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Highlights from the President's FY 2018 Budget Request: National Science Foundation

May 26, 2017

Unless otherwise noted, all FY 2018 figures are from the foundation’s budget justification, and, to provide the most detailed funding comparison, FY 2016 actuals were taken from the budget justification.

The president’s FY 2018 budget proposal for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would provide $6.7 billion – a $840.9 million (11.2 percent) decrease in funding. Of that amount:

  • $5.4 billion, a $636.4 million (10.6 percent) decrease, would be designated for research and related activities;
  • $183 million, a $58.7 million (24.3 percent) decrease for R&D facilities and equipment; and,
  • $761 million, a $123.6 million (14 percent) decrease for education and training.

Nearly 90 percent of NSF funding is awarded through a merit-review process that includes distribution of grants and cooperative agreements.

NSF directorates, offices and commission

NSF is organized into several directorates, offices and a commission. FY 2018 funding for these entities (both discretionary and mandatory) would include:


Directorate, Office or Commission

FY 2018 Request
($ millions)

Percent Change
(From FY 2016

Mathematical & Physical Sciences                






Computer & Information
Sciences & Engineering






Biological Sciences



Integrative Activities 



Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences



International Science and Engineering



Arctic Research Commission




The administration’s FY 2018 request for research and related activities within NSF directorates and offices would total $5.4 billion, a $636.4 million (10.6 percent) decrease. Selected programs from NSF directorates and offices include:

  • Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) — $223.2 million, a $16.7 million (6.9 percent) decrease, 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 $176.2 million – a $12.3 million (6.5 percent) decrease;
  • Emerging Frontiers (EF) — $137.3 million, a $51.8 million (60.5 percent) increase;
  • Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) — $100 million, a $60 million (37.5 percent) decrease; and,
  • Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (EFMA) — $36.8 million, a $17.6 million (32.4 percent) decrease.

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:

  • $246.5 million, an $85.8 million (25.8 percent) decrease, for Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF);
  • $96.5 million, an $8.3 million (7.9 percent) decrease, for Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE); and
  • $33.1 million, a $2 million (6.5 percent) increase, for NSF Research Traineeships (NRT) to support effectual innovation and design of graduate programs within specific disciplines.

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

  • $1.1 billion, a $156.7 million (13 percent) increase, for Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD);
  • $386.1 million, a $121.8 million (24 percent) decrease, for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI); and,
  • $264.1 million, a $66.6 million (20.1 percent) decrease, for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

NSF centers programs

The president’s budget request for NSF includes $201 million, a $9.4 million (4.5 percent) decrease for center programs, which are a principal means by which NSF fosters interdisciplinary research. NSF programs include:

  • Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) — $57.5 million, a $0.7 million (2 percent) increase;
  • Materials Research Science & Engineering Centers (MRSECs) – $55 million, a $0.5 million (0.9 percent) decrease;
  • Science & Technology Centers (STCs) — $60.9 million, a $15.8 million (35.1 percent) increase;
  • Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCIs) — $21.6 million, a $6.5 million (23.1 percent) decrease; and,
  • Centers for Analysis & Synthesis — $6 million, a $12.6 million (67.7 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.

The president’s budget will eliminate all program funding for the Nanoscale Science & Engineering Centers (NSEs) program — centers to support research to advance the development of ultra-small technology in electronics, materials, medicine, environmental science and other fields.

Several of NSF-wide investments are reduced over the FY 2016 actuals including:

  • NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) – $26.2 million, a $3.6 million (12.1 percent) decrease;
  • Cyber-Enabled Materials, Manufacturing and Smart Systems (CEMMSS) – $222.4 million, a $49.1 million (18.1 percent) decrease;
  • Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (INFEWS) – $24.4 million, a $55.7 million (69.5 percent) decrease;
  • Risk and Resilience Research Projects – $31.2 million, an $11.8 million (27.4 percent) decrease;
  • Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) – $113.8 million, a $16 million (12.3 percent) decrease; and,
  • Understanding the Brain (UtB) – $134.5 million, a $38.3 million (22.2 percent) decrease.

While other NSF-wide investments saw decreases, the Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (NSF INCLUDES) received $14.9 million, a $0.9 million (6.5 percent) increase;

Selected crosscutting programs

In addition to the NSF-wide investments, the president’s budget includes funding for several crosscutting programs that draw on interdisciplinary teams from across the NSF and are supported by multiple directorates. They include:

  • $242.2 million for the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER), a $38.5 million (13.7 percent) decrease;
  • $74.7 million for Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), a $23 million (23.5 percent) decrease;
  • $35.3 million for the Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI), an $8.2 million (18.8 percent) decrease);
  • $29.4 million for the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER), a $1.2 million (3.9 percent) decrease; and,
  • $4.9 million for the Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers (ADVANCE) program, a $10 million (67 percent) decrease.

In FY 2018, the president’s budget would allocate $97 million in new funding for the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) to advance national leadership in High-Performance Computing (HPC) and maximize the benefits of HPC for scientific discovery and economic competitiveness. NSF is one of three lead agencies for NSCI, with the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.

Under the proposal, funding would end for several programs in FY 2018 including: Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program and the Cyberinfrastructure Framework For 21st Century Science, Engineering And Education (CIF21) program. With the intent of integrating future efforts into other core programs, the Research at the Interface of Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering (BioMaPS) would receive $1.9 million only to support remaining continuing grant increments (CGIs) in FY 2018.








nsf, federal budget, fy18 budget