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Highlights from the President's FY17 National Science Foundation Budget Request

February 12, 2016

Estimated FY16 funding levels are used for NSF comparisons, unless otherwise noted.

The president’s FY17 budget proposal for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would provide $7.6 billion (1.2 percent increase) in discretionary funding in addition to $400 million in new mandatory funding. Of that amount, $6.1 billion (0.8 percent increase) would be designated for research and related activities, $193.1 million (3.6 percent decrease) for R&D facilities and equipment, and $898.9 million (2.1 percent increase) for education and training. The president’s budget proposes 11 priority goals to:

  • Support the Long-Term Development of a Clean Energy Economy;
  • Advance Our Understanding of the Brain;
  • Increase Resilience to Disasters;
  • Address Challenges in Sustaining the Food, Energy, and Water System;
  • Advance Cutting-Edge Manufacturing;
  • Accelerate the Commercialization of University Research;
  • Provide Leading-Edge Capabilities and Infrastructure for Research and Education;
  • Develop a Highly Talented Workforce through All Phases of Education;
  • Advance Innovation and Enables Tomorrow’s Discoveries;
  • Provide Opportunities for Science and Engineering Graduate Students; and,
  • Improve the Ways that Scientists, Mathematicians, and Engineers Involve the Public.

Nearly 90 percent of NSF funding is awarded through a merit-review process that includes distribution of grants and cooperative agreements. Key initiatives included in the proposal are:

  • $257.1 million (0.3 percent increase) for Cyber-Enabled Materials, Manufacturing and Smart Systems (CEMMSS). Through CEMMSS, NSF also invests in Advanced Manufacturing  to advance cutting-edge manufacturing;
  • $52.5 million (29.8 percent decrease) for Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES);
  • $100.1 million (24.4 percent decrease) for Cyberinfrastructure Framework For 21st Century Science, Engineering And Education (CIF21);
  • $16 million (3 percent decrease) for the Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF ICLUDES) to increase the preparation, participation, advancement, and contributions of all scientists and engineering students;
  • $33.2 million in new funding for the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) to focus efforts on advancing the nation’s computational infrastructure for science and engineering research;
  • $43.2 million (4.9 percent increase) for Risk and Resilience Research Projects that work toward improving predictability and risk assessment and increasing resilience in order to reduce the impact of extreme events on U.S. life, society, and economy;
  • $149.8 million (15.4 percent increase) for Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC);
  • $29.8 million (4.8 percent decrease) for Research at the Interface of Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering (BioMaPS);
  • $62.2 million (27.7 percent increase) or Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS) program to fund R&D projects to understand, model, design, and manage the interconnected food-energy-water (FEW) systems;
  • $141.6 million (3.6 percent decrease) for the Understanding the Brain (UtB) – investments in collaborative fundamental science, in innovative enabling technologies, and in workforce development to accelerate discovery and revolutionize the understanding of the brain including $74.2 million (1 percent increase) for cognitive science and neuroscience research including NSF’s contribution to the BRAIN initiative ; and,
  • $30 million (no change) for NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps).

As a result of the Paris climate negotiations to launch Mission Innovation, the budget for NSF includes $512.22 million (37.9 percent increase) for investments in Clean Energy R&D. Through this initiative, the U.S. and 19 other countries have committed to doubling their governmental clean energy research and development investment over five years. NSF’s clean energy portfolio supports research and education in innovative renewable and alternative energy sources for electricity (solar, wind, wave, geothermal) and fuels (chemical and biofuels). NSF funding also addresses the collection, conversion, storage, and distribution of energy from diverse power sources, including smart grids; the science and engineering of energy materials; and energy use and efficiency, including for computing systems. Other initiatives that cross several entities include:

  • Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) — $229.6 million (1.4 percent increase) to support exceptionally promising college and university junior faculty who are committed to the integration of research and education and who are most likely to become the leaders in their respective fields;
  • Homeland Security Activities – $459.3 million (4.6 percent increase); and,
  • Advanced Manufacturing Activities – $176 million.

The budget provides several allocations for NSF contributions to several multiagency initiatives including:


NSF Centers Programs

The president’s budget request for NSF includes $229.3 million (1.1 percent increase) for center programs, which are the principal means by which NSF fosters interdisciplinary research. Many NSF centers receive additional support from research-based state TBED strategies. NSF programs include:

  • Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) — $61 million (8.0 percent increase) to fund partnerships working toward the development of next-generation advances in engineered systems;
  • Materials Research Science & Engineering Centers (MRSECs) — $56 million (no change) to support centers that support materials research and education efforts at academic institutions across the country;
  • Science & Technology Centers (STCs) — $60.1 million (0.2 percent increase) to advance interdisciplinary discovery and innovation in both science and engineering through funding for research, education, knowledge transfer and workforce development efforts;
  • Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCIs) — $29.5 million (5.0 percent increase) to support long-term “big questions” in basic chemical research;
  • Centers for Analysis & Synthesis — $16 million (14.0 percent decrease) toward the development of new tools and standards for the management of biological information and to support data analysis capabilities across the country; and,
  • Nanoscale Science & Engineering Centers (NSEs) — 6.7 million (13.0 percent decrease) toward research to advance the development of ultra-small technology in electronics, materials, medicine, environmental science and other fields.


NSF Directorates, Offices and Commission

NSF is organized into several directorates, offices and a commission. FY17 funding for these entities (both discretionary and mandatory) would include:


Directorate, Office or Commission

FY17 Request
($ millions)

Percent Change
(From FY16

Mathematical & Physical Sciences                









Computer & Information
Sciences & Engineering



Biological Sciences



Integrative Activities 



Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences



International Science and Engineering



Arctic Research Commission



The administration FY17 request for research and related activities within NSF directorates and offices would total $6.4 billion (6.5 percent increase). Selected programs from NSF directorates and offices include:

  • Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) — $268.9 million (12.1 percent increase) within the Engineering Directorate to support the commercialization and technology transfer efforts of institutions of higher education. Programs of interest within the IPP budget request include Partnership for Innovation program, Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC) program, and Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) program. The IPP administers the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs that would receive $213.3 million (13.1 percent increase);
  • Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) — $170.7 million (6.7 percent increase) within the Office of International and Integrative Activities to promote the development of eligible states’ S&T resources through partnerships involving universities, industry, government and federal R&D enterprise;
  • Emerging Frontiers (EF) — $157.4 million (49.1 percent increase) within the Biological Sciences Directorate to provide funding to identify, incubate and support infrastructure and research areas that transcend scientific disciplines and/or advance the conceptual foundations of biology; and,
  • Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities  (EFMA) — $58.4 million (7.2 percent increase) also administered by the Engineering Directorate to help NSF focus on emerging areas in a timely manner. EFMA recommends, prioritizes and funds interdisciplinary topics at the frontiers of engineering research and education.


In line with the administration’s commitment to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education efforts, the FY17 budget would help to establish NSF as the lead agency for the administration of federal STEM education funding, particularly graduate and undergraduate education. The administration’s budget also would task NSF with supporting research that would strengthen the foundation of STEM education. Centered in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), some key initiatives include:

  • $332.5 million (0.1 percent increase) for Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF) including $7 million for a new initiative to support innovation in graduate education by providing awards to universities to explore novel ideas in student training;
  • 92.5 million (6.3 percent increase) for Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE), an initiative for a more extensive coordination of NSF’s undergraduate STEM education investments;
  • $82.7 million (no change) would be contributed by NSF for Discovery Research K-12 (DR K-12), a partnership between NSF and the Department of Education to support evidenced-based solutions for improved K-126 mathematics education and knowledge building;
  • $75.6 million (0.2 percent increase) for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) to support enhanced research experiences for students in their first two years of college; and,
  • $58.6 million (8.3 percent increase) for NSF Research Traineeships (NRT) to support effectual innovation and design of graduate programs within specific disciplines.

To broaden participation in STEM, the budget proposes $212.8 million (2.7 percent increase) to support several initiatives that will increase the number of women, minorities and other underrepresented groups in STEM via investments in education. These initiatives include $14.1 million (5.4 percent decrease) for the Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers (ADVANCE) program that would fund transformative efforts to address the system barriers of women’s full participation in academic STEM.



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