May 30, 2017
The President’s fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget proposes to cut NSF’s spending by 10.96% or $840. 98 million from the FY17 spending bill that Congress passed in early May. NSF’s research and related activities account (R&RA), which encompasses NSF’s seven directorates, received a similar 11.14% cut in funding.
The consequences of this decrease in funding include: 800 less new research grants than in fiscal year 2016; and NSF in FY18 will only be able to support 19% of research grant proposals; 2% less than in 2016.
The Budget’s Impact on NSF-Wide Investments
NSF’s INCLUDES program, aimed at increasing diversity in STEM fields, was the only Foundation-wide program to receive an increase of funding. Significantly, INCLUDES is one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas – 10 bold, long-term research ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering.
Two important programs for Earth and space science, INFEWS and Risk and Resilience both received cuts. INFEWS, which supports research at the nexus of food, energy and water, will see an almost 70% cut in funding in the President’s budget. NSF’s Risk and Resilience program, which supports hazards risk assessment, predication, and mitigation, will see a 27% decrease in funding.
Additionally, NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) will face a 12% cut under the President’s budget. And NSF’s research in support of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) will see a 20% cut from FY16.
The President Proposes Cuts to STEM Education Program
NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate faces an 13.57% cut from FY16 spending levels in the President’s budget.
Specifically, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), which recognizes students with high potential in STEM research and innovation and provides support for them to pursue multidisciplinary research, faces $85.80 million cut in the president’s budget. Under this budget, NSF will support 1,000 new fellows in FY18, equal to the number supported in FY 2008; a 50% reduction from the 2,000 new fellows NSF has supported annually since 2011. Additionally, ESPCOR, which aims to increase STEM opportunities, capacity, and engagement, across the nation, would be cut by 37.5% from FY16 to FY18.
Research Sees an 11% Cut
Overall, the President’s budget proposes to cut R&RA by 11.14% from FY16 levels which was generally parallel to the cut seen in each directorate. Within R%RA, Integrative Activities, which focuses on building capacity across the research and education enterprise, saw the biggest cut at 26% from FY16 levels.
The President’s budget does provide full funding for three new research facilities including Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), and two Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV). However, Congress provided funding for three new RCRV’s in the FY17 spending bill, ensuring that NSF has a research vessel for all three American coasts.
The Geosciences Directorate (GEO) received a 10.6% decrease in funding. Another significant change for the directorate is the removal of the Office of Polar Programs from the GEO budget into its own budget line.
The cut to GEO will be felt throughout the directorate’s programs. For example, within GEO the Research Traineeship (NRT), which supports graduate students and graduate STEM education models, will receive a 42.5% cut under the president’s budget.
The president’s budget also proposes to cut facilities within GEO by 15.1%; including an almost 15% cut for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and a 43.6% cut for the Ocean Observatories Initiative.
Overall, the budget estimates that the Geosciences Directorate will support 11,900 people or 689 less than in FY 2016.
For more, see the NSF budget highlights and full budget request here.