Testimony to U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations
We encourage Congress to provide the NSF with $9 billion in FY 2020

 

Agency addressed:
National Science Foundation
Submitted by:
Jill Pipher, Ph.D. President and Karen Saxe, Ph.D. Director of Government Relations
American Mathematical Society
1527 18th Street, NW Washington DC 20036
Submitted to:
Senate Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Senator Jerry Moran, Chair
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Ranking Member

 

The American Mathematical Society (AMS) appreciates the opportunity to submit written testimony in support of fiscal year 2020 appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF)

We encourage Congress to provide the NSF with $9 billion in FY 2020.1


The NSF is the key funding agency for the mathematical sciences. Most mathematics research is done by Ph.D. mathematicians at universities and colleges. The NSF accounts for approximately 64 percent of federal support for academic research in the mathematical sciences.

The NSF is the only federal agency that supports research and education across all fields of science, engineering, and mathematics and at all educational levels. Research and education programs supported through the NSF are essential for increasing and developing the knowledge base needed for pushing the frontiers of science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines; developing new fields of inquiry; and supporting technological innovation. Support for the scientific training of undergraduate and graduate students is critically important to our research enterprise. Other NSF investments in education support broadened participation in STEM fields and development of the STEM workforce in demand by American employers.

The entire country benefits from NSF funding and Chairman Moran's state can serve as an example.2

Kansas, an EPSCoR state,3 received \$42 million in NSF funding in FY 2017. There were 138 NSF grants awarded to researchers in Kansas. Funds go toward research for example, researchers in the Kansas State University Medical Component Design Laboratory used NSF funding to develop supplemental sensors for ingestible-pill technology that monitor the health of livestock, protecting against disease outbreaks. Funds go toward STEM education -- for example, The Noyce Teacher-Leaders for Western Kansas project at Fort Hays State University is developing STEM teachers for rural Kansas communities.

The NSF has funded mathematics research and education in Kansas:

  • At Wichita State University, Professor Victor Isakov is making ground breaking changes in the way we make measurements in biomedicine, economics, geophysics, and material science. In particular, the results of his work will dramatically enhance the quality of a cheap, fast, and safe diagnostic imaging method called electrical impedance tomography.4
  • Kansas State University is the site of an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in mathematics. Each summer, students from across the country come to Manhattan where they are trained to become independent researchers while working on problems in the important fields of network security and biomathematics.
  • Kansas State Professor Dave Auckly has funding to expand the Navajo Nation Math Circles.5 This includes a mathematical visitor program sending mathematicians to schools to work with students and their teachers as well as inclusion of mathematics in public festivals to increase community mathematical awareness.

Society has benefitted from the many products, procedures, and methods that have resulted from NSF supported research in mathematics -- research performed over many years and typically not intended for specific applications. These benefits include innovations such as the Google Page Rank algorithm, enhancement of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and in cybersecurity. The plethora of applications that have resulted from basic research in the mathematical sciences is described in the National Academies report "The Mathematical Sciences in 2025" or in the executive summary "Fueling Innovation and Discovery: The Mathematical Sciences in the 21st Century".6, 7

Strong and sustained investment will allow the NSF to continue to support innovative and transformational scientific research that fuels the American economy, strengthens national security, maintains our global competitiveness, improves public health and the quality of life for Americans, and contributes to the development of the next generation of science, mathematics, and engineering researchers.

Our global competitors are making tremendous investments in scientific research yet funding for research in the U.S. has only increased incrementally. Because our national investment in basic science research has been declining as a share of the federal budget for decades, we are losing our global edge. To compare, China has grown its R&D spending rapidly since 2000, at an average of 18 percent annually. During the same period, U.S. R&D spending grew by 4 percent [per year].8

While our competitors (and allies) are increasing support for science research and education, the U.S. is failing to fund many important projects. According to the National Science Board, approximately $3.92 billion of cutting-edge research deemed "very good or higher" in NSF's merit criteria was unfunded in FY 2017.

A strong level of funding together with a predictable pattern of funding will facilitate a robust stream of high-level research and researchers that, in turn, will support the level of technological development needed to remain globally competitive.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and for your prior efforts on behalf of the NSF.


Reference

  1. This is the same amount supported by the Coalition for National Science Funding
  2. FY17 State Funding information Sheets
  3. EPSCoR enhances research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions (states, territories, commonwealth) by strengthening STEM capacity and capability.
  4. Award Abstract #1514886: Some inverse problems: increasing stability and drift-diffusion models
  5. Navajo Nation Math Circles was featured in the documentary "Navajo Math Circles," which aired nationwide in September 2016 on the Public Broadcasting System.
  6. The Mathematical Sciences in 2025
  7. Fueling Innovation and Discovery The Mathematical Sciences in the 21st Century (2012)
  8. National Science Board: Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 (NSB-2018-1)

Also see previous testimony for FY 2019