Obama's Budget FY2013: A Victory for Basic Research
President Obama rolled out his budget proposal for FY2013 this month, which has received party-line reactions from politicians and mostly applause from the scientific community. Republicans called a hearing with Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Dr. John Holdren to discuss the budget request and its implications for science, space and technology. Many were critical of the President’s proposed investments.
The biggest victories for science were in basic research, as the President identified the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Science and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) as the “three key basic research agencies.” His renewed commitment to doubling the budget of NSF over time is reflected in a 4.8% increase from FY2012 to $7.4B, while the NIH would maintain its current budget allocation at $30.8B.
NSF is the leading federal agency in terms of its commitment to broadening participation of underrepresented groups, and AWIS is pleased that the administration is taking note of its critical role in developing the future STEM workforce. One example of NSF’s leadership in making the STEM workforce a more equitable and desirable environment is the recently announced Career-Life Balance initiative, which highlights agency-wide policies that help level the playing field for researchers balancing family or other societal responsibilities. With global competitiveness in innovation and technology at stake, it is more important than ever that we are encouraging and supporting men and women to enter and remain in STEM fields. The proposed increases to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and Early Career faculty development programs will mean that more individuals will be supported as they move through the STEM pipeline. We hope that this effort will be expanded to develop a more robust support system for faculty as they continue to advance throughout their careers.
In conjunction with its budget proposal to the President, NSF has released its strategic plan moving forward in the next 5 years. The report identifies broadening participation of underrepresented groups as one of its core strategies for building a competent STEM-skilled workforce of the future. However, it is not enough to recruit vast numbers of people into STEM fields. The United States cannot hope to be globally competitive in technology and innovation moving forward unless we engage all potential talent in our country and focus on retention, re-entry and retraining.
In a recent report on retention of STEM faculty, Deborah Kaminski speaks to the importance of retaining a diverse population of educators:
“I think a balanced, representative university faculty is very important for our students. We have a shortage in this country of people who choose to study science and engineering. To re-fill that pipeline, we need to look at the entire population. Women are recruited from high schools into science, engineering, and mathematics programs at a lower rate than men. To help fix this problem, we need a faculty population that looks almost identical to the population of our country. The same is true for recruiting more students from underrepresented minorities into science and engineering. If we want the United States to retain its technological leadership into future generations, we need to make sure the fields of science and engineering are accessible to everyone."