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Research Funding From NSF Increases for FY 2012

  
  
  
  

By now it is clear that the big funding compromise the congressional supercommittee hoped to hammer out together has failed to come into being, meaning that automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for federal discretionary programs will go into effect. The probable result for the NIH's portion: cuts between 5-10% each year for the next 10 years.  Will the President try and intercede?  He says No.  Are people happy with Congress' performance after this bipartisan failure?  Decidedly not: NPR reported over the weekend that Congress' approval rating is at an all-time-low of 9%.  Students, researchers, professional and industry organizations, and universities with vital bioscience programs especially are continuing to be very vocal about the pending funding cuts.  We wait to see if and where the axe will fall exactly, though complacency is not the order of the day.  Everyone seems to agree that the US needs to maintain its edge internationally as a leader in science and technology, but how to do that while reducing the deficit is a problem still without an equitable solution.

nsf funding budgetIn the short-term, there is some good news from the Appropriations Committee, namely that the first FY 2012 spending minibus (also known as a conference report) the President recently signed into law includes a surprising increase of $173M for the NSF as well as NASA funding to save the James Webb Telescope.  Here are some of the numbers:

NSF: $7.03 billion, $173 million above FY 2011

NASA: $17.8 billion, $648 million below FY 2011 (though within NASA, Science account was increased 3%)

NOAA: $4.89 billion, $306 million above FY 2011

NIST: $751 million, $33 million above FY 2011

NIFA: $1.215 billion, $128 million below FY 2011

 

The breakdown for NSF funds specifically are outlined in the following chart:

nsf research funding

  • R&RA = Research and Related Activities -- 3% increase over 2011
  • EHR = Education and Human Resources -- 4% decrease
  • MREFC = Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction -- 43% increase for 5 major telescope and observatory projects
  • (NSB and OIG are NSF administrative units)

telescope fundingThe James Webb Space Telescope is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror being built by a collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency to replace (or succeed) the Hubble Telescope and join the Herschel Telescope in deep space. Continued funding for the project looked unlikely even a few months ago, but in the end it was rescued.

It is due to be launched in 2018. When operational, Webb will be able to tell us more about the history of the Universe and our place in it than ever before.

Some of the innovative technologies developed for Webb include: a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals; microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; a cryogenic data acquisition integrated circuit; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

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