Science and Technology in the Budget

ACS Position Statement

The scientific and technological innovation underpinning U.S. economic competitiveness results from predictable and sustained investments in scientific research and a strong educational system.  Federal investments in chemistry and chemical engineering fields in particular demonstrate a significant impact on the U.S. economy.  As our nation continues to face a complex array of economic, energy, environmental, and national security challenges, it is essential that we continue to invest in federally supported research in the physical sciences and engineering and remain focused on improving all aspects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

U.S. global technological leadership and corresponding economic performance depend heavily on federal investments in science and technology and the American entrepreneurial willingness to capitalize on the dividends of scientific research by bringing those research dividends into commercialization.  The federal government plays a crucial role in supporting the fundamental scientific research upon which the private sector builds its technology base.

The Importance of Predictable and Sustained Investments in Scientific Research and Education

While the current fiscal climate will most likely significantly constrain the budget, sustainable and responsible funding levels in federally supported scientific research and education are absolutely essential. Predictable and sustained funding in scientific research and education is a precursor to renewing the nation’s global economic competitiveness and improving our quality of life.  Large funding fluctuations are disruptive to training, careers, long-range projects, and ultimately success in meeting agency goals in sustained economic health, energy security, and national security.  The federal research enterprise will be most efficient with predictable, enduring support maximizing our nation’s long-term return on investment.  

Innovation, scientific discovery, and technological breakthroughs serve as major engines for promoting renewed economic growth.  ACS understands that the current national debt concerns and annual deficits hinder our country’s ability to increase federal investments in research agencies, but in order to remain globally competitive the ACS urges the administration to continue to support investments in science and technology agencies that are both bold and fiscally responsible in the long term.

To complement scientific research and education investments, our nation’s business laws, tax code, trade policies, and regulatory environment should work together to ensure that products of U.S. science and technology companies, both large and small, are introduced to the national and international marketplace competitively and without facing inappropriate barriers.

The Importance of Bipartisanship

Over the past decade, a broad and bipartisan consensus has emerged in support of federal investment in scientific research, with STEM education remaining one of the shining and best examples of America’s cooperative spirit on an issue of critical national importance. This unanimity originated from the belief that the United States’ ability to compete successfully in the global economy is founded on our leadership and innovative capacity in science and technology.  This consensus, largely possible through a unique effort uniting the interests of the business, scientific, and education communities, has endured changes in the control of Congress and the White House in recent years. 

The Need for a Shared Federal Green and Sustainable Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Agenda

ACS is a longstanding supporter of green and sustainable chemistry, and we urge the administration to prioritize the support of green chemistry research, development, and application. There is enormous potential for expansion of the U.S. leadership role in this transformational scientific area, and it’s not in our nation’s best interest to allow other countries to take the lead in this area.  Because chemistry and chemical products fuel the economy of every industrialized nation, tools and strategies developed by chemists and chemical engineers will be instrumental in meeting the dual challenges of environmental protection and economic growth. A shared green chemistry agenda would also complement other administration sustainability efforts, such as the Department of Commerce’s Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative.

Need for Effective Oversight of Federal Investments

Our nation will not reap the full benefits of federal investments in R&D unless we ensure taxpayer dollars are being well spent and targeted at areas of maximum scientific value. We support the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) view that “agencies should develop outcome-oriented goals…establish timelines for evaluating …performance, and target investments toward high-performing programs.”1 Our Society is a vocal supporter of ensuring the peer-review process be employed to the greatest extent possible in making effective and informed decisions about scientific matters, and this applies equally to decisions made about agency programs. At a time when the pressure on federal spending is forcing congressional appropriators to scrutinize each dollar spent, research agencies must be expected to conduct their programs and funding decisions in accordance with the highest standards of scientific and ethical integrity.

Recommendations on Specific Federal Agency Budgets and Programs

Department of Defense (DOD)

Scientific and engineering research funded by the Department of Defense contributes significantly to our nation’s economic and national security.  It helps make America’s military the best equipped and most effective in the world, and civilian applications of technologies intended originally for military purposes have become staples of the nation’s economic and modern life.  ACS urges DOD to move toward funding science and technology at 3.0 percent of the overall agency budget.

The basic research programs (6.1 account) at DOD underpin advances in the applied research (6.2 account) and advanced technology development (6.3 account) programs, as well as progress in scientific and engineering research nationwide. Collectively, they advance scientific knowledge and enable new technologies and applications critical to the DOD mission, which are also useful in the civilian sector.  ACS urges the administration to place a high priority on DOD’s basic research programs by providing predictable and sustained funding for the 6.1 account.

Department of Education (DOEd)

The Department of Education has an important role to play in improving STEM education.  While the National Science Foundation provides leadership in research on human learning and is at the forefront of research on STEM education pedagogy, curricula, and assessment, DOEd has an extensive network of contacts with state and local educational agencies that can scale up and fund the dissemination of innovative programs.   It is essential that these two agencies form an effective partnership to deliver the best new educational strategies and materials to K-12 educators.

ACS has consistently supported DOEd’s Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program. ACS supports funding for the Effective Teaching and Learning STEM program, which encompasses the long-standing Math and Science Partnership program and focuses on improving teaching and learning exclusively in the K-12 STEM subjects.  We also support the Department’s Investing in Innovation program, which prioritizes STEM-focused projects that help develop, validate, and scale up innovative programs, practices, and reform strategies at the K-12 level.  These two efforts, when combined, provide a significant, dedicated level of support for STEM education programs at the Department that ACS has long encouraged. 

Department of Energy (DOE)

ACS believes the basic science mission at  DOE’s Office of Science is critical to our nation’s energy security. ACS supports predictable and sustained funding for this important agency’s budget to maintain momentum towards this goal.

Providing predictable and sustained federal investment in long-term energy research is essential to promoting energy independence, national security, and environmental stewardship.  As the largest federal supporter of physical sciences research, DOE plays a crucial role in boosting both federal and private investment in this area.  Accordingly, ACS urges the administration to give budget priority to DOE’s Office of Science, particularly research supported through the Basic Energy Sciences and Biological and Environmental Research programs.  ACS supports the Energy Frontier Research Centers, which bring together researchers to focus on fundamental research challenges in order to overcome scientific roadblocks to revolutionary energy technologies.

The Society supports robust investment in the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in line with its authorization in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-358).  This innovative, cross-cutting, and nimble program is well positioned to leverage small investments in innovative technology into transformative technologies in the energy field.  In the long term, ACS supports creation of a dedicated funding stream for ARPA-E through revenue from legislation addressing global climate change. ACS also supports the Energy Innovation Hubs, which shorten the path from laboratory innovation to technological development. 

ACS strongly encourages the administration to better define the roles of ARPA-E, the Innovation Hubs, and the previously established Energy Frontier Research Centers to ensure Americans and policymakers have a clear understanding of each program’s mission as part of a cohesive energy research agenda.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

In order to make effective regulatory decisions and increase our understanding of environmental, health, and safety issues, EPA must make significant investments in R&D, including the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, green chemistry, and EPA’s scientific workforce. The Society encourages the administration to maintain funding levels for EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and to maintain funding of the STAR program at 15-20 percent of the overall ORD budget.

EPA’s S&T account supports research, environmental monitoring, and laboratories that are essential to achieving multiple goals across the Agency.  Boosting STAR would support a greater number of high-quality, peer-reviewed research grants and the related fellowship program.  Increasing funding for green chemistry and engineering programs would advance the development and use of innovative products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous substances, stimulating development of cutting-edge, exportable technologies.  Investments in EPA’s ability to recruit, develop, and retain an effective scientific workforce would reinvigorate EPA’s scientific and engineering talent, better serving the public in protecting human health and the environment.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

ACS urges the administration to fund NIH at a level that is necessary for keeping pace with the rising cost of medical research and ensuring a sustained, predictable growth path.

NIH plays a critical role in both the funding and training of researchers in the health-related sciences.  ACS believes the federal government must continue steady annual appropriations growth to ensure newly built capacity and research is not lost because of a sudden drop in support. Predictable and enduring funding levels for NIH would enable the Agency to continue to support the scientific research programs that have led to many of the disease prevention, detection, and treatment strategies available today. 

To help the Agency remain at the forefront of biomedical research, ACS strongly supports increased investment for both the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). NIGMS primarily supports scientific research that lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Each year, NIGMS-supported scientists make many advances in understanding fundamental life processes, increasing knowledge about the mechanisms and pathways involved in certain diseases and developing important new tools and techniques, some of which have medical applications. The Institute's research training programs help to provide the next generation of scientists.  Additional funding of NIGMS and NCRR would translate into researchers working in state-of-the-art research facilities while pursuing essential multi-disciplinary projects. 

In addition, ACS also believes that the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) mission is critical to improving health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies.  NIBIB supports scientific research and research training through investigator-initiated grants, contracts, program project and center grants, and career development and training awards. The Institute also specializes in the development and application of cutting-edge technologies, which are based upon engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences for the solution of challenges intersecting biology and medicine. 

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

ACS places great value on the mission of NIST to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology.  NIST laboratories, in particular, serve as the technological nerve center for countless products and services across industries. By advancing research and extremely accurate measurement technology, NIST enables universal quality-control technologies that undergird industrial productivity, efficiency improvements, and faster product development. NIST also plays a critical role in advancing public health and safety, environmental progress, and national security.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF supports fundamental research and education in science and engineering.  From pioneering medical tools, climate prediction, aircraft design, advanced training, and robotics, to discovering how children can better learn chemistry, NSF has played a key role in funding discoveries that have driven the nation’s economy, improved our quality of life, and enhanced national security. 

The Foundation also supports the high-risk research and novel collaborations that could deliver exceptionally high rewards. NSF provides more than 20 percent of the federal support for basic research at academic institutions and supports roughly 10,000 new awards per year through the merit reviews of over 40,000 proposals received.  Every year, an estimated 200,000 individuals, from undergraduates to senior faculty, participate directly in NSF research and education programs.

For many years, ACS has been an aggressive advocate for NSF’s role as a leading agency in fostering the development of our nation’s STEM education pipeline. NSF is ideally suited to be the primary source of fundamental research and tools to address the toughest challenges in STEM education: development of innovative curricula, research into educational standards and student learning methods, development of best practices in teacher professional development, and research to establish the most effective ways to employ technology in the classroom.

ACS believes the NSF research and educational missions must be treated as co-equal core missions of the Foundation.  Accordingly, ACS encourages additional resources be allocated to NSF’s Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate, and these investments should be proportional to those provided to NSF’s research directorates.

Conclusion

ACS hopes the administration will consider these recommendations while formulating the federal budget. If ACS can provide any further information, please contact Glenn Ruskin, Director, Office of Public Affairs, at 202-872-4475.

1 Orzag, Peter R., John P. Holdren, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Science and Technology Priorities for the FY 2011 Budget, 4 August 2009. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/memoranda_fy2009/m09-27.pdf