Act Today to Help Ensure Adequate Federal Funding for Math Research!

This post is a “call to action” and if you are going to act, you need to do so asap (ideally by March 12)! I hope the following explains what I am asking you to do, and also how you can easily do this (perhaps skip ahead to the 3 steps “What exactly do you do?”, then return and read the red text).

The American Mathematical Society’s priority for Congressional appropriations is for robust and sustained National Science Foundation (NSF) funding. The total amount we are requesting for FY2019 is $8.45 billion; this is the same amount as the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF). CNSF is an alliance of over 130 science related organizations committed to increasing the national investment in science.

To arrive at this funding amount, we are using $8 billion as a base funding level, which is the CNSF community target funding level for FY2018.  As we have done in previous years, we are using the guiding principle found in both the “Restoring the Foundation” report (American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2014), and in Innovation: An American Imperative,” which calls for four-percent real growth (which is four-percent plus inflation).

As you probably know, the NSF is an independent agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.” Flat funding, as the President requests, will inhibit our national competitiveness and continue to jeopardize America’s role as an innovation leader.

Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV) have teamed-up again this year and are writing the FY19 NSF “Dear Colleague Letter.” This letter will be sent to Representatives John Culberson and Jose Serrano, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Appropriations subcommittee, and key decision-makers in this process to allocate funds to the NSF.

The deadline for sign-on is Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. Members of Congress interested in signing on to the FY19 NSF Dear Colleague Letter should contact Dennis Sills in Representative Butterfield’s office at or Christopher Buki in Representative McKinley’s office at

The level of support for the National Science Foundation is a key factor by which the nation’s commitment to science can be measured and as such makes the annual appropriations process a high priority for the AMS Office of Government Relations. Approximately 64% of total federal support for academic research in mathematics comes from the NSF (making math one of the most NSF-dependent fields).

What exactly do you do?

Step 1. Find your Representative(s):

Step 2. Go to your Representative’s website to see how to send a letter to them.

Step 3. Take the text that appears above in red and edit to craft a letter to your Representative in the House (if you live and work in different districts, hit both). At the least, add in a sentence or two at the beginning saying your name, your institution, and point out the fact that you are a mathematician (if you are an AMS member, mention that too). If you have or have recently benefitted from NSF funding, I encourage you to add a bit about it. Alternatively, if your department has benefitted in some broad way (e.g. as an REU site), add a sentence or two about the program and its importance to training the next generation of mathematicians. At the end, thank your Rep for his/her attention and consideration.

If you would like, you could add this example to your letter: At the most recent AMS/MSRI Congressional briefing in December, we highlighted NSF-funded mathematical research that improves cybersecurity. At our June 2017 briefing, we highlighted NSF-funded mathematical research that has brought revolutionary changes to MRI technology, saving lives and money. You can read about these, and other Congressional briefings on mathematics here:

Feel free to email me ( if you have questions, or want help.

About Karen Saxe

Since January 1, 2017, Karen Saxe is Director of the Washington Office of the AMS which works to connect the mathematics community with Washington decision-makers who impact science funding. Before joining the AMS, Karen was DeWitt Wallace Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over many years she has contributed time to the AMS, MAA, and AWM, including service as vice president of the MAA and in policy and advocacy work with all three. She was the 2013-2014 AMS-AAAS Science & Technology Policy Congressional Fellow, working for Senator Al Franken on education issues, with focus on higher education and STEM education. In Minnesota she has served on the Citizens Redistricting Commission following the 2010 census and serves on the Common Cause Minnesota Redistricting Leadership Circle. She has three children and, when not at work especially enjoys being with them and reading, hiking, skiing, and sharing good food and wine and beer with family and friends.
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