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Date: April 10, 2000
Contacts: Barbara J. Rice, Deputy Director
Mark Chesnek, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <>


Budget Increases for NIH and NSF Are Tempered by
Proposed Cuts in Other Science, Technology Programs

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration's proposed science and technology budget takes a major step toward balancing federal support among various research fields, but it could generate adverse consequences for some, says a new report from a committee of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. The report analyzes the administration's budget request for fiscal year 2001 now under consideration by Congress.

The proposed budget would increase the overall federal investment in the creation of new scientific knowledge and technology by $674 million, up 1.3 percent from last year, to a total of $52.6 billion. However, minus the notable increases of 17.5 percent for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and 3.7 percent for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), spending would actually drop 1.4 percent from last year due to the large cut of 13.9 percent for the Department of Defense.

"The proposed budget gives a valuable boost to basic research investments through NSF, whose mission is to promote the progress of science and technology across all fields of research," said James J. Duderstadt, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and president emeritus and university professor of science and engineering, Millennium Project, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "However, the abrupt reductions anticipated for the Defense Department could curtail important advances in physics, chemistry, engineering, and many allied fields." Fiscal year 2001 begins Oct. 1.

The Defense Department has been a major sponsor of academic research in the physical sciences and engineering. The administration proposes to cut the department's efforts in advanced technology development by 18.5 percent and applied research by 9.6 percent. In addition to potentially eroding U.S. global leadership in science and engineering, these downswings in funding levels could undermine the nation's capacity to recruit and train the next generation of scientists and engineers in certain fields, the committee concluded.

The analysis also warns that sharp funding increases for biomedicine may strain the capacity of existing research facilities in some institutions and universities. Expanding programs may call for the construction of buildings and laboratories, which takes time and could overextend available services. Historically, federal funding has not adequately addressed the indirect costs incurred by research institutions when raising funds, training scientists, and building or maintaining facilities. In 1998 the federal government paid 9 percent of the cost of construction, renovation, and repair of academic facilities, compared with 30 percent from state and local governments and 60 percent from internal university funds.

The 21st Century Research Fund is an important step in the administration's strategy to emphasize basic research and long-term investments that lead to the creation of new knowledge, the committee said. The administration proposes to spend $42.9 billion -- an increase of 5 percent over its recommendation last year -- on the fund. Its key selling point is a set of interagency initiatives that include efforts in nanotechnology, information technology, clean energy, and climate change.

The federal R&D budget equals only a fraction of the private sector's R&D investments today -- a reversal of roles in the last 20 years. Since 1987 industry research and development has increased 196 percent, and the federal share of total U.S. research and development has dropped from 46 percent to 27 percent. The report applauds the growth in industry spending in this area, but cautions that this trend should not lull observers into thinking the federal research budget can consequently be reduced. Public funding supports long-term basic research, which is typically not pursued by private industry in its bid to generate new applications and, ultimately, profits. Nevertheless, industry's investment in applied research and development depends on the continued flow of basic research findings and the associated training of scientists and engineers.

The National Research Council supported the development of this report. The National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.

Read the full text of Observations on the President's Fiscal Year 2001 Federal Science and Technology Budget for free on the Web, as well as more than 1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are available for purchase from the National Academy Press Web site or at the mailing address in the letterhead; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information at the letterhead address (contacts listed above).above).

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

Henry J. Aaron2
Senior Fellow
Economic Studies Program
Brookings Institution
Washington, D.C.

Lewis M. Branscomb1, 2, 3
Professor Emeritus
Center for Science and International Affairs
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

Marye Anne Fox3
North Carolina State University

Ruby P. Hearn2
Senior Vice President
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Princeton, N.J.

Anita K. Jones1
University Professor
Department of Computer Science
University of Virginia


Richard E. Bissell
Study Director

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