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Science and engineering budgets benefit from supplemental budget approval

SPIE members provide strong advocacy

BELLINGHAM, WA, USA - 9 July 2008 - A Department of Defense (DoD) Supplemental Spending bill for fiscal year 2008 signed by President Bush on 30 June replaces some funding lost late last year for agencies targeted by the America COMPETES Act of 2007.

The America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act was passed with bipartisan support in August 2007. Its goals are to ensure innovation leadership by strengthening scientific education and research, improving technological enterprise, attracting a talented workforce, and providing progressive job training

America COMPETES agencies left with funding shortfalls following 2008 budget cuts implemented late last year that were granted emergency funding via the June supplemental bill included the Department of Energy's (DoE) Office of Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NASA also benefited from the emergency science spending measure.

The supplemental bill did not provide funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), another COMPETES agency.

The bill signed last week provides for:

  • DoE Office of Science: $62.5 million for Basic Energy Sciences, Fusion Energy Sciences including partial funding of ITER, High-Energy Physics to reverse sudden program cuts, national lab layoffs, and project terminations that occurred following the December budget decisions, and Nuclear Physics 
  • NSF: $22.5 million for research and related activities to boost current-year funding for research grants
  • NSF Education and Human Resources programs: $40 million to supplement 2008 funding for the Robert Noyce Scholarship program, Graduate Research Fellowships, Graduate Teaching Fellowships, and the Federal Scholarship for Service.
In addition to the COMPETES-related agencies, emergency funding was also provided for:
  • NASA: $62.5 million to bolster science accounts that have been strained in recent years to pay for the return to flight of the Space Shuttle after the Columbia disaster
  • NIH: $150 million to be distributed to its institutes and centers by the NIH Director's Office according to previously agreed 2008 allocations for program spending.

Society advocacy

SPIE members and leadership have joined forces with other scientific and engineering societies in advocating for healthy budgets for science and engineering research and education over the past several years. During 2008, industry and Congressional leaders have joined the professional societies in urging funding of these budgets, to ensure that the United States maintains a position of technological leadership in an increasingly competitive global environment.

In May, the Engineering R&D Symposium on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, brought together leaders of the U.S. engineering community to discuss priorities for science and technology leadership in the United States. Intel chairman Craig Barrett told the group that "We have debated long enough: now it's time to act on science and energy needs."

SPIE was a cosponsor of the R&D symposium, held in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering Convocation and American Association of Engineering Societies awards dinner. The Society was represented by SPIE President Kevin Harding of GE Global Research, Past President Brian Culshaw of Strathclyde University, Board Member Kristina Johnson of Johns Hopkins University, and CEO Eugene Arthurs.

Barrett's message was reiterated by other association as well as Congressional speakers at the R&D event. Specifically, they called for:

  • funding of the America COMPETES Act and increased federal funding for basic scientific and engineering research
  • reform of U.S. visa and immigration policies to facilitate scientific exchange and allow recruitment of top talent
  • more emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education
  • commitment to development of clean energy sources.

In addition to letters and individual visits during 2008, SPIE members also took time to seek funding support in Washington during Congressional Visits Day in March, at a STEM education caucus sponsored by SPIE in April, and through sessions of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents last fall.

Calls to action

Societies are also working to provide background and recommendations to policy makers.

An action agenda issued in December by ASTRA (The Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America) titled "Riding the Rising Tide: A 21st Century Strategy for U.S. Competitiveness and Prosperity" outlines specific policy recommendations aimed at strengthening the innovation environment in the U.S. Read the report, funded in part by SPIE, at usinnovation.org/pdf/ASTRARisingTide121107.pdf.

The ARISE ("Advancing Research In Science and Engineering") report issued in June by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences reiterated the message that programs and policies that support early-career investigators and high-risk, high-reward research are needed in order to preserve U.S. leadership in science and technology.

For more detailed reports from SPIE on U.S. public policy, see spie.org/x23266.xml.

Read SPIE press releases about recent advocacy efforts of SPIE members and those of fellow engineering and scientific societies:

AAAS ARISE Report, "Support for younger researchers and high-risk research is critical, says blue-ribbon panel": spie.org/x25175.xml

STEM Education Caucus, "Science and math weakness threatens nation's leadership role, caucus speakers say": spie.org/x24119.xml

Senator support letter, "Senate science funding support lauded by optics community": spie.org/x23798.xml

Congressional Visits Day, "Invest in research now for a strong future, SPIE members tell Congress": spie.org/x22973.xml

December budget shortfalls, "Lofty words, feeble action on energy, research funds, says SPIE": spie.org/x18551.xml


SPIE President Kevin Harding of GE Global Research, left, and
Vinton Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist of Google,
talk during the recent Engineering R&D Symposium.