September 10, 2002 - NSF FY 2003 Funding for the Biological Sciences Directorate

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is writing to urge the House Subcommittee on VA/HUD/Independent Agencies to provide a significant FY 2003 increase for the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) within the National Science Foundation (NSF). ASM fully recognizes the importance of the physical, mathematical and engineering fields to national security, economic strength, and interdisciplinary research, and commends the Senate Appropriations Committee for its strong fiscal endorsement of these NSF disciplines in its recent appropriations recommendation. The Society is concerned, however, that failure to likewise enhance NSF biological research will limit the agency's goals of developing competitive scientific personnel, innovative ideas, and cutting edge research tools in many areas of the biological sciences that are only funded by the NSF. Through its grant programs to academic institutions across the country, the NSF BIO Directorate supports biological research and education initiatives that are not funded by any other federal sources. Without a higher level of funding than the minimal increase of 3.4 percent proposed by the Administration, BIO programs will not be able to increase and enhance research and training programs on environmental biology, plant biology, nonmedical microbial biology, and other areas of nonmedical biology.

The ASM supports all the disciplinary sciences within the NSF and understands that advances in the biological sciences benefit from innovations in other disciplines. The Senate Appropriations Committee's proposed 12 percent increase in the NSF budget over FY 2002 funding clearly recognizes that the NSF is the primary source of nonmedical basic research funding in the nation's colleges and universities. NSF also is the only federal agency that provides comprehensive support for basic research in the sciences and engineering, including significant support for the education and encouragement of new professionals in these diverse fields. The ASM is concerned that the 3.4 percent increase proposed for the NSF BIO Directorate is inadequate and does not acknowledge the Directorate's role as a productive and innovative part of this extensive, successful research enterprise. Like other disciplinary areas within NSF, the BIO Directorate requires additional resources to increase grant sizes and duration, to provide increased student and postdoctoral stipends and to support key initiatives and highly prioritized areas in the biology that are not funded by other federal agencies.

The ASM urges the House Appropriations Subcommittee for VA/HUD/IA to increase funding for the BIO Directorate to reflect the Directorate's past and future contributions to national health, productivity, and security.