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Date: July 11, 2001
Contacts: Vanee Vines, Media Relations Officer
Chris Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

[ FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ]

Publication Announcement

Trends in Research Investment Cause Concern
For U.S. Global Leadership in Certain Fields

The president's proposed science and technology budget calls for a notable boost in funding for the National Institutes of Health, but it either freezes or cuts spending levels at most other agencies. This strategy would reinforce trends in federal research investment over the past decade, which has been marked by significant budget cuts in most areas of engineering and the physical sciences -- including fields in which previous advances contributed to the economic boom of the late 1990s or fueled progress in health care, energy production and conservation, and pollution abatement.

These funding patterns could reduce America's ability to generate new science and technology in research fields that contribute to economic growth, national defense, and other national goals, according to two new reports from the National Academies. The large shifts in funding among fields of research also could weaken U.S. capacity to recruit and train the next generation of scientists and engineers for a variety of jobs in industry, government, and academia. Both reports examine federal spending on science and technology -- one looking at the president's budget request for fiscal year 2002, which is now under consideration by Congress for implementation on Oct. 1, and the other focusing on trends since 1993. A summary of each report's findings follows.

Observations on the President's Fiscal Year 2002 Federal Science and Technology Budget

Overall, the administration's plan would increase spending on the creation of new scientific knowledge and technology by $950 million in real dollars, or 1.7 percent compared with last year, according to the Academies' method of tabulating federal investments in such activities; or by $1.4 billion – 3 percent – using the administration's method. Either way, however, the proposal actually reflects a net reduction in spending on science and technology that is not health related, once the administration's recommended 11.2 percent boost for NIH is excluded. Spending would drop by more than 3 percent to a level below that of 1994, when the Senate first asked the National Academies to study the allocation of federal research dollars.

Although the report raises concerns about funding levels for certain fields in the proposed budget, the study committee endorsed the administration's method of analyzing the science and technology budget and urged the science and engineering community to use the approach in the future. A single method is needed to effectively track federal investments in new knowledge, and the administration's technique has considerable merit. That approach focuses on the largest science and technology programs and includes all related costs, as well as staff salaries. It also factors in key education programs at the National Science Foundation.

The budget increase for NIH would contribute to U.S. goals of improving the nation's health and advancing life-sciences research, but these goals also would be well-served by greater federal investment in other areas of research and agencies, the report says. As it considers the federal budget, Congress should ensure that the U.S. government adequately supports science and technology across agencies to yield the type of knowledge that would help America meet its national goals in defense, energy production and conservation, environmental protection, and economic growth.

NSF plays a critical role in supporting a broad range of research endeavors, the report points out. But the agency's budget specifically for research and related activities would decrease by 2.9 percent compared with last year.

Overall, the U.S. Department of Energy would see a nearly 7 percent reduction in its science and technology budget. Certain areas within DOE would experience even deeper cuts. For instance, investments in energy-supply and conservation research would drop by more than 24 percent, the report says. At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the science and technology budget would decrease by about 9 percent.

Trends in Federal Support of Research and Graduate Education
    A related National Academies report urges policy-makers to regularly evaluate the federal research portfolio to determine when spending adjustments may be needed to close funding gaps for various research fields. Budget cuts can have a substantial impact in a given field when nonfederal sources do not make up for shortfalls, the report says. Federal dollars support 27 percent of America's total research expenditures and nearly half of spending on basic research.

    Recent shifts in the research portfolio have been significant – particularly the buildup in funding for biomedical sciences compared with real reductions in support for many physical science and engineering fields. After a five-year plateau, total federal spending on research and development turned a corner in fiscal year 1998, when it increased by 4.5 percent in real dollars compared with 1993. And total expenditures continued to grow through the current year. However, budget hikes for life-sciences research at NIH have accounted for most of the gains, the report says.

    On the whole, 46 percent of federal funding for research went to the life sciences in 1999, up from 40 percent in 1993. In the same period, funding for the physical sciences and engineering dropped from 37 percent to 31 percent. Budget reductions for several key fields of research were steeper, noted the committee that wrote the report. Funding levels for physics; geological sciences; and electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering dropped by 20 percent or more. Over the past decade, similar trends have been evident in spending by states and philanthropic organizations. Industry funding of science and technology has increased overall, but such spending typically fluctuates from year to year and seldom supports basic research.

    Shifts in research spending are among the factors that affect the numbers of students seeking advanced degrees in particular areas. In fields now receiving less federal support compared with 1993, both graduate-school enrollment and the numbers of students who obtained doctorates generally have declined, the committee found. Such drops will continue to shrink the pool of new talent for jobs in the public sector, private industry, and academia

    The federal government should aim to invest across the full range of scientific endeavors because doing so also is increasingly important in today's research enterprise, where interdisciplinary collaboration is key. For example, advances in genomics and bioinformatics rely on mathematics and computer science as much as biology, the committee added.

    Shifts in federal funding of research fields have reflected, in part, both congressional and presidential priorities. But reductions primarily have been the product of decentralized decision-making by various officials focused on the missions of particular agencies. This fragmented approach does not adequately ensure that national priorities are taken into account, the report says.

    To address the problem, Congress, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, and other relevant bodies should develop mechanisms to stay aware of the big picture when setting agencies' funding levels for research, the report says. Ongoing analyses of research fields' productivity and related human-resource needs should be an integral part of strategies to manage the research portfolio. And national data systems should be improved and expanded to better monitor research and innovation trends.

    Observations on the President's Fiscal Year 2002 Federal Science and Technology Budget [read full report] was sponsored by the National Research Council. Trends in Federal Support of Research and Graduate Education [read full report] was sponsored by NASA and the New York Community Trust. The National Academies comprise the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. Committee rosters follow.

    Copies of each report will be available on the World Wide Web at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain pre-publication copies from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

    [This announcement and the reports are available at http://national-academies.org]


    NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
    Division on Policy and Global Affairs
    Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy

    Committee on Trends in Federal Spending on Scientific and Engineering Research

    Dale W. Jorgenson1 (chair)
    Frederic Eaton Abbe Professor of Economics, and
    Director, Program on Technology and Economic Policy
    John F. Kennedy School of Government
    Harvard University
    Cambridge, Mass.

    Wiliam J. Spencer2 (vice chair)
    Principal
    Washington Advisory Group
    Washington, D.C.

    John A. Armstrong2
    Vice President of Science and Technology
    IBM Corp. (retired)
    Amherst, Mass.

    M. Kathy Behrens
    Managing Partner
    RS Investments
    San Francisco

    Vinton G. Cerf2
    Senior Vice President of Internet Architecture and Technology
    WorldCom
    Ashburn, Va.

    David R. Challoner3
    Director
    Institute for Science and Health Policy, and
    Vice President for Health Affairs Emeritus
    University of Florida
    Gainesville

    Bronwyn H. Hall
    Professor of Economics
    University of California
    Berkeley

    James Heckman1
    Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, and
    Director
    Social Program Evaluation
    Harris School of Public Policy
    University of Chicago
    Chicago

    Ralph Landau2
    Consulting Professor of Economics
    Stanford University, and
    Senior Fellow
    Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
    Stanford, Calif.

    Richard Levin
    President
    Yale University
    New Haven, Conn.

    David Morganthaler
    Founding Partner
    Morganthaler Ventures
    Cleveland

    Mark B. Myers
    Senior Vice President
    Corporate Research and Technology
    Xerox Corp. (retired)
    Kennett Square, Pa.

    Roger G. Noll
    Morris M. Doyle Centennial Professor of Economics, and
    Director of Public Policy Program
    Stanford University
    Stanford, Calif.

    Edward E. Penhoet
    Dean
    School of Public Health
    University of California
    Berkeley

    William Raduchel
    Chief Technology Officer
    America Online Time Warner
    New York City

    Warren M. Washington
    Senior Scientist and Head of the Climate Change Research Section
    Climate and Global Dynamics Division
    National Center for Atmospheric Research
    Boulder, Colo.

    Alan W. Wolff
    Managing Partner
    Dewey Ballantine
    Washington, D.C.

    RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

    Stephen A. Merrill
    Study Director


    1 Member, National Academy of
    Sciences
    2 Member, National Academy of
    Engineering
    3 Member, Institute of Medicine


    NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
    NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING
    INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE
    Division on Policy and Global Affairs
    Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy

    Committee on the Federal Science and Technology Budget

    James J. Duderstadt1(chair)
    President Emeritus and University Professor of Science and Engineering
    Millennium Project
    University of Michigan
    Ann Arbor

    Lewis M. Branscomb1,2,3
    Aetna Professor of
    Public Policy and Corporate Management Emeritus; and
    Former Director
    Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
    Center for Science and International Affairs
    John F. Kennedy School of Government
    Harvard University
    Cambridge, Mass.

    Mildred Dresselhaus1,2
    Institute Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Cambridge

    Jack Halpern2
    Vice President
    National Academy of Sciences
    Washington, D.C.; and
    Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry Emeritus
    University of Chicago

    Ruby P. Hearn3
    Senior Vice President
    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    Princeton, N.J.

    Anita Jones1
    University Professor and Professor of Computer Science
    University of Virginia
    Charlottesville

    STAFF

    Peter H. Henderson
    Study Director


    1 Member, National Academy of Engineering
    2 Member, National Academy of Sciences
    3 Member, Institute of Medicine