Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Is it Morning or Mourning for American Science?

Last week Chicago Cosmologist Michael Turner gave a talk "Trends in Science Funding: From NSF to the ACI". Turner was head of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences, NSF's largest directorate, from 2003 until last summer (computer science is mostly funded from the CISE directorate). The slides describe the state and process of science funding in the US and argues for the importance of physical science funding.

In his position, Turner played a role in helping to push the American Competitive Initiative that Bush proposed at the State of the Union last year that would have, among other things, doubled the NSF budget over ten years, about a 7% increase a year. The ACI was "stillborn" with the continuing resolution that froze most of the government's budgets at last year's level. The continuing resolution has put a very tight squeeze at NSF and other governmental scientific institutions.

Still Turner has some reason for optimism. He expects the president to push for ACI again, if not in tonight's State of the Union, then in his budget for FY08 and has hopes congress will support ACI or a similar plan. Also several congressmen have signed a Dear Colleague letter requesting to add funding to the NSF for this fiscal year, though Turner was pessimistic that this request would be fulfilled.

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