TABLE 5.1 NSF Proposal Statistics for the Upper-Atmospheric Section

 

Fiscal Year

 

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

Number of competitive

proposals

142

115

109

127

120

163

205

Number funded

101

78

76

80

67

90

129

Percent funded

71

68

70

63

56

55

63

Average duration (years)

1.9

2.1

2.0

2.5

1.9

2.0

2.1

Average size ($1,000)

56

52

47

46

52

52

49

Average size

($1,000 1985 dollars)

56

50

44

42

46

45

41

Total grants

($1,000 1985 dollars)

5,656

3,900

3,344

3,360

3,082

4,050

5,289

aeronomy, magnetospheric, solar-terrestrial, and upper-atmospheric facilities. The UAS data on competitive proposals over a seven-year period are shown in Table 5.1. For this space physics portion of NSF, the total number of competitive proposals increased substantially in FY 1990 and FY 1991. The FY 1991 increase is due, in large part, to the start of the Geospace Environment Modeling (GEM) program. The fraction of proposals funded decreased slightly over this seven-year period, and the average grant duration remained at approximately two years. Of more significance is the observation that the average grant size in constant 1985 dollars decreased by about 25 percent over this interval.

Figure 5.1 compares these results with those from the other major source of space physics funding, the Space Physics Division of NASA. This division covers aeronomy, ionospheric, magnetospheric, cosmic rays, heliospheric, and solar physics. NASA and NSF data are shown in the Figure for an overlapping time period of several years, with both data sets normalized to FY 1985 dollars. The data all show the same downward trend, although the NASA average grant size is about $20,000 larger than the average NSF grant size. The actual buying power of an individual grant has decreased by $15,000 to $20,000 over the last seven years. (As discussed later in this chapter, this decrease is exacerbated by increasing university overhead costs for the same period.) Thus, what scientists have been saying about a shrinking grant size is confirmed by the data in Figure 5.1: the average grant buys much less today than it did seven or eight years ago.

This downward trend in the average size of an individual grant (in fixed-year dollars), combined with the actual size of each grant, suggests that an indi-



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