SAN JOSE, Calif. The National Science Foundation will get an estimated $3 billion to disperse as part of the recently passed economic stimulus package. While a small fraction of the funds have been earmarked for education programs, it's not yet clear how much of the money will fund new or existing research projects as opposed to facilities upgrades.
The NSF is one of the leading arms providing basic R&D funds from the U.S. government. Researchers have long complained about low federal spending on basic R&D across a range of fields, particular computer science.
NSF is one of several government agencies in areas spanning energy to health care scrambling to figure out how to allocate new funds related to technology in the midst of a contracting economy.
"The Foundation will provide guidance to the community early next week with more details on its plans" for spending the new funds, said an NSF spokeswoman. "The Foundation believes that the congressional intent was clear regarding its support for the NSF's merit review process," she added.
The so-called American Reinvestment and Recovery Act breaks NSF's new $3 billion allocation into several chunks. The biggest slice—an estimated $2 billion—will go to a combination of what the NSF calls "highly rated research proposals which could not otherwise be funded because of budget constraints, deferred maintenance and capacity upgrades to existing facilities and advancements in cyber-infrastructure."
About $400 million will be channeled into the NSF's Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction program for projects that have already been approved by the National Science Board and have been through final design review.
Another $300 million will be used for its Major Research Instrumentation program aimed at mid-sized science instrumentation, and $200 million will go to its Academic Research Infrastructure program aimed at refurbishing and improving existing academic research facilities.
About $100 million has been earmarked for education efforts. Roughly $60 million is for the Robert Noyce Scholarship program aimed at placing math and science teachers in so-called high-need schools.
Another $25 million will be spent on the Math and Science Partnerships program supporting partnerships to improve K-12 student achievement in math and science. And $15 million will go to a new Professional Master's Science Program.