Congress Set to Boost Research Funding

By Cameron
January 30, 2007

This morning House and Senate leaders of the respective Appropriations Committees announced a deal on funding for the current fiscal year. As we’ve reported this year’s funding for most of the federal government has been limbo for months because of the national elections last year. The current Congress faced two choices — extending 2006 funding for the full year government-wide, or extending it for most of the government but reviewing funding for certain programs and agencies on a case-by-case basis. Many scientific societies called on Congress to follow through with already proposed increases for key science agencies in what was called a “continuing resolution plus” strategy. ACM recently joined with other computing leaders in a letter to Congress on the issue.

The reported deal is fairly close to what the computing research community was seeking. From CRA’s weblog:

“While the agencies won’t receive the full amounts they requested as part of ACI [the American Competitiveness Initiative], each agency should receive significantly more than they received in FY 2006. Under the agreement, NSF would receive a 6 percent increase, slightly below the 7.8 percent increase called for in the ACI, but $335 million more than FY 2006. NIST would receive $50 million in additional funding for its core research budget. DOE Office of Science would see $200 million more than FY 06, plus the elimination of $127.8 million in earmarks that would then be available for competitive research. And NIH, while not officially part of the ACI and expecting flat-funding in FY 07, would see an increase of $619.5 million — which, according to the appropriations committee, would “support an additional 500 research project grants, 1,500 first time investigators, and expand funding for high risk and high-impact research.”

This is welcome and somewhat surprising news considering the conventional wisdom was that Congress did not favor increasing funding for any of these agencies in the continuning resolution. The House is expected to debate and vote on the legislation this week. The Senate should quickly follow any House action.