President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2015 requests $7.255 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). This is a proposed increase of $83.1 million, or 1.2 percent over the FY 2014 appropriation.
The proposed funding increase would be directed to education activities and for agency operations. Each of these budget accounts would increase by about $40 million, resulting in a 5.1 percent increase for Education and Human Resources and a 13.5 percent increase for Agency Operations and Award Management. Funding for the Research and Related Activities account, which includes funding for the various disciplinary directorates, would be cut by $1.5 million for a total of $5.8 billion. The agency’s funding rate for grants is expected to remain at 22 percent. Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would also remain essentially flat; $96.0 million is proposed for the continued construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network.
The proposed $12.8 million reduction for Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) is the largest cut among all of NSF’s directorates. Two other directorates are facing cuts on the order of 0.1 to 0.3 percent. Three directorates would receive increases of 0.1 to 6.0 percent. BIO provides about 66 percent of federal funding for non-medical, basic life sciences research, including environmental biology, at academic institutions.
Within BIO, three major activities are emphasized: 1) increased investment in basic research on understanding the neural circuitry and activity that underlie cognition, behavior, and thoughts; 2) continued investment in the Biological, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences (BioMaPS) program, which seeks to discover fundamental quantitative knowledge at the intersections of biology, math, the physical sciences, and engineering; and 3) support for cyberinfrastructure and other BIO infrastructure, such as NEON, digitization of biological collections, field stations, and synthesis centers.
The number of BIO research grants awarded would increase slightly from the FY 2014 level, although median award size is projected to remain the same at $185,000 per year. The funding rate across the BIO directorate is expected to decrease from 22 percent to 21 percent.
NSF would continue its support for graduate students. The Graduate Research Fellowship program would award 2,000 new fellowships—700 fewer fellowships than the agency had hoped to award last year. The stipend level would also increase from $32,00 to $34,000. NSF Research Traineeships would continue for a second year; funding would be included to support continuing grants for the program it replaced, the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT).
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