FY 11 Budget: National Science Foundation

On February 2, 2010, in FY11 Appropriations, by Peter Harsha

As we noted yesterday, the National Science Foundation does very well in President’s Obama FY 11 Budget Request. The President’s plan would provide an 8 percent increase to the agency, $552 million more than the agency’s FY 10 budget. Of that $552 million, $455 million would go to the Foundation’s research accounts (also an 8 percent increase over FY 10). And of those research accounts, no research directorate does better in the President’s plan than NSF’s home for computing research: the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. Here’s a directorate by directorate breakout (click to enlarge):

The directorate does so well in large degree because its programs match well with the agency priorities, which in turn map well with the President’s priorities. Part of the President’s National Innovation Strategy for FY 11 includes a focus on energy technologies, understanding and mitigating climate change, and promoting green jobs. Under the President’s plan, CISE would participate in two foundation-wide programs that meet this focus:

  • Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) – A $765.5 million program aimed at integrating NSF’s work in climate and energy science to generate the discoveries and tools needed to “inform societal actions that lead to environmental and economic sustainability.” CISE’s $29.3 million role in the program would focus on work with direct impact, like energy-intelligent computing; indirectly, with advances in computing to reduce energy consumption in other sectors (e.g., Smart Grid, Smart Home, Smart Transportation); and foundational, understanding how energy contributes to algorithmic complexity and system performance (i.e., can we develop more energy-efficient algorithms?).
  • Cyberlearning for Transforming Education (CTE) – CISE’s $15 million share of this $41 million program would be used to fund research about “Anytime, Anywhere Learning,” “Personalized Learning” and understanding all four permutations of: “(Cyber) Learning about (Cyber) Learning.” A goal is to develop fundamental knowledge about learning to inform new cyber tools and techniques.

In addition to these two new areas, CISE would continue its participation in two other foundation-wide efforts. Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation (CDI) would receive $105.5 million in the agency’s plan, of which $50 million would be shared by CISE. CDI is the agency’s “Computational Thinking for Science and Engineering” program, and CISE AD Jeannette Wing wanted to emphasize that the guidelines for the program map well with the computing community’s strength. After all, she pointed out, proposals should demonstrate how the work does two things: advance innovative uses of computational thinking, and advance two or more disciplines.

The other foundation-wide priority with CISE participation is the Science and Engineering Beyond Moore’s Law program, a $70.2 million program aimed at figuring out where we go when current silicon technologies reach the limits of Moore’s law. CISE would contribute $15 million to the effort, funding research on new computing technologies (including quantum information science), approaches, and models.

Other highlights include a $70 million increase to the directorate’s Trusted Computing efforts, continued work with the ENG directorate on the Cyber Physical Systems program, and significant increases in the CAREER program (7.1 percent increase to $54.6 million in FY11), and a Graduate Research Fellowships program that has grown to $2.55 million in FY11. Wing strongly encouraged more GRF proposals from the computing community.

One program not fully addressed in the budget documentation is the status of the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program within CISE. As part of the FY 11 budget, NSF announced a new “Comprehensive Broadening Participation of Undergraduates in STEM,” a $100.3 million effort to “realign and build on existing programs and activities” and break down “programmatic stovepipes.” It’s unclear how BPC fits into the new foundation-wide effort, if at all, and Wing would only say that it was under discussion.

The Office of Cyberinfrastructure would also see an increase in FY11 under the President’s plan. The agency requested $228 million for FY11, an increase of $13.8 million, or 6.4 percent over FY10. Overall, the agency would increase IT research and development funding throughout the agency by 7 percent next year. The agency’s total contribution to the federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program would rise to $1.17 billion in FY 11, an increase of $79.6 million from FY 10.

So, it’s generally very good news from NSF. Computing flourishes at NSF, according to Wing, because computing inherently speaks about innovation (which means jobs), and because “all the Administration’s priorities are well-addressed by our technologies.” Given the numbers, it’s hard to argue.