Founded in 1888, the American Mathematical Society (AMS) is dedicated to advancing the interests of mathematical research and scholarship and connecting the diverse global mathematical community. We do this through our book and journal publications, meetings and conferences, database of research publications1 that goes back to the early 1800s, professional services, advocacy, and awareness programs. The AMS has approximately 25,000 individual members worldwide and supports mathematical scientists at every career stage.
The AMS appreciates the opportunity to submit written testimony in support of fiscal year 2022 appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The NSF accounts for the majority of federal support done by Ph.D. mathematicians at universities and colleges. In FY2018, 61% of support for academic research in mathematics came from the federal government,3 and roughly half of that came from the NSF.4
Investments in research, including the departments and programs in the CJS bill, lead to innovations and new technologies that improve our health, grow our economy, and enhance our quality of life. The U.S. was once the uncontested leader in science and technology, but has seen our advantage erode as other nations have dramatically increased their investments in research. In particular, China has continued to dramatically increase its investments in science and technology, which have grown by 17.3 percent annually between 2010 and 2017.5 During this same period, the U.S. investment has averaged a 4.3 percent increase annually.
The NSF is an efficient agency -- almost 95 percent of its appropriated funds go out the door in grants and awards to support research projects, facilities and STEM education. NSF will continue to make strategic investments in basic research, the STEM workforce, and research infrastructure that will advance the nation's global competitiveness economically and scientifically. A significant increase in Congressional appropriations would help address the effects of years of high-quality grant proposals that go unfunded due to lack of sufficient funding. Those unmet needs continue. A 2019 National Science Board report6 stated that in fiscal year 2018, "approximately $3.4 billion was requested for declined proposals that were rated Very Good or higher in the merit review process." This accounts for about 5,440 declined proposals at the NSF. The U.S. is leaving potentially transformative scientific research unfunded, while other countries are making significant investments.
The entire country benefits from NSF funding; the NSF invests in every state supporting researchers and students.7 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 focused on specific applications. The applications of advances in theoretical science, including theory of mathematics, occur on a timescale that means the investment is often hard to justify in the short run. And yet if we look back to the success, as opposed to ahead to when we expect success, the investment in fundamental research has had huge payoffs. 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 Discover: The Mathematical Sciences in the 21st Century."8,9
Finally, we are at a critical time for building and ensuring a stable STEM workforce of the future, a challenge exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Becoming a Ph.D. STEM researcher requires focus and dedication; the work is demanding. And the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed and even completely shattered many students' dreams and plans. Vitally important is NSF support for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and other early career scientists, who are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and are most likely to have had their career goals deferred or derailed. We need to reach and support promising STEM students across all genders, races, ethnicities, and geographies. At this challenging time, we cannot risk losing a generation of scientists who leave the field and never return.
Thank you for your consideration of this request, and for your prior efforts on behalf of the NSF.