Federal Resources for Research in 2012
Federal Resources for Research in 2012
Federal Resources for Research in 2012
January 2012

Education research and other social and behavioral science fields have received their 2012 budgets in omnibus resolutions. In November and December, President Obama signed an omnibus appropriations bills providing funding for Fiscal Year 2012, which actually began October 1, 2011. The appropriations process was more contentious than usual because it became embroiled in major policy issues over raising the debt ceiling and adopting a plan for reducing the budget deficit. Despite these obstacles, over the summer the debt ceiling was raised, preventing a government shutdown. In comparison to the raucous debates surrounding the debt ceiling, the appropriations for FY2012 were anticlimactic.

The president and Congress have continued, at least in 2012, to treat education and behavioral science research kindly, relative to many other sectors. For example, although the overall funding level of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) was reduced by $15 million, the institute was not among the 51 federal education programs eliminated. However, this investment is below President Obama’s initial request for a $115 million increase for IES, $60 million of which would have been allocated to its research, development, and dissemination programs. The omnibus bill also included funding for the National Institutes of Health. The appropriation for the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development was reduced from $1.329 billion to $1.323 billion.

Because the National Science Foundation (NSF) is handled by a different Congressional committee, it traveled a somewhat different and more expeditious route, with final appropriation action occurring in November. The overall NSF appropriation was increased by $173 million. The contrasting funding levels for 2011 and 2012 for the education directorate, in comparison to all other research directorates, are shown in the table below. The reduction in funding for Education & Human Resources is material, and AERA is following up with agency officials. 
                   IES, NSF, and NICHD Appropriations, FY2011 and FY2012



Institute of Education Sciences

$608 m

$593 m


200 m

190 m


108 m

109 m

     Regional Education Laboratories

58 m

58 m


130 m

130 m

     Special Education Research  

 50 m

50 m

     Statewide Data Sharing 

42 m

38 m

National Science Foundation 

6.9 B

 7.0 B

     Directorate for Education & Human Resources 

860 m

829 m

     Research (including Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences)

5.5 B

5.7 B

National Institutes of Health 

31.2 B

31.8 B

     National Institute of Child Health & Human Development 

1.33 B

1.32 B

 Note. m = million; B = billion.

Of great concern to the education research community is the likely impact of the sequestration process to be invoked in the FY2013 appropriation. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Supercommittee was tasked with developing a plan for deficit reduction, with automatic spending cuts in the budget triggered if the Supercommittee failed to approve and present a plan to the full Congress. Because the Supercommittee could not come to an agreement, Congress is now obligated to reduce annual spending by $1.2 trillion over the next decade, beginning in January 2013. All domestic nondefense and defense programs would be subject to dramatic across-the-board cuts: The education budget, for example, would be required to shrink by 9.1%. Reductions of this magnitude will surely force serious cuts even in favored research programs.

Of course, the new Congress to be elected in November 2012 may relegislate the entire procedure, heightening the uncertainty regarding federal research appropriations in the near term.
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