Center for American Progress

Increase Federal Funding for the National Science Foundation
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Increase Federal Funding for the National Science Foundation

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The National Science Foundation is the only federal agency that supports research and education across all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports an average of 200,000 scientists, engineers, educators, and students at universities, laboratories, and field sites all over the United States and throughout the world.

Currently, however, the average research grant from the National Science Foundation is less than $150,000 per year. This is usually insufficient to enable a “critical mass” of faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers to make real progress on key scientific and technological problems. As a result, university researchers are forced to spend more and more of their time writing grants and scraping together funding from multiple sources, as opposed to focusing on their research.

NSF should increase the size and duration of grants that support individual researchers. They should also allocate more resources to support tightly focused teams of 3 to 5 faculty researchers and their students. These are often more productive than the more diffuse Engineering Research Centers or Science and Technology Centers involving 20 to 30 faculty researchers.

The NSF budget for research and education, which is likely to be at least $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2008, should be increased by 10 percent per year for the next 10 years. This would also enable an expansion of NSF’s key educational programs, such as fellowships, graduate student training grants, and programs to improve K-12 math and science education.

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