April 5, 2006

The American Institute of Biological Sciences encourages Congress to support the President's fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget request of $6.02 billion for the National Science Foundation.

The Administration's request reflects the recognition of the important role that fundamental, peer-reviewed scientific research plays in driving innovation, creating new economic opportunities, and addressing important societal challenges. The National Science Foundation Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) is particularly important to basic biological research, the fields of study concerned with understanding how the natural world works. These research disciplines include botany, zoology, microbiology, ecology, basic molecular and cellular biology, systematics and taxonomy. Indeed, according to National Science Foundation data, more than 65 percent of fundamental biological research is funded by the Foundation. Additionally, the National Science Foundation provides essential support for the development of research infrastructure (for example, natural science collections, cyber-infrastructure, field and marine stations, and the National Ecological Observatory Network) that is required to advance our understanding of biological and ecological systems.

We strongly support the President's FY 2007 budget request, which would provide the BIO directorate with roughly $607.8 million (a 5.4 percent increase). This funding would support important new research efforts in the areas of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences ($111.2 million), Integrative Organismal Biology ($100.7 million), Environmental Biology ($109.6 million), Biological Infrastructure ($85.9 million), and Plant Genome Research ($101.2 million). The budget also reflects the need for synthesizing biological information from different fields. Thus, $99.2 million is allocated for the cross discipline Emerging Frontiers program area.

The President's request includes $24 million in funding for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Of the requested funding for NEON, $12 million would come from the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account and $12 million would come from the BIO directorate. NEON will be the first national ecological measurement and observation system designed both to answer regional to continental scale scientific questions and to have the interdisciplinary participation necessary to achieve credible ecological forecasting and prediction. NEON is expected to transform the way we conduct science by enabling the integration of research and education from natural to human systems, and from genomes to the biosphere. Social scientists and educators have worked with ecologists and physical scientists to plan and design NEON. These research communities will all be able to participate in research only possible because of the construction of NEON.

The National Science Foundation plays an important role in science education, in both formal and informal environments. Whether through programs such as Research Experience for Undergraduates, GK-12 fellowships, or fellowships for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, the National Science Foundation provides the resources needed to educate, recruit, and retain our next generation of scientists. National Science Foundation programs provide the support that makes it possible for practicing research scientists and college faculty to mentor and train budding researchers. National Science Foundation science education initiatives are unique and stimulate innovation in teaching and learning about science. The lessons learned and models developed through this research inform Department of Education and local school system programs.

Informal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs supported by the Education and Human Resources Directorate also warrant increased funding. Economic growth in the 21st century demands a scientifically aware and technically skilled workforce. Moreover, we live in a time when people are increasingly called upon to make informed decisions about technology and public policy grounded in science. To make informed decisions, citizens must continue to learn about science throughout their lives. Informal science education programs, whether through a local natural history museum, marine laboratory or other venue, play a central role in educating the public about science. We encourage you to do all you can to support National Science Foundation formal and informal science education initiatives.

Thank you for your past efforts on behalf of the National Science Foundation and for your thoughtful consideration of this request. If you require additional information, please contact Robert Gropp at 202-628-1500 or .

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