Mathematicians hit the Hill


On June 24 and 25, mathematicians joined scientists across all fields and from across the country for the first ever “virtual fly-in,” organized by the Coalition for National Science Funding. In normal years, CNSF Hill visits[1] take place in-person, and only the AMS-sponsored CNSF exhibitor (the AMS sponsors one mathematician per year to participate in this exhibit) takes part in the coalition-led visits. CNSF is a broad umbrella group of about 140 universities and professional societies that come together to garner Congressional support for dependable and increased investment in the national science, mathematics, and engineering enterprise as funded by the NSF. Several math societies are members of CNSF—AMS, American Statistical Association (ASA), Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM), Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). If you haven’t heard me say this many times already, the NSF is very important to the math community, as over 60% of federally-funded research in mathematics done at colleges and universities is funded by the NSF.[2]

These visits were timed to take place during “appropriations season”—the time of year when Congress is deciding how much money federal agencies and programs will receive during the next fiscal year. Our key request during the meetings was to ask the Member of Congress to support at least \$10 billion for the NSF in fiscal year 2022. This number is what the AMS supports, and is also consistent with President Biden’s request for NSF funding next fiscal year. As you may have heard, the NSF will likely launch a new directorate very soon. This jump in funding—from \$8.5 to over \$10 billion—is needed to fund this new directorate and to strengthen fundamental research through the existing directorates. [The last time the NSF added a new directorate was in 1991 when the Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences was launched.]

We pointed out that

  • Large bipartisan majorities in Congress have noted the critical importance of significantly increasing our investment in NSF to maintain our competitiveness through bills such as the US Innovation and Competition Act[3] and NSF for the Future.
  • Every year, due to inadequate resources, NSF declines thousands of research ideas and nearly \$3 billion worth of those proposals are rated “very good.”
  • Although NSF accounts for only 4% of federal R&D spending, it supports nearly 50% of the nonmedical basic research at our colleges and universities. In any given year, NSF awards reach more than 2000 colleges, universities, and other public and private institutions in all 50 states.
  • NSF underwrites the training of the next generation of scientists. About 2,000 Graduate Research Fellowships are awarded annually to help graduate and doctoral students complete their advanced degrees. It also funds opportunities for undergraduates to engage in cutting edge research.

And, we thanked them for the inclusion in the American Rescue Plan of \$600 million for NSF research related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Join us at JMM 2022 for a training session on how you too can become an advocate for math research and education. Our session “Advocacy for Mathematics and Science Policy” will take place Thursday 9:30-11:00 am. Hope to see you there!


[1] A “Hill visit” is a meeting with a Congressional office, usually a staff member, in their Washington, DC office.


[3] This is the current name of what was first introduced as the Endless Frontier Act.

About Karen Saxe

Karen Saxe is Director of the AMS Office of Government Relations which works to connect the mathematics community with Washington decision-makers who affect mathematics research and education. Over many years she has contributed much 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 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 and sharing good food and wine and beer with family and friends.
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