Funding for the Mathematical Sciences: A First Look at the President's Budget Request for 2003

March 2, 2002

Hard act to follow: As director of NSF's Division of Mathematical Sciences for the last two and a half years, Philippe Tondeur has worked to secure substantial increases in the division's budget. Success in FY 2002 (a $30 million increase for DMS) has been followed by a similar increase ($30.39 million, or 20.1%) in the president's FY 2003 request. Tondeur's three-year term at NSF ends this summer; a search for his replacement is under way.

Mark Marin

Focusing on large increases for homeland security initiatives, Department of Defense programs, and efforts to revive the U.S. economy, President Bush released his FY 2003 budget request for the federal government on Monday, February 4. The $2.13 trillion budget clearly defines winners and losers among federal agencies and programs, using as justification both the cost of fighting the war on terrorism and the "effectiveness" of each agency in fulfilling its mission. Increases for nonmandatory programs outside the three focus areas would be held to just 2%.

Support for the major science and education agencies is mixed. The National Institutes of Health would receive another large increase as it reaches the end of its five-year doubling path. The National Science Foundation would receive a more modest increase, which becomes even smaller when programs transferred from other agencies to NSF are taken into account. Parts of NASA's science portfolio would receive significant increases, while others gain only inflationary increases. Funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Science would once again remain relatively flat under the budget proposal.

Across the agencies, funding for research in the mathematical sciences is a microcosm of the mixed bag described above. One agency, however, stands out: The National Science Foundation has put special emphasis on the mathematical sciences in the FY 2003 request, proposing a very large increase for mathematics research. Particularly in a year when most domestic discretionary funding outside the areas of homeland defense, biomedical research, and economic stimulation is held flat or even cut, NSF's strong support for mathematics is a sign of recognition, at least in the administration, that the mathematical sciences are critical both in and of themselves and as the backbone of a number of other disciplines.

Following are highlights of the budget request for the agencies and programs of most importance to the SIAM community.

National Science Foundation
Overall, NSF would receive an increase of 5% over FY 2002, for a total of $5.04 billion. The Division of Mathematical Sciences, which funds the largest share of NSF-supported applied mathematics and is described as a "Priority Area" in the NSF budget documents, would receive $181.87 million in FY 2003, an increase of $30.39 million, or 20.1%, over FY 2002. This follows a similar increase of $30 million from FY 2001 to FY 2002.

The large request for the mathematical sciences is particularly notable in light of the funding for the other disciplines within the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (the NSF directorate that hosts DMS programs).

MPS Discipline

FY 2002 Final Funding

FY 2003 Budget Request


Astronomical Sciences

$165.86 million

$161.25 million



$162.89 million

$160.80 million


Materials Research

$219.51 million

$219.32 million



$195.88 million

$193.31 million


Mathematical Sciences

$151.48 million

$181.87 million


This investment would be focused on three areas-core mathematical research, collaborations between mathematics and other disciplines, and education. In particular, $60 million of the total DMS funding would be targeted for research done in conjunction with other disciplines, such as computer science, chemistry, materials, physics, astronomy, biology, engineering, and the geosciences.

The Grants for Vertical Integration of Research and Education program would receive an increase of $10 million in FY 2003, for a total funding level of $26.0 million. VIGRE supports undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral education activities and curriculum development in the mathematical sciences.

Elsewhere in NSF, the Information and Technology Research (ITR) initiative, in its fourth year of funding and part of a multi-agency effort called the Networking and Information Tech-nology Research and Development (NITRD) program, would receive a total of $285.83 million in FY 2003, an increase of 3.0%. ITR funding in FY 2003 would be focused on large-scale networking, high-end computing, high-end computational infrastructure, high-confidence software and systems, software design and productivity, and human-computer interaction.

The vast majority of ITR funding is located within the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate, which would see its own funding increase by 2.3%, for a total of $526.9 million in FY 2003. The larger, multi-agency NITRD effort would receive $1.9 billion in FY 2003, an increase of 2%.

Finally, within NSF, the budget request calls for $200 million in FY 2003 for the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) initiative, which received $160 million in its first year of funding (FY 2002). MSP is an effort to bring states and local school districts together with the mathematics, engineering, science, and education departments of colleges and universities to develop experimental approaches for the improvement of teacher preparation and professional development.

Department of Energy
Funding for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) account within DOE's Office of Science would increase by 7.8%, for a total of $169.63 million in FY 2003. Within this account, the Applied Mathematics program would be cut by $7.37 million, to a total of $24.63 million. This decrease is due largely to the transfer of the Integrated Software Infrastructure Centers (ISICs) from the Applied Mathematics program to another division within ASCR. ISICs previously funded through the Applied Mathematics program focused on algorithms and mathematical libraries for DOE applications on terascale computers.

An additional $2 million is provided in the request for applied mathematics research in the fields of biology and the environment. The request also includes a small increase ($366,000) for the Computational Science Graduate Fellowship program.

Elsewhere in the Office of Science request, the Genomes to Life program would receive a substantial increase: $15.2 million, or 70%, for a total of $36.675 million in FY 2003. One of the four priority areas within this program is long-term research on the computational capabilities needed to model the complexity of biological systems.

Department of Defense
The overall DOD budget would increase by $46 billion in the FY 2003 request, the largest increase since the Reagan presidency. However, while funding for the development of new technologies would receive substantial increases under the budget request, the 6.1 and 6.2 accounts (basic and applied research, respectively) that fund most longer-term research, including mathematics research, would receive either essentially flat funding or significant decreases.

Funding for 6.1 basic research would increase at the Army by 2.6% and at the Navy by 1.2%, and decrease at the Air Force and in Defense-wide programs (including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) by 3.1 and 2.7%, respectively. The request would decrease funding for 6.2 applied research at the Army (by 29.5%), the Navy (by 25.4%), and the Air Force (by 9.1%). Only the Defense-wide programs (including DARPA) would increase, by 14%.

National Institutes of Health
Fulfilling his campaign pledge to support the doubling of the NIH budget, the President's proposal includes a $3.9 billion increase (16%) for NIH. This would provide a total of $27.2 billion for NIH in FY 2003. Many NIH institutes conduct programs that fund mathematical sciences research as part of larger efforts; funding resources that may be of particular interest to applied and computational mathematicians are the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and its Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB). CBCB supports research in areas that combine biology with mathematics, computer science, engineering, and physics. Focus areas include the mathematical modeling of biological networks and the development of modeling and simulation tools. While details of the CBCB FY 2003 budget request are not available at the time of this writing, the overall NIGMS budget would increase by $154.9 million, or 9%, over the final FY 2002 funding level of $1.726 billion.

Mark Marin is an analyst at Lewis-Burke Associates, in Washington, DC.

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