NSF Requests $7 Billion to Fund Research

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The National Science Foundation on Thursday said that it had requested a budget of US$7 billion for fiscal year 2010 to fund basic science and technology research at U.S. universities.

The requested amount is a 16 percent increase over what NSF received the previous year from the U.S. government, said Dana Cruikshank, an NSF spokesman. The fiscal 2010 year runs between Oct. 1 this year and Sept. 30 next year.

The budget request needs approval from Congress. Part of NSF's final budget will then be assigned to technology research at universities, Cruikshank said.

Money from the budget will not go to research conducted by companies in the private sector, he said. NSF does not fund private sector research, but works with companies to provide resources for university researchers to conduct experiments. For example, NSF works with IBM and Google to give academic researchers time on Google's distributed servers to understand the fundamentals of cloud computing and to run experiments.

The NSF will separately receive funds of $3 billion from the $787 billion economic stimulus package passed earlier this month by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. NSF has yet to submit a proposal to the U.S. government on how it plans to spend the money, but part would go to buying devices like electron microscopes and robotic equipment for universities, Cruikshank said. Another chunk would be directed toward science and technology education programs. NSF has about 60 days to come up with a specific plan on where the funds will be assigned.

Though future funding plans weren't available, NSF has been focusing its technology research funding on nanotechnology, cloud computing and supercomputing. It has started the "Science and Engineering Beyond Moore's Law" program, which funds groups investigating material beyond current silicon chips that could enhance computing while making Moore's Law irrelevant. Moore's Law states that the number of transistors that can be placed on silicon, and its attendant computational capability, doubles every 18 months.

NSF also has interest in developing hardware that enables petaflop and exaflop computing and catalyzing it to bring relevancy to massive data sets, Cruikshank said. Starting in August last year, NSF funded a program called Expeditions in Computing, where one area of research revolved around using massive computational tools and data sets to foster environmental sustainability, including better understanding weather patterns and finding more efficient use of water resources.

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