Last week, the president’s 2014 budget proposal for the STEM (science technology, engineering, and math) programs revealed significant reorganization with its primary focus shifting to the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Currently, twelve different organizations oversee 226 STEM programs, which collectively receive grants totaling in $3 billion from the government.
The administration believes streamlining the agencies will better determine the impact of their investments. However, this restructuring would result in large cuts to mission agencies such as NASA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
How could this affect graduate students?
The proposal is allotting an $89 million increase in NSF funding with a portion dedicated to undergraduate and graduate education. This would fund grants and fellowships such as the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which would see an increase in the number of fellows from 2000 to 2700 per year. Additionally, there is a large push to ramp up the programming for undergrad and grad students.
While increased NSF funding is a step in the right direction, it is unknown what the impact of budget cuts to mission agencies would result in funding to academic labs. Obtaining funding is a notoriously competitive process, and many professors receive grants from NASA, NIH, and DARPA. Cuts at these agencies may negatively impact the same students they are attempting to aid with NSF funds.
So is this revamping a positive for graduate level research? It is important to note that this is a proposal and will need approval from Congress before it can be enacted. Potentially, several iterations of the proposal will be drafted before final approval, but the conversation is already in full swing.
Links to the articles are provided below.