF INCLUDES, which supports education and career pathways to help broaden participation in science and engineering and build a diverse and skilled American workforce, would receive $46.5 million (+133 percent). The NSF Innovation Corps, which improves researchers’ access to resources that help transfer knowledge to downstream technological applications, would receive flat funding of $40 million.

Research funding at NSF would be overall augmented by 18 percent. The Research and Related Activities account would receive $8.1 billion in FY 2022, $1.3 billion above FY 2021. All research directorates, with the exception of Integrative Activities, would see growth in their funding:

  • Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO): $950 million (+16 percent)
  • Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE): $1.1 billion (+11 percent)
  • Engineering Directorate (ENG): $917 million (+20 percent)
  • Geological Sciences Directorate (GEO): $1.2 billion (+19 percent)
  • Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (MPS): $1.7 billion (+7 percent)
  • Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE): $320 million (+14 percent)
  • Office of International Science and Engineering: $75 million (+47 percent)
  • Office of Polar Programs: $506 million (+5 percent)
  • Integrative Activities: $505 million (-4 percent)
  • U.S. Arctic Research Commission: $1.65 million (+3 percent)

The Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR) would operate at $1.3 billion, 16 percent above FY 2021. Within EHR, the Division of Undergraduate Education would see their budget increase by nearly 5 percent, while the Division of Graduate Education would receive an 11 percent boost compared to FY 2021. EHR would allocate $9 million for biotechnology through research and workforce development programs. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program would be consolidated within EHR in FY 2022 and would receive a funding increase of 12 percent to $319 million. Funding for the NSF Research Traineeship program would remain flat at $58 million.

Support for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) would receive a small increase of 3 percent to $250 million in FY 2022. Agency Operations and Award Management would receive a 25 percent boost, while support for the National Science Board would increase by 2 percent.

Cross-cutting programs at NSF would also receive funding increases in FY 2022. The Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network is slated to receive $33.5 million, nearly 4 percent above FY 2021. The Research Experiences for Undergraduates program would be funded at $85 million (+3 percent). Support for Faculty early career development programs or CAREER grants would grow by 10 percent compared to FY 2021.

Funding for the Biological Sciences Directorate

Within BIO, which provides about 66 percent of federal funding for fundamental non-medical biological research at academic institutions, funding boosts would be allocated to each of its five divisions as follows:

  • Molecular and Cellular Biosciences: $171 million (+10 percent)
  • Integrative Organismal Systems: $227 million (+10 percent)
  • Environmental Biology: $196 million (+10 percent)
  • Biological Infrastructure (DBI): $205 million (+23 percent)
  • Emerging Frontiers: $150 million (+37 percent)

The FY 2022 request for BIO recognizes biotechnology as a major research priority. BIO proposes increasing investments in support of the bioeconomy to $130 million (+18 percent) through research funding programs in synthetic biology, genomics, bioinformatics, biotechnology, and training fellowships to help build the U.S. workforce in this area. Other research directorates within NSF will work together with BIO to make investments in biotechnology, including ENG ($102 million), GEO ($10 million), CISE ($6 million), MPS ($52 million), and TIP ($69 million). Overall, biotechnology is slated to receive an investment of $382 million (+32 percent) in FY 2022. These investments will be coordinated by programs under the TIP Directorate “to translate knowledge and tools into applications that promote the U.S. bioeconomy in public health, agriculture, energy, climate change, and security.”

BIO would prioritize investments in climate change, by increasing support for research to “understand the critical feedbacks between Earth’s biota and the climate system” and to improve predictive models for how climate change will impact critical ecosystems and human communities in urban and rural areas. BIO would also support research to advance clean energy biotechnologies and practices through fundamental research in systems and synthetic biology, plant genomics, and ecosystem sciences.

Other major BIO investments include stewardship for URoL, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences (QIS), and improving undergraduate STEM education. In its support for NSF’s URoL Big Idea, BIO would invest in multi-disciplinary, team science approaches to achieve a predictive understanding of how complex traits of an organism emerge from the interaction of its genetic makeup with the environment. In collaboration with the Engineering Directorate, BIO would support advanced manufacturing through investments in synthetic biology. Investments in artificial intelligence through DBI would focus on applying machine learning and genetic algorithms in biological research to solve problems such as genome sequence alignment, predicting species range distributions, and predicting protein structure. BIO would also increase funding for QIS through investments in fundamental research in biophysics to understand quantum phenomena within living systems.

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) would receive a total of $70 million in FY 2022 through DBI, an increase of $5 million from FY 2021. Support for NSF’s fourteen Biology Integration Institutes (BII) would be augmented by 43 percent to $36 million. The BII program supports collaborative research on frontier questions about life that span multiple disciplines within and beyond biology. The FY 2022 request includes $4 million for a new center in environmental science and eco-forecasting to leverage data being provided by the NEON, LTER, and other environmental observatories and databases to support community efforts in ecological modeling to enable national eco-forecasting efforts.


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