- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

The National Academy of Sciences warned yesterday that the Bush administration's emphasis on funding medical research has cut or frozen spending on physics and engineering.
"These funding patterns could reduce America's ability to generate new science and technology in research fields that contribute to economic growth, national defense and other national goals," the report said.
The "large shifts" in funding over a decade may undercut U.S. recruitment of future physical scientists for industry, government and academia, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report said.
Issued in two parts by two NAS committees, the report assesses the White House's 2002 science and technology budget, now under review by Congress, and looks at trends in science funding, graduate education and research since 1993.
Since that time, the report said, funding has shifted toward a preference for life sciences under the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The shift may have an economic impact because it overlooks how physical sciences "contributed to the economic boom of the 1990s" on advanced health care, energy production, conservation and curbing pollution, the report said.
Dan Ralbovsky, NIH spokesman, said yesterday that the agency recognizes that its research "is built in many areas on findings that come for chemistry, physics and the other physical sciences."
As in past funding debates, "NIH has said many times that 'while the generous support given to medical research is needed and very encouraging, it hopes that the other areas of science are also adequately funded,'" he said.
A similar analysis of Mr. Bush's proposed science spending arose on the eve of the presidential election, when some science groups in Washington said it was not diversified enough.
Bush science advisers had emphasized spurring an increased role for private industry in applied research by tax cuts.
The Human Genome Project, which published the human DNA code in February, has spurred both the Clinton and Bush administrations' interest in life sciences. In 1993, the starkest symbol of a shift away from physics was cancellation of the superconducting supercollider, already being built in Texas.
The NAS report said that for five years beginning in 1993 science spending hit a plateau, but "turned a corner" in 1998, when funds jumped to 4.5 percent more than 1993. They have risen each year since.
The 2002 budget raises science and technology dollars by 3 percentor $1.4 billionover last year, but most will be seen in NIH funding, which goes up 11.2 percent, the report said. That means a "net reduction" of 3 percent for non-health-related science and technology.
Under the budget, the Department of Energy loses nearly 7 percent in funding, with the deepest reductions in "energy-supply and conservation research" (24 percent drop) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (9 percent).
The National Science Foundation, which gives thousands of small grants, faces a 2.9 percent drop in its funds for research.
Despite the warning, the NAS said the White House's method of assessing budget amounts "has considerable merit" and will help clarify the discussion between science officials and lawmakers.
The report estimates that federal funding supports 27 percent of all research and half the spending on "basic research," which is done without concern for immediate commercial application.

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