Press Release

AIP FYI #145 – Measurement of Federal Basic Research Programs Planned by OMB

By SpaceRef Editor
December 7, 2001
Filed under ,

Last week’s meeting of the DOE/NSF Nuclear Science Advisory
Committee included several presentations of particular interest
to the wider science and technology community. Addresses by
speakers from the Department of Energy, National Science
Foundation, and the Office of Management and Budget discussed
funding, the government’s response to terrorism, and
performance measurement. This FYI focuses on remarks
concerning performance measurement, which echoed many of the
points recently made in a speech by OMB Director Mitchell
Daniels (see FYI #144.)

The Administration’s emphasis on measurement was clearly
evident in the presentations. “Management, metrics, and
accountability” were identified as the major administrative
thrusts of the Department of Energy. DOE applied research in
Solar and Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy, Clean Coal, Fossil
Energy, and Energy Conservation will be measured using an
“investment criteria” now under development (see FYI #117.)
While this will not affect the DOE Office of Science in the FY
2003 budget cycle, measurement criteria will be implemented
next fall as a planning tool for basic research programs in the
FY 2004 budget.

A strong focus of OMB’s budgeting activity is program
performance. In making the case for program funding it will
be “absolutely important” that a program’s objectives be
clearly defined in understandable language, one of the speakers
said. Also necessary will be an explanation of why the
research is needed. A demonstration that progress is being
achieved in the program will also be required.

The Administration is aware that the development of sensible,
comprehensible, and accurate investment criteria for basic
research will not be easy, and it is seeking input from the
science community. That such criteria will be applied to
basic research programs is a certainty, one of the speakers
said, and will occur regardless of the level of involvement by
the science community. Community participation in the
development of investment criteria for basic research is a
must, the advisory committee was told. Without measurement
criteria it will be very difficult for basic research programs
to compete for additional federal funding, or even keep the
current level of funding, the committee was cautioned.

Efforts to develop program measurements are not new. During
the Clinton Administration the Government Performance and
Results Act was enacted. In 1999, a committee of the National
Academy of Sciences developed a five-year measurement criteria
centering on the quality of the research program, relevance to
agency mission, and degree of international leadership (see
1999 FYI #29). At that time, the committee chairman described
the Government Performance and Results Act and said “the law
can become a tool of great value if working scientists
understand its intention, help educate people about their work,
and lend their expertise to the development of more accurate
evaluations.”

Judging by the comments made at the advisory committee meeting,
those remarks made in 1999 seem to accurately reflect the
Administration’s position on the measurement of basic research
programs that will occur in the fall of 2002. “Programs that
are performing well will be rewarded,” one of the speakers
predicted.

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Richard M .Jones

Public Information Division

The American Institute of Physics

fyi@aip.org

(301) 209-3095

http://www.aip.org/gov

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SpaceRef staff editor.