Dr. Daniel P. Maki
MSP, National Science Foundation

DAN MAKI: I think many of you are aware of the fact that in order for NSF to pay for the lunch, the lunch actually has to be part of the meeting. And in order for the lunch to be part of the meeting, somebody has to say something. It would not be fair to say that I drew the short straw. It would be safer to say I was assigned this short straw.

So, in thinking about the fact that I am standing between all of you and freedom, what possible topics could there be that would hold your attention? And I made a very small list of topics that I might talk about. And then I was reminded by myself that the MSP is a very family friendly organization, which meant I struck everything off the list but one thing, namely money.

So, I will say a few words about the process by which MSP gets money. Before I do that, though, I want to thank all of you for all the work that went into this meeting. It was really a bit of an experiment on our part. And I am well aware from having talked to some of you that some of you feel we sort of changed the rules of the game halfway through the game.

And there's some truth to that. So if someone came up to me and said, “Well, you asked me about research design. Why didn't you tell me on day one I needed a research design?” And, of course, if we had thought about it, we might have told you that on day one. And I speak from experience because I was sitting on your side for four years for the MSP project.

The analogy I have is that, just to warn you in advance, for next fall in the MIS project, we're going to ask to report school by school on the results of your rugby team. And it'll be a simple forum, just wins and losses. So, don't call us up and say, “We don't have a rugby team.” You just put in zero and zero. And then we'll have an impact report that says, “98% of our rugby teams never lost a game.” But it's important to have real data. In any case, thank you all for the spirit that you've brought to the meeting.

When we were discussing this and what we were going to ask for and the committee was enthusiastic about asking for abstracts, we had no idea if we were going to get ten abstracts or not. We were planning a meeting where we sort of wanted to get 30. And, in fact, at first we got 70. So, I think we all view this as a success. And we understand that, to some extent at least, we did change the rules in the middle of the game. But you all adapted well and are, I hope, now playing by the new rules. So, thank you all, and I'm going to make these fairly short remarks.

So I hope you can get out the door very quickly and either enjoy DC or maybe get an earlier flight than you had scheduled out of town. So, where does MSP and NSF get the money it sends out to all of you? That's a reasonable question. And I've sat out there enough to know that there's cynics always. And some of you will say, “Well, we know where the money comes from. The government runs the printing presses and it prints the money.” And, of course, there's some truth to that. And the very, very cynical of you would say, “Oh, I know where they get the money from. They borrow it from China.” And I'm going to ignore that step, the first step.

So, I'm going to take the point of view that money happens. So there is money out there, and I'm going to try to go through the process of how does it get father down the chain to all of us. The process, having watched it now for a year, is much, much more complicated than I had ever imagined. The road has many branches that have to eventually come together.

And the road is a very windy one. And much to the distress of people watching this, it sometimes makes very dramatic turns right at the end that you didn't know were coming. So it's a little bit difficult to plan far in advance. You just have to make your best guess and sort of live with it. Now, I think you're all aware of it, I'll just briefly review how NSF is organized, so you have some sense of what happens inside of NSF. Then we'll talk a little bit about outside of NSF.

First of all, of course, NSF has directorates. Well, first of all it has a top, the twelfth floor, Arden Bement is the leader of NSF. Then at the next layer there are directorates. There are several directorates. Most of them are devoted to research. The one I know the best is MPS, not MSP, MPS, math and physical sciences. So you can think of this as a-- in my mind it's a little college. And inside that little college there are departments. There's a math department. There's a physics department. And those departments have programs. For example, math-- and I know a lot of friends who have applied to this-- have a program topology geometry.

If you want research money, and you do topology geometry, you send it in, and the panel reviews it and you may or may not get money. The probability is certainly way less than that. So, in this directorate, Tony Chan, a mathematician, now heads up that directorate of math and physical sciences. Then there's the divisions. And Peter Marsh heads up the math division. And somebody else heads up the geometry topology group.

So, of all these directorates, there is one-- the eighth floor, EHR-- that is devoted to education and human resources. In that directorate, and who heads up that directorate? Well, Cora Marrett who talked to you last night. She heads up that directorate. And that has its divisions or departments, including Division of Graduate Education, Division of Undergraduate Education, the DRL, a new one, and the Human Resources.

So one of those is the Division of Undergraduate Education, that's DUE. So that plays kind of the same role as the math division in DMS, the DMS head. So, inside of DUE there are programs, many of them. STEP, CCLI, ATE, and MSP. So MSP sits in DUE, which sits in--So, DUE, you also saw the leader, Linda Slakey. Linda Slakey spoke last night and introduced Cora Marrett, her boss. So there's MSP sitting in DUE, sitting in EHR, sitting in NSF. Okay, that's the structure we work under.

What is NSF? Well, NSF is a governmental agency that supports research and education in the non-medical fields. There's another group, NIH, which supports medical fields.

Now, what are the budgets? NSF's budget is about six billion. It seems like a lot. NIH is more like 30 billion. That seems like even more, and it is. But they're both rather modest in the big picture, which comes as a bit of a surprise. What is the federal budget? Three trillion. There's a lot of zeroes. Three trillion.

So what is that six billion over three trillion? Well, just doing a back of the envelope, it's around two-tenths of 1%. So, NSF gets, roughly speaking, two-tenths of 1% of the federal budget. NIH gets a little more, but it still doesn't go off the chart. One cannot blame the deficit on NSF. That seems clear.

So how does NSF then get its money? Well, Congress. Congress gives us its money, and there's many steps in the process. A critical step-- and the reason I raise this is because these things do hit the newspapers. Chronicle of Higher Education will have articles saying, “Something happened about funding math and science education.” The New York Times, even the Wallstreet Journal has articles on these. You have to be very careful when you read those articles. The path is a very long one. And what they are reporting on is one little stretch of the road that has been traversed.

Okay, what is the path? Congress, the House has a committee. They have to pass it. The Senate has a committee. They have to pass it. Before any of this happened, the program has to be authorized.

The MSP program didn't exist up until 2002. It was authorized for five years. So, MSP knew it had five years, so they could plan on five years. But it was ending in 2007. So we had to be re-authorized. Fortunately, we were re-authorized in a very big bill called America Competes. Part of America Competes re-authorized MSP for three years: 2008, 2009, 2010.

In the authorization bill-- and this is an interesting point to me-- they put upper limits on the amount of money you can get. They don't actually give you any money. They put upper limits. Well, of course, just being cautious and knowing it'll get in the paper, they authorize a lot of money. Just to give you an example, for 2008, MSP was authorized for $100 million; 2009, $110 million; and 2010, $123 million. And those were reported in the paper.

Now, the brute facts come into play. Last year we spent roughly $45 million. So, you could look at this and say, “Oh, wow. The money is being printed,” if you looked at the $100 million for 2008. The facts are, with an authorization of $100 million, you could not get a cup of coffee at Starbucks, even at the reduced prices. You have no money at all.

You need an appropriation. You need an appropriation. That's the key. So Congress has to appropriate money. To whom? To NSF. They may structure the appropriation in such a way that certain programs get an exact amount, or they may not. The vast majority is not written out explicitly. So the appropriation bill, I started off saying you have a House committee and a Senate committee. The House has to approve it, the Senate has to approve it. They never approve the same thing.

So you'd have to have a reconciliation committee. They debate on it. Then each has to approve it again. And then it has to go to the President who could veto it, or he could sign it. This process, in theory, ends by October 1st. Extra innings are not uncommon. Extra innings have a name: continuing resolution.

When the first continuing resolution runs out, you have continuing resolution two. And this has happened several times, including this year. So the whole process doesn't always converge. We were basically on a continuing resolution all of 2007, fiscal year of 2007. But this year it did converge. It converged right before the Christmas holidays. I don't remember the date, but somewhere in there.

You'll remember there was this panic of the omnibus spending bill. Including in that omnibus spending bill was NSF. The number that came out was nothing like the authorization. And you might say, “What was the number? Well, in fact, we don't know. It hasn't trickled down to us yet. But it's working it's way down, and we're pretty sure NSF got above two and a half percent increase over last year.

So assuming that we're not the disfavored child, we got at least what we had last year and maybe a little bit more. There's hope for a little bit more. But we don't know because it goes to the 12th floor. Then it goes to the directorates. Then it goes to the divisions. And eventually somebody says, “MSP, you have X dollars for next year.”

Well, we can't wait for that, so we have a solicitation out right now. And we're expecting a lot of proposals. We're expecting to award new Targeteds, new Institutes, new RETAs. And as many of you have discussed with us, some other new things, one of which is MSP Phase Two. And another is MSP Start.

There has to be a little bit of guessing. We don't know how many proposals we're going to get in each category. And at the same time, we don't even know how much money we have. But yet we're supposed to make a guess as to how many awards we're going to make in each category. So we do our best. And we have laid it out in the solicitation. You should certainly take a look at that.

But I think we're looking forward to a lot of good proposals. A lot of people have talked to us about various facets of the new solicitation. And, of course, we didn't have a solicitation last year. So there's likely pent up demand. And we're expecting a lot of good proposals. And I think our goal is to build on everything that you have done to make the program, in a sense, a better program.

What is our goal? We're trying to make teachers be better teachers, students be better students, administrators be better administrators. And when I say “teachers” I'm including university. As has been pointed out, there's room for improvement at all levels. And we certainly want MSP to be our leader in this regard. We want people to come to us and say, “What's best practice? What's the best way to do this?”

Okay, I'm sure all of you are anxious to get on the road. I have now told you how MSP gets it money. And this is a tale which you can tell your children. I guarantee it'll help to put them to sleep. Thank you all for coming. Most of us are going to stick around. So if you have any questions, feel free to come up. And we'll see you all next year.