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Observations on the President’s Fiscal Year 2002 Federal Science and Technology Budget Review and Physical Review Letters—the two leading physics journals—peaked in 1993 and has been declining since.23 At the same time, the number of such submissions by authors from Europe and the rest of the world has increased, indicating vitality of the field worldwide. These trends raise questions about whether we are continuing to sustain our global leadership in important fields such as physics.24 Federal research funding also supports the training of the next generation of scientists and engineers, and cuts in such funding send a discouraging signal to current and prospective graduate students. In fields with decreased federal support for university research between 1993 and 1997, there was also decreasing graduate enrollment from 1993 to 1999. For example, federal funding for university research in physics decreased 20.9 percent in constant dollars from 1993 to 1997 and graduate students with federally funded research assistantships in that field decreased 20.8 percent from 1993 to 1999 (graduate enrollment in physics decreased 22.1 percent during that period and has yet to turn up again). There were similar trends for mathematics, chemistry, chemical engineering, and astronautical engineering.25 Gauging future trends in the demand and supply of doctoral scientists and engineers is a complex exercise that cannot be undertaken lightly. Nonetheless, these trends in graduate enrollment raise questions about whether we are making an investment that is adequate for maintaining the vitality of our science and engineering human resources needed in the future. Federal policymakers and appropriators need to be cognizant of potential unintended consequences for the human resource base across fields necessary to a vibrant science and engineering enterprise as they craft budgets to meet agency missions.26 CONCLUSIONS In the interest of sound science policy and an efficient budget process for science and technology, it is time for the science and engineering community and the Administration to adopt one method for tabulating the Federal Science and Technology Budget. The Administration’s approach has several merits: it focuses on the largest science and technology programs, including all costs associated with them; it also includes key science and engineering education programs at the National Science Foundation that are not considered R&D but are critical investments in science and technology; and it is comprised of identifiable line items in the budget, permitting easy tracking through the Congressional appropriations process. Because of this, the Administration’s approach is preferred and OMB should continue to track the FS&T budget in this manner in future budget cycles. OMB should further revise its tabulation, as it has in the past, to ensure that programs that are primarily dedicated to the creation of new knowledge and 23 American Institute of Physics. 24 National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, Experiments in International Benchmarking of U.S. Research Fields (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000. 25 NRC, Trends in Federal Support of Research and Graduate Education. Differing periods were used for research funding (1993–1997) and graduate enrollment (1993–1999) to account for the time lag in the effect of research funding changes on the hiring of graduate research assistants. 26 National Research Council, Forecasting Demand and Supply of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers: Report of a Workshop on Methodology (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000).
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Observations on the President’s Fiscal Year 2002 Federal Science and Technology Budget technology are included in it. To make the FS&T budget category useful, though, it ultimately requires a stable, rational definition. OMB should prepare a document that provides such a definition and the rationale underlying it. The President’s FY 2002 FS&T budget proposal presents a strong NIH budget that provides one avenue among many to move the nation toward achieving the goal of improved health for the American people. Proposed budgetary decreases in FS&T at other federal agencies are of concern for several reasons: breakthroughs in medical technology, which also improve the health of the American people, have often been the result of investments in areas outside the life sciences, such as physics, chemistry, engineering, and the social and behavioral sciences; national goals in defense, energy, the environment and other areas now under review may be well served by increases, rather than flat funding or decreases, for FS&T in other federal agencies; and the national goal of global leadership in science and technology, which continues to provide the underpinning for sustained economic growth, will require funding that ensures a world-class science and engineering enterprise across all fields. That FS&T in agencies other than NIH has been reduced in the President’s budget proposal below that of FY 1994 suggests that a careful Congressional review of proposed FS&T spending across federal agencies is warranted as the appropriations process moves forward this year.
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