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GEOSCIENCES         $507,310,000

The FY 1999 Budget Request for the Geosciences Activity (GEO) is $507.31 million, an increase of $52.2 million, or 11.5 percent, over the FY 1998 Current Plan of $455.11 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

The GEO Activity supports research in the atmospheric, earth, and ocean sciences. As the principal source of federal funding for university-based fundamental research in the geosciences, GEO addresses the nation's need to understand, predict and respond to environmental events and changes and to use Earth's resources wisely. Basic research in the geosciences advances scientific knowledge of Earth's environment, including resources such as water, energy, minerals, and biological diversity. GEO-supported research also advances the ability to predict natural phenomena of economic and human significance, such as climate changes, weather, earthquakes, fish-stock fluctuations, and disruptive events in the solar-terrestrial environment.

Three goals guide GEO's activities:

GEO actively participates in and contributes to the Foundation's three broad, overlapping themes: Life and Earth's Environment (LEE), Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI), and Educating for the Future (EFF).

Life and Earth's Environment: Activities related to Life and Earth’s Environment advance scientific knowledge about the Earth system. Because the geosciences are inherently linked to the environment in which we live, the majority of activities supported by GEO relate to LEE. In FY 1999, GEO will provide an increment of approximately $34 million for activities related to LEE. (Many of these activities are inherently overlapping and contribute to more than one area.) Plans will include:

 Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence: In FY 1999, GEO will provide an increment of $1.76 million for KDI. Plans will include: Educating For the Future: Activities related to Educating for the Future include a broad range of programs supporting innovative approaches to meeting the challenge of educating students for the twenty-first century. GEO plans to increase funding for EFF $1.75 million in FY 1999; major emphases include: GEO’s support for education is not limited to these programs where education is a central theme, but is inherent in all research activities supported by the Activity. GEO’s commitment to the close coupling of education and research activities ensures that all GEO investments contribute strongly to the development of a diverse, globally competitive workforce, and help to ensure that all Americans have the necessary math and science skills to function in today’s society.

Key Program Functions

GEO supports its activities through the following key program functions:

(Millions of Dollars)
                                        1 Includes only costs charged to the R&RA Appropriation.

Research Project Support

Research projects supporting individual researchers and small groups of investigators advance fundamental knowledge across a wide range of topics. Research projects in Atmospheric Sciences improve the understanding and prediction of climate, weather, and the global environmental system.  Earth Science research projects advance knowledge of the structure, composition, and history of the solid Earth and of the geological and hydrological processes that modify Earth. Research projects in Ocean Sciences improve knowledge of the global climate system, coastal environments, the character of the ocean floor, processes that control the chemical composition and motion of ocean waters, and the production of marine organisms underlying fish stocks.

Almost two-thirds of GEO’s funding is directed toward research project support in all GEO disciplinary areas. Over 1,000 awards are made each year, with an average annual award size of approximately $79,600 and a duration of 2.4 years. Although some GEO-sponsored research projects represent a single discipline, a significant fraction are multidisciplinary efforts drawing on the talents and perspectives of several researchers, who together provide valuable knowledge about the complex interactions among different facets of the integrated Earth system.

Priorities for FY 1999 include increased support for the U.S. Weather Research Program, the National Space Weather Program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, and several programs associated with the U.S. Global Change Research Program, including Earth System History, Global Tropospheric Chemistry, and Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics. Support will be maintained for ongoing programs in coastal ocean processes and environmental geochemistry and biogeochemistry.

In FY 1999, GEO will implement efforts to address Foundation-wide concerns about grant sizes by increasing the average size and duration of the awards and providing more support for researchers, with particular attention to new investigators.  These efforts will also contribute to increasing the efficiency of the Foundation's merit review process and achieve greater cost-effectiveness for both NSF and the university community.

GEO will also continue to participate in a Foundation-wide Major Research Instrumentation program to support the acquisition and development of research instrumentation for academic institutions in FY 1999.

In addition, GEO will direct $1.0 million to participate in a Foundation-wide inititative on Research on K-12 Education and Training Technologies in FY 1999.  This initiative, a partnership with the Department of Education, will include support for efforts such as basic research on educationally relevant technologies; research aimed at developing educational software and technology-enabled pedagogy; and studies to determine the most effective educational approaches and practices.

GEO-supported centers include Science and Technology Centers and Long Term Ecological Research sites.

(Millions of Dollars)

GEO supports four Science and Technology Centers (STCs):

The research agendas of the four STCs require a center environment to address the multidisciplinary and highly complex scientific objectives. Approximately 300 scientists and students use the four centers each year, with additional participants in workshops, conferences and special projects, such as visits of pre-college students and field projects. The reduction in support for the STCs is due to the phasing down of support for the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms. This successful STC is reaching the end of its planned life.

Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites support projects requiring long periods of study; the sustained nature of the studies allows scientifically sound evaluations of major environmental phenomena. The LTERs are "research platforms" representing many disciplines that enhance our understanding of general ecological phenomena which occur over long temporal and broad spatial scales, provide information for the identification and solution of environmental problems, and enable interdisciplinary collaborative activities.

In FY 1998, the GEO and BIO Activities are collaborating to establish one new LTER site that focuses on ecological systems at the interfaces of land masses and coastal oceans (including the Laurentian Great Lakes). This new site will expand our knowledge of the organization and function of land/ocean-margin ecosystems, the linkages between these systems and adjacent terrestrial and marine systems, and the impacts of major natural environmental perturbations in these regions. In FY 1999, GEO will increase support for this long-term project and continue to evaluate potential new Coastal LTER sites.

Research Facilities

The GEO Activity supports user facilities necessary for the conduct of research in the geosciences. These include large national user facilities such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. academic fleet, and smaller facilities in atmospheric, earth, and ocean sciences. NSF support provides for ongoing operations and maintenance, including upgrades to existing facilities as well as regularly scheduled repair.

(Millions of Dollars)
1Other GEO facilities include multi-user accelerator-based mass spectrometers and synchrotron beamlines, and facilities to support the scientific use of the Global Positioning System.
 FY 1999 plans for Research Facilities include:  In FY 1999, funding totaling $21.0 million is requested through in the Major Research Equipment Account to construct a Polar Cap Observatory (PCO). The PCO will be a state-of-the-art radar facility with an accompanying array of optical and radiowave remote sensing instruments for observing and measuring changes in Earth’s upper atmosphere and near-space environment. In FY 1998, GEO is supporting up to $5.0 million in generic design and engineering studies related to the PCO. The PCO will complement ongoing programs in the Arctic which includes support for a wide array of ground-based facilities in Alaska, Northern Canada, and Greenland, studies of arctic ocean processes, and inquiries into the process of glaciation.

Education and Training

GEO places a high priority on programs for education, training, and human resource development. This emphasis helps to ensure that the next generation of scientists is adequately prepared for a future in which the borders between scientific disciplines is increasingly blurred, and that is increasingly dependent on technology and on the sharing and analyzing of information utilizing currently-emerging technologies. This emphasis on education and training also aids in the development of a scientifically and technologically literate populace.

(Millions of Dollars)

Examples of GEO efforts to integrate research and education throughout its activities include:

 Administration and Management

The administration and management key program function includes the cost of Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointments and contractors performing administrative functions.