Bush Research Budget Again Focuses on Physical Sciences

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Date: Feb. 16, 2007
From: The Chronicle of Higher Education(Vol. 53, Issue 24)
Publisher: Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,650 words
Lexile Measure: 2070L

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Washington -- President Bush's budget for scientific research in the 2008 fiscal year would continue to carry out his plan, first announced a year ago, to double federal funds for agencies supporting physical-sciences research over a decade.

But compared with the likely level in 2007, his budget would cut funds for the National Institutes of Health, the largest source of money for academic research, a move critics quickly called shortsighted.

The biggest beneficiaries of Mr. Bush's plan for 2008 would be the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Those agencies, together with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's in-house laboratories, would get $11.4-billion. That is about 17 percent more than they received in 2006, the last year for which Congress has completed appropriations, and it reflects a pace sufficient to sustain the doubling drive that President Bush first proposed in his 2007 budget.

Raising this spending, Mr. Bush said in his State of the Union address last year, was essential to enhance the nation's global economic competitiveness by increasing the production of high-technology goods.

A host of reports from the National Academies and other sources have drawn the same conclusion, but their authors have said they hoped such spending increases would not come out of existing federal money for research. However, that appears to be one consequence of Mr. Bush's plan.

Across all federal agencies, total spending for non-security-related research would grow to $61.31-billion in the 2008 fiscal year, which begins October 1. That is about 2 percent above the 2006 level and less than 1 percent higher than Mr. Bush's proposal for 2007. But because the large increases for the NSF and the Energy Department would be included in that total, budgets for other agencies would be flat or down.

Thin Gruel for NIH

In particular, the National Institutes of Health could be a loser. The president's proposed figure of $28.86-billion is only about one-tenth of one percent above the equivalent figure for 2006, and it reflects a drop of 2 percent, or $511-million, from the appropriations that Congress is considering for the biomedical-research agency in 2007.

Advocates for biomedical research argued last week that Mr. Bush's budget would hamper scientific research soon after a five-year effort to double the NIH budget was completed. The agency is the largest source of funds for academic research.

The advocates said his 2008 budget seemed at odds with a statement by the...

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