Testimony on the FY 2003 Budget Request for the National Science Foundation

May 3, 2002

Tom Manteuffel, SIAM President

I am here today to stress the importance of balanced funding for science and to urge you to increase the overall NSF budget.

First, I'd like to thank this subcommittee for the tremendous support you've shown NSF in recent years. I'd also like to thank you for the support you have given to the mathematical sciences. For many years, federal support for the mathematical sciences was stagnant.

However, thanks to strong leadership here on Capitol Hill and at NSF, the tides have begun to turn. The president has requested an increase of $30 million for NSF's Division of Mathematical Sciences in FY 2003; this follows a similar increase of $30 million in FY 2002.

These are significant increases for the mathematical sciences, but the NSF investments in the mathematical sciences are best understood in terms of the results that mathematical research generates across the entire range of science and engineering. From this perspective, the increases of $30 million two years in a row are an excellent investment in our future.

Let me give a few examples of how the mathematical sciences have contributed to far-reaching results:

* The rapid sequencing of the human genome was made possible through the use of sophisticated mathematical and statistical algorithms.

* Medical imaging has revolutionized many aspects of modern medicine. Unlike an x-ray, where what you see is what you get, CAT scans and MRI take information from all directions around the body and mathematically reconstruct the interior of the human body.

* Many recent advances in information technology depend on mathematics: cell phones---switching, routing, and fault tolerance; the Internet---encryption for secure commerce, compression to speed the transmission of images.

* Two simple and timely examples from national security are the recent success in the anti-missile program and GPS (Global Positioning Systems) made possible by complex computational algorithms.

How would our troops have fared without GPS and smart weapons? These are the fruits of basic research performed decades earlier. What if that research had not been funded?

The events of the past year---the recession, 9/11, and the war in Afghanistan---all speak to the importance of strong funding for research today. Now is not the time to cut back on research funding, but the time to recognize its true value.

SIAM members are concerned with the systematic process of combining mathematics, computing, and applications. Today's computers are fast. The fastest computers operate by harnessing thousands of processors to work together on a single problem. But without mathematics and good numerical algorithms, this potential cannot be effectively used---it's like spinning wheels going nowhere. The faster the computer, the more important it is to "do the math."

A large portion of my constituency, the members of SIAM, work with interdisciplinary teams to develop computational algorithms. Computational tools are becoming more and more important across all disciplines. From this perspective, we at SIAM see the importance of balanced funding for all science.

These are exciting times for the mathematical sciences. Scientists in other fields are engaged with mathematicians to explore and develop fascinating new lines of research and discovery. This symbiotic relationship is the key to the advances that will lead to continued economic growth, technological leadership, and national security. Funding for NSF is essential to this process. I urge you not only to support the requested increase for the mathematical sciences, but also to increase the overall NSF budget.


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