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Stimulu$ Funds to Follow Soon at Energy, NSF

The National Science Foundation is only a few weeks away from awarding the first portion of its $3 billion in stimulus funding, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science may spell out the rules for spending its $1.6 billion as soon as next week.

That's the word from senior agency officials who testified this morning before the House of Representatives' Science and Technology Committee's oversight panel. Cora Marrett, acting deputy NSF director, told the panel that "we will begin to move the money out the door in 2 to 3 weeks." She said the agency already has close to $2 billion in highly rated proposals submitted since last fall that it can't fund out of its regular research budget, a number that will grow once NSF finishes the next round of reviews this spring.

NSF was given $2 billion from the $787 billion package to fund new grants within its six research directorates, along with $900 million for three infrastructure programs and $100 million for education activities. The research funds, she added, "will be the first out of the gate." NSF has just posted a notice describing its procedures.

Matthew Rogers, senior adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, told ScienceInsider that the science office's funds will be spent on pending requests from national laboratories and universities as well as on ideas from a new round of competitive grants aimed at fostering collaborative research. He said that DOE is planning to request a waiver to extend the timeline for spending $400 million to create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy that reports to the secretary. On Tuesday, Chu told the full committee that he was pushing agency officials to speed up the process and was reviewing candidates to lead the new agency, a position that requires Senate confirmation.

Geographic distribution is an important consideration for spending the stimulus money, Rogers and Marrett told the panel, in keeping with the wishes of legislators to address the needs of every part of the country.