|Volume 1: No. 36|
The President is distancing himself from the Presidential Young Investigator (PYI) program, now to be known as the NSF Young Investigator (NYI) program. Funds have been cut from 200 down to 150 awards, each for about $67.5K/year for five years (with another $37.5K from industry). About one sixth of the awards went to computer science and engineering last year.
The reduced funds go to a new program, Presidential Faculty Fellows (PFF) awards, for young faculty members who excel in teaching and research. (Young? The official criterion will probably be years since degree, or since entering the tenure track. I don't know if current PYI winners will be eligible, but it seems unlikely that they would win additional funding.) This year there will be 15 awards in science and 15 in engineering, each for up to $100K/year for five years. Graduate and undergraduate institutions may nominate up to two candidates. [Fred W. Weingarten (c/o firstname.lastname@example.org), Computing Research News, 11/91.]
(NSF program officers are going to see this as twice the work for fewer awards. Another spring competition will make it even harder to grant regular awards by summer, or even by September. Higher-ups will be unhappy with NSF having greater responsibility -- in name, at least -- for an award program that is unlike other NSF grants. There will be pressure to make NYI recipients accountable for specific uses of the money ... unless that reduces NSF's budget or prestige. I wouldn't be surprised to see NYI folded in with the Research Initiation Awards next year.)
Other NSF programs appear to have prospered in the budgeting process, with increases of 11% for basic research and 40% for education. (Defense-sponsored basic research may be cut by as much as 4%, possibly because of publicized abuses.) NSF's Antarctic research is being moved to Navy control, which frees that money for basic research. [Ibid.]
A new directorate for social sciences is also being formed, with programs previously in the Directorate for Behavioral and Biological Sciences. A change like this can definitely stabilize a field, as its funding will now be prominent and carefully tracked. NSF is an onion with physics and chemistry at the core, biology and engineering sciences further out, and social science and education at the outside. When funding is cut, the outer layers suffer most. Having a separate directorate will help to protect social sciences (including linguistics).