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Clinton Budget Will Help NSF Research

By Neena S. Kadaba
Associate News Editor

President Clinton announced substantial budget increases for the National Science Foundation and other information technology research centers last week. The National Institutes of Health were given a less considerable increase.

While this new budget would positively affect NSF-funded research, other research may be hurt by the change. "It should be very good for the nation's effort in fundamental research, and as some of that research is performed at MIT with NSF funding, it should be good for MIT. Of course this is early in the budget process, and so we don't know how it will eventually turn out," said David J. Litster, vice president for research and dean for graduate education at MIT.

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education stated that "if the fiscal-2000 budget proposals are approved by Congress, the increases would lift total federal spending on university-based research by 2 percent, to $15.5-billion. Spending on basic research would rise 4 percent, to $18.2-billion."

According to the new budget plan, the NSF research budget would rise 7 percent, the Agriculture Department's research budget would increase about 8 percent, and the Defense Department spending on research and development would decrease by 5 percent, "including the portion of the budget that goes to basic, applied, and advanced-technology research. Expenditures for that work, much of which is conducted by universities, would fall to $7.3-billion next year," the Chronicle story stated.

Science programs at the Energy Department, however, would grow by 5 percent, with the new money going to basic science.

Julie T. Norris, director of the office of sponsored programs expressed her disappointment with the change as well as her hope for future increases.

"This year, however, the bulk of the increase is targeted in the area of information technology, with a small amount targeted for biophysical sciences. It is somewhat disappointing that, in the year of reported strong budget surpluses, there is not a greater amount targeted for fundamental research, particularly in colleges and universities," Norris said.

She also stated that MIT's strength in information technology will enable the Institute to compete effectively in these program areas.

There are also no significant funding reductions in other programs. The budget for the year 2000 is still in its planning stages and has not been approved by Congress as of yet.