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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an
independent agency of the United States government Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group)The Independents were a group of Modern Art, modernist painting, painters based in the New Hope, Pennsylvania, New Hope, Pennsylvan ...
that supports fundamental
research Research is "creativity, creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization and analysis of information to increase understanding of a topic or issue. A research project may ...

research
and
education Education is the process of facilitating , or the acquisition of , s, , morals, s, s, and personal development. Educational methods include , , , and directed . Education frequently takes place under the guidance of educators; however, lea ...

education
in all the non-medical fields of
science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the u ...

science
and
engineering Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specializ ...

engineering
. Its medical counterpart is the
National Institutes of Health The National Institutes of Health (NIH ) is the primary agency of the United States government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government) is the national government of the United States The United Sta ...
. With an annual budget of about $8.3 billion (fiscal year 2020), the NSF funds approximately 25% of all federally supported
basic research Basic research, also called pure research or fundamental research, is a type of scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science sinc ...
conducted by the United States' colleges and universities. In some fields, such as
mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no general consensus abo ...
,
computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their application. Computer science is the study of , , and . Computer science ...
,
economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was fo ...

economics
, and the
social sciences Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of socio ...

social sciences
, the NSF is the major source of federal backing. In 2016, there were 6.9 million scientists and engineers employed in the United States. The 2020 NSF budget, split per capita, amounts to $1200 per US scientist per year; hence, it is not a practical funding source for most scientists. The NSF's director and deputy director are appointed by the
President of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the and of the . The president directs the of the and is the of the . The power of the presidency has grown substantially since its formation, as has the power of the federal government as ...

President of the United States
and
confirmed A woodcut depicting the confirmation of Lutheran youth In Christian denominations that practice infant baptism, confirmation is seen as the sealing of the covenant created in baptism. It is an affirmation of commitment and belief. Those bei ...
by the
United States Senate The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, politic ...
, whereas the 24 president-appointed members of the
National Science Board The National Science Board (NSB) of the United States establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF) within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President of the United States, President and the United ...
(NSB) do not require Senate confirmation. The director and deputy director are responsible for administration, planning, budgeting and day-to-day operations of the foundation, while the NSB meets six times a year to establish its overall policies. The current NSF director is
Sethuraman Panchanathan Sethuraman Panchanathan is an Indian-American computer scientist and academic administrator Academic administration is a branch of university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher ed ...
.


History and mission

The National Science Foundation (NSF) was established by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. Its stated mission is "To promote the progress of science, to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare, and to secure the national defense." The NSF's scope has expanded over the years to include many areas that were not in its initial portfolio, including the social and behavioral sciences, engineering, and science and mathematics education. The NSF is the only U.S. federal agency with a mandate to support ''all'' non-medical fields of research.


Budget and performance history

Since the technology boom of the 1980s, the
US Congress The United States Congress is the legislature A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) who ...
has generally embraced the premise that government-funded
basic research Basic research, also called pure research or fundamental research, is a type of scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science sinc ...
is essential for the nation's economic health and global competitiveness, and for national defense. That support is manifested in an expanding budget—from $1 billion in 1983 to $8.28 billion for FY 2020. NSF has published annual reports since 1950, which since the new millennium have been two reports, variously called "Performance Report" and "Accountability Report" or "Performance Highlights" and "Financial Highlights"; the latest available FY 2013 Agency Financial Report was posted December 16, 2013, and the 6-page FY 2013 Performance and Financial Highlights was posted March 25, 2013. More recently, the NSF has focused on obtaining high
return on investment Return on investment (ROI) or return on costs (ROC) is a ratio between net income In business Business is the activity of making one's living or making money by producing or buying and selling Product (business), products (such as goods an ...
from their spending on scientific research. Various bills have sought to direct funds within the NSF. In 1981, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) introduced a proposal to reduce the NSF social sciences directorate's budget by 75%.Moffitt, Robert A. "In Defense of the NSF Economics Program." ''The Journal of Economic Perspectives'', vol. 30, no. 3, 2016, pp. 213–233. ''JSTOR'', JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/43855708. Economist Robert A. Moffit suggests a connection between this proposal and Democratic Senator
Golden Fleece Award The Golden Fleece Award (1975–1988) was a tongue-in-cheek award given to public officials in the United States for their squandering of public money, its name sardonically purloined from the actual Order of the Golden Fleece, a prestigious chiva ...
series criticizing "frivolous" government spending—Proxmire's first Golden Fleece had been awarded to the NSF in 1975 for granting $84,000 to a social science project investigating why people fall in love. Ultimately, the OMB's 75% reduction proposal failed, but the NSF Economics Program budget did fall 40%. In 2012,
political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of ...
research was barred from NSF funding by the passage of the Amendment,Uscinski, Joseph E., and Casey A. Klofstad. "Determinants of Representatives' Votes on the Flake Amendment to End National Science Foundation Funding of Political Science Research." ''PS: Political Science and Politics'', vol. 46, no. 3, 2013, pp. 557–561. ''JSTOR'', JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/43284388. breaking the precedent of granting the NSF autonomy to determine its own priorities.


Funding Profile

In Fiscal Year 2020, NSF received 42,400 proposals and awarded 12,100, for a funding rate of 28%. In FY 2021, the estimates are 43,200 and 11,500 respectively, giving a funding rate of 29%. According to FY 2020 numbers, the median annualized award size is $153,800 and the average duration of an award is 2.9 years.


Timeline


Pre–World War II

Although the federal government had established nearly 40 scientific organizations between 1910 and 1940, the US relied upon a primarily
laissez-faire ''Laissez-faire'' ( ; from french: laissez faire , ) is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, allocation of resources, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), d ...
approach to scientific research and development. Academic research in science and engineering occasionally received federal funding. Within University laboratories, almost all support came from private contributions and charitable foundations. In industrial laboratories, the concentration of workers and funding (some through military and government programs as a result of
Roosevelt Roosevelt may refer to: *Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), 26th U.S. president *Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945), 32nd U.S. president Businesses and organisations * Roosevelt Hotel (disambiguation) * Roosevelt & Son, a merchant bank * Roosevelt ...

Roosevelt
's
New Deal The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory Systems theory is the interdisciplinar ...
) would eventually raise concern during the wartime period. In particular, concerns were raised that industry laboratories were largely allowed full patent rights of technologies developed with federal funds. These concerns, in part, led to efforts like Senator 's "Science Mobilization Act".


1940–49

Amidst growing awareness that US military capability depended on strength in science and engineering, Congress considered several proposals to support research in these fields. Separately, President
Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American politician who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the De ...

Franklin D. Roosevelt
sponsored creation of organizations to coordinate federal funding of science for war, including the
National Defense Research Committee The National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) was an organization created "to coordinate, supervise, and conduct scientific research on the problems underlying the development, production, and use of mechanisms and devices of warfare" in the Uni ...
and the
Office of Scientific Research and Development The Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) was an agency of the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily l ...
both from 1941 to 1947. Despite broad agreement over the principle of federal support for science, working out a consensus on how to organize and manage it required five years. The five-year political debate over the creation of a national scientific agency has been a topic for academic study, understood from a variety of perspectives. Themes include disagreements over administrative structure, patents and inclusion of social sciences, a
populist Populism refers to a range of political stances that emphasise the idea of "the people" and often juxtapose this group against "the elite". The term developed in the 19th century and has been applied to various politicians, parties, and moveme ...

populist
-versus-scientist dispute,B.L.R. Smith 1990: 40, cited in Daniel Kleinman ''Politics on the Endless Frontier'' as well as the roles of political parties, Congress, and
President Truman Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs ...

President Truman
. Commonly, this debate is characterized by the conflict between
New Deal The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems theory Systems theory is the interdisciplinar ...
Senator and OSRD head
Vannevar Bush Vannevar Bush ( ; March 11, 1890 – June 28, 1974) was an American engineer, inventor and science administrator, who during World War II, World War II headed the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), through which almo ...

Vannevar Bush
. Narratives about the National Science Foundation prior to the 1970s typically concentrated on Vannevar Bush and his 1945 publication Science—The Endless Frontier. In this report, Vannevar Bush, then head of the
Office of Scientific Research and Development The Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) was an agency of the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily l ...
which began the
Manhattan Project The Manhattan Project was a research and development Research is " creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information to increase understa ...
, addressed plans for the postwar years to further foster government commitment to science and technology. Issued to President Harry S. Truman in July 1945, the report made a strong case for federally-funded scientific research, arguing that the nation would reap rich dividends in the form of better health care, a more vigorous economy, and a stronger national defense. It proposed creating a new federal agency, the National Research Foundation. The NSF first appeared as a comprehensive New Deal Policy proposed by Sen. Harley Kilgore of West Virginia. In 1942, Senator Kilgore introduced the "Science Mobilization Act" (S. 1297), which did not pass. Perceiving organizational chaos, elitism, over-concentration of funds in elite universities, and lack of incentives for socially applicable research, Kilgore envisioned a comprehensive and centralized research body supporting
basic Basic or BASIC may refer to: Science and technology * BASIC BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is a family of General-purpose programming language, general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy ...
and
applied research Applied science is the use of the scientific method The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves caref ...
which would be controlled by members of the public and civil servants rather than scientific experts. The public would own the rights to all patents funded by public monies and research monies would be equitably spread across universities. Kilgore's supporters included non-elite universities, small businesses, and the Budget Bureau. His proposals received mixed support. Vannevar Bush opposed Kilgore, preferring science policy driven by experts and scientists rather than public and civil servants. Bush was concerned that public interests would politicize science, and believed that scientists would be the best judges of the direction and needs of their field. While Bush and Kilgore both agreed on the need for a national science policy, Bush maintained that scientists should continue to own the research results and
patent A patent is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of years in exchange for publishing an sufficiency of disclosure, enabling disclo ...

patent
s, wanted project selection limited to scientists, and focused support on basic research, not the social sciences, leaving the market to support applied projects. Sociologist Daniel Kleinman divides the debate into three broad legislative attempts. The first attempt consisted of the 1945 Magnuson bill (S. 1285), the 1945 Science and Technology Mobilization Bill, a 1945 compromise bill (S. 1720), a 1946 compromise bill (S. 1850), and the Mills Bill (H.B. 6448). The Magnuson bill was sponsored by Senator
Warren Magnuson Warren Grant "Maggie" Magnuson (April 12, 1905May 20, 1989) was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a U.S. Representative (1937–1944) and a U.S. Senator (1944–1981) from Washington. He s ...

Warren Magnuson
and drafted by the OSRD, headed by Vannevar Bush. The Science and Technology Mobilization bill was promoted by Harley Kilgore. The bills called for the creation of a centralized science agency, but differed in governance and research supported. The second attempt, in 1947, included Senator H. Alexander Smith's bill S. 526, and Senator Elbert Thomas's bill S. 525. The Smith bill reflected ideas of Vannevar Bush, while the Thomas bill was identical to the previous year's compromise bill (S. 1850). After amendments, the Smith bill made it to President Truman's desk, but it was vetoed. Truman wrote that regrettably, the proposed agency would have been "divorced from control by the people to an extent that implies a distinct lack of faith in the democratic process".Truman, cited in Daniel Kleinman's ''Politics on the Endless Frontier''. The third attempt began with the introduction of S. 2385 in 1948. This was a compromise bill cosponsored by Smith and Kilgore, and Bush aide John Teeter had contributed in the drafting process. In 1949, S. 247 was introduced by the same group of senators behind S. 2385, marking the fourth and final effort to establish a national science agency. Essentially identical to S. 2385, S. 247 passed the Senate and the House with a few amendments. It was signed by President Truman on May 10, 1950. Kleinman points out that the final NSF bill closely resembles Vannevar Bush's proposals.


1950–59

In 1950
Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884December 26, 1972) was the 33rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the ...

Harry S. Truman
signed Public Law 507, or 42 U.S.C. 16 creating the National Science Foundation. which provided for a
National Science Board The National Science Board (NSB) of the United States establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF) within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President of the United States, President and the United ...
of twenty-four part-time members. In 1951 Truman nominated Alan T. Waterman, chief scientist at the
Office of Naval Research The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is an organization within the United States Department of the Navy responsible for the science and technology programs of the U.S. Navy and United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps. Established by Congress in 19 ...
, to become the first Director. With the Korean War underway, the agency's initial budget was just $151,000 for 9 months. After moving its administrative offices twice, NSF began its first full year of operations with an appropriation from Congress of $3.5 million, far less the almost $33.5 million requested with which 28 research grants were awarded. After the 1957 Soviet Union orbited
Sputnik 1 Sputnik 1 (; see #Etymology, § Etymology) was the first Satellite, artificial Earth satellite. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union, USSR on 4 October 1957 as part of the Soviet space program. It orbited for ...

Sputnik 1
, the first ever man-made satellite, national self-appraisal questioned American education, scientific, technical and industrial strength and Congress increased the NSF appropriation for 1958 to $40 million. In 1958 the NSF selected
Kitt Peak Kitt Peak ( ood, Ioligam) is a mountain in the U.S. state of Arizona, and at is the highest point in the Quinlan Mountains. It is the location of the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The radio telescope A radio telescope is a specialized an ...
, near
Tucson, Arizona Tucson (; es, Tucsón; O'odham The O'odham peoples, including the Tohono O'odham, the Pima Pima or PIMA may refer to: Places * Pima, Arizona, a town in Graham County * Pima County, Arizona * Pima Canyon, in the Santa Catalina Mountains * Pim ...
, as the site of the first national observatory, that would give any astronomer unprecedented access to state-of-the-art telescopes; previously major research telescopes were privately funded, available only to astronomers who taught at the universities that ran them. The idea expanded to encompass the
National Optical Astronomy Observatory 30 by the 4-meter (158 inch) aperture Mayall telescope, a ground-based optical telescope. The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) is the United States national observatory for ground-based nighttime ultraviolet-Visible spectrum, optical ...
, the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a federally funded research and development center Federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) are public-private partnerships which conduct research and development Rese ...
, the
National Solar Observatory The National Solar Observatory (NSO) is a United States public research institute to advance the knowledge of the solar physics, physics of the Sun. NSO studies the Sun both as an astronomical object and as the dominant external influence on Earth. ...

National Solar Observatory
, the
Gemini Observatory The Gemini Observatory is an astronomical observatory consisting of two 8.1-metre (26.6 ft) telescope A telescope is an optical instrument using lenses, curved mirrors, or a combination of both to observe distant objects, or various devic ...
and the
Arecibo Observatory The Arecibo Observatory, also known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) and formerly known as the Arecibo Ionosphere Observatory, is an observatory in Barrio Esperanza, Arecibo, Puerto Rico owned by the US National Science Fo ...

Arecibo Observatory
, all of which are funded in whole or in part by NSF. The NSF's astronomy program forged a close working relationship with
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agencies of the United States government, independent agency of the Federal government of the United States, U.S. federal government responsible for the civilian Li ...

NASA
, also founded in 1958, in that the NSF provides virtually all the U.S. federal support for ground-based astronomy, while NASA's responsibility is the U.S. effort in space-based astronomy. In 1959 the U.S. and other nations concluded the
Antarctic Treaty russian: link=no, Договор об Антарктике es, link=no, Tratado Antártico , name = Antarctic Treaty System , image = Flag of the Antarctic Treaty.svgborder , image_width = 180px , caption ...
reserving
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Oc ...

Antarctica
for peaceful and scientific research, and a presidential directive gave the NSF responsibility for virtually all U.S. Antarctic operations and research in form of the
United States Antarctic Program The United States Antarctic Program (or USAP; formerly known as the United States Antarctic Research Program or USARP and the United States Antarctic Service or USAS) is an organization of the United States government which has presence in the An ...
.


1960–69

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy appointed Leland John Haworth as the second director of the NSF. During the 1960s, the impact of the
Sputnik Crisis The Sputnik crisis was a period of public fear and anxiety in Western nations about the perceived technological gap between the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US ...
spurred international competition in science and technology and accelerated NSF growth. The NSF initiated a number of programs that support institution-wide research during this decade including the Graduate Science Facilities program (started in 1960), Institutional Grants for Science (started in 1961), and Science Development Grants, better known as Centers of Excellence program (started in 1964). Notable projects conducted during this decade include creation of the
National Center for Atmospheric Research The US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR ) is a US federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) managed by the nonprofit University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and funded by the National Science Foundation ...
(1960), creation of the Division of Environmental Sciences (1965), deep sea exploration endeavors
Project Mohole Project Mohole was an attempt in the early 1960s to drill through the Earth's crust to obtain samples of the Mohorovičić discontinuity The Mohorovičić discontinuity ( , ), usually referred to as the Moho discontinuity or the Moho, is the b ...
(1961) and the
Deep Sea Drilling Project ''Glomar Challenger'' The Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) was an ocean drilling project operated from 1968 to 1983. The program was a success, as evidenced by the data and publications that have resulted from it. The data are now hosted by Texas ...
(1968-1983), the Ecosystems Analysis Program (1969), and ownership of the
Arecibo Observatory The Arecibo Observatory, also known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) and formerly known as the Arecibo Ionosphere Observatory, is an observatory in Barrio Esperanza, Arecibo, Puerto Rico owned by the US National Science Fo ...

Arecibo Observatory
(1969). In 1969, Franklin Long was tentatively selected to take over directorship of the NSF. His nomination caused some controversy due to his opposition to the current administration's antiballistic missile program and was ultimately rejected by President Richard Nixon. William D. McElroy instead took over as the third director of the NSF in 1969. By 1968, the NSF budget had reached nearly $500 million.


1970–79

In 1972 the NSF took over management of twelve interdisciplinary materials research laboratories from the Defense Department's
Advanced Research Projects Agency The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an United States federal executive depart ...
(DARPA). These university-based laboratories had taken a more integrated approach than did most academic departments at the time, encouraging physicists, chemists, engineers, and metallurgists to cross departmental boundaries and use systems approaches to attack complex problems of materials synthesis or processing. The NSF expanded these laboratories into a nationwide network of Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers. In 1972 the NSF launched the biennial "Science & Engineering Indicators" report to the US president and Congress, as required by the NSF Act of 1950. In 1977 the first interconnection of unrelated networks was developed, run by
DARPA The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military. Originally known as the Ad ...
.


1980–89

During this decade, increasing NSF involvement lead to a three-tiered system of internetworks managed by a mix of universities, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. By the mid-1980s, primary financial support for the growing project was assumed by the NSF. In 1983, NSF budget topped $1 billion for the first time. Major increases in the nation's research budget were proposed as "the country recognizes the importance of research in science and technology, and education". The U.S. Antarctic Program was taken out of the NSF appropriation now requiring a separate appropriation. The NSF received more than 27,000 proposals and funded more than 12,000 of them in 1983. In 1985, the NSF delivered ozone sensors, along with balloons and helium, to researchers at the South Pole so they can measure stratospheric ozone loss. This was in response to findings earlier that year, indicating a steep drop in ozone over a period of several years. The Internet project continued, now known as
NSFNET The National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) was a program of coordinated, evolving projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent agency of the United States government Indepen ...
.


1990–99

In 1990 the NSF's appropriation passed $2 billion for the first time. NSF funded the development of several curricula based on the
NCTM standards ''Principles and Standards for School Mathematics'' (''PSSM'') are guidelines produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in 2000, setting forth recommendations for mathematics educators. They form a national vision for presc ...
, devised by the
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Founded in 1920, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is the world's largest mathematics education In contemporary education, mathematics education is the practice of teaching and learning mathematics, along with the associate ...
. These standards were widely adopted by school districts during the subsequent decade. However, in what newspapers such as the
Wall Street Journal ''The Wall Street Journal'', also known as ''The Journal'', is an American business-focused, English-language international daily newspaper A newspaper is a periodical Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simpl ...

Wall Street Journal
called the "math wars", organizations such as
Mathematically Correct Mathematically Correct was a U.S.-based website created by educators, parents, mathematicians, and scientists who were concerned about the direction of reform mathematics curriculum, curricula based on NCTM standards. Created in 1997, it was a freq ...
complained that some elementary texts based on the standards, including
Mathland ''MathLand'' was one of several elementary mathematics curricula that were designed around the 1989 NCTM standards. It was developed and published by Creative Publications and was initially adopted by the U.S. state of California and schools run by ...
, have almost entirely abandoned any instruction of traditional arithmetic in favor of cutting, coloring, pasting, and writing. During that debate, NSF was both lauded and criticized for favoring the standards. In 1991 the NSFNET
acceptable use policy An acceptable use policy (AUP), acceptable usage policy or fair use policy, is a set of rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with D ...
was altered to allow commercial traffic. By 1995, with private, commercial market thriving, NSF decommissioned the NSFNET, allowing for public use of the Internet. In 1993 students and staff at the NSF-supported
National Center for Supercomputing Applications The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is a state-federal partnership to develop and deploy national-scale cyberinfrastructure that advances research, science and engineering based in the United States of America The Un ...
(NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, developed
Mosaic A mosaic is a pattern or image made of small regular or irregular pieces of colored stone, glass or ceramic, held in place by plaster/mortar, and covering a surface. Mosaics are often used as floor and wall decoration, and were particularly pop ...
, the first freely available browser to allow
World Wide Web The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information system An information system (IS) is a formal, sociotechnical Sociotechnical systems (STS) in organizational development is an approach to complex organizational ...
pages that include both graphics and text. Within 18 months, NCSA Mosaic becomes the Web browser of choice for more than a million users, and sets off an exponential growth in the number of Web users. In 1994 NSF, together with
DARPA The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military. Originally known as the Ad ...
and
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agencies of the United States government, independent agency of the Federal government of the United States, U.S. federal government responsible for the civilian Li ...

NASA
, launched the Digital Library Initiative. One of the first six grants went to
Stanford University Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Du ...

Stanford University
, where two graduate students,
Larry Page Lawrence Edward Page (born March 26, 1973) is an American computer scientist A computer scientist is a person who has acquired the knowledge of computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, a ...

Larry Page
and
Sergey Brin Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin (russian: Серге́й Миха́йлович Брин, tr. ''Sergéj Mixájlovič Brin''; born August 21, 1973) is an American computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur. Together with Larry Page Lawrence ...
, began to develop a search engine that used the links between Web pages as a ranking method, which they later commercialized under the name
Google Google LLC is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational stat ...

Google
. In 1996 NSF-funded research established beyond doubt that the chemistry of the atmosphere above Antarctica was grossly abnormal and that levels of key chlorine compounds are greatly elevated. During two months of intense work, NSF researchers learned most of what is known about the
ozone hole Ozone depletion consists of two related events observed since the late 1970s: a steady lowering of about four percent in the total amount of ozone Ozone (), or trioxygen, is an inorganic molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scannin ...
. In 1998 two independent teams of NSF-supported astronomers discovered that the expansion of the universe was actually speeding up, as if some previously unknown force, now known as
dark energy In physical cosmology Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology concerned with the study of cosmological models. A cosmological model, or simply cosmology, provides a description of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the unive ...

dark energy
, is driving the galaxies apart at an ever-increasing rate. Since passage of the Small Business Technology Transfer Act of 1992 (Public Law 102–564, Title II), NSF has been required to reserve 0.3% of its extramural research budget for Small Business Technology Transfer awards, and 2.8% of its R&D budget for small business innovation research.


2000–09

NSF joined with other federal agencies in the
National Nanotechnology Initiative The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a research and development Research is " creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge". It involves the collection, organization, and analysis of information to ...
, dedicated to the understanding and control of matter at the atomic and molecular scale. NSF's roughly $300 million annual investment in nanotechnology research was still one of the largest in the 23-agency initiative. In 2001, NSF's appropriation passed $4 billion. The NSF's "Survey of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology" revealed that the public had a positive attitude toward science, but a poor understanding of it. During 2004–5 NSF sent "rapid response" research teams to investigate the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster and
Hurricane Katrina Hurricane Katrina was a large and destructive List of Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes, Category 5 Atlantic hurricane that caused over 1,800 fatalities and $125 billion in damage in late August 2005, especially in the city of New Orleans and ...
. An NSF-funded engineering team helped uncover why the levees failed in
New Orleans New Orleans (,New Orleans
. In 2005, NSF's budget stood at $5.6 billion, in 2006 it stood at $5.91 billion for the 2007 fiscal year (October 1, 2006 through September 30, 2007), and in 2007 NSF requested $6.43 billion for FY 2008.


2010–19

President Obama requested $7.373 billion for fiscal year 2013. Due to the
October 1, 2013 shutdown of the Federal Government, and NSF's lapse in funding, their website was down "until further notice," but was brought back online after the US government passed their budget. In 2014, NSF awarded rapid response grants to study a chemical spill that contaminated the drinking water of about 300,000 West Virginia residents. In early 2018, it was announced that Trump would cut NSF Research Funding by 30% but quickly rescinded this due to backlash. As of May 2018, Heather Wilson, the secretary of the Air Force, signed that letter of intent with the director of NSF initiating partnership for the research related to space operations and
Geosciences Earth science or geoscience includes all fields of natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Ta ...
, advanced
material sciences The Interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinary field of materials science, also commonly termed materials science and engineering, covers the design and discovery of new materials, particularly solids. The intellectual origins of materials science st ...
, information and
data science #REDIRECT Data science#REDIRECT Data science Data science is an Interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinary field that uses scientific methods, processes, algorithms and systems to extract knowledge and insights from structured and unstructured data ...

data science
s, and workforce and processes.


Grants and the merit review process

The NSF seeks to fulfill its mission chiefly by issuing competitive, limited-term grants in response to specific proposals from the research community and establishing cooperative agreements with research organizations. It does not operate its own laboratories, unlike other federal research agencies, notable examples being
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agencies of the United States government, independent agency of the Federal government of the United States, U.S. federal government responsible for the civilian Li ...

NASA
and the
National Institutes of Health The National Institutes of Health (NIH ) is the primary agency of the United States government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government) is the national government of the United States The United Sta ...
(NIH). The NSF uses four main mechanisms to communicate funding opportunities and generate proposals: dear colleague letters, program descriptions, program announcements, and program solicitations. The NSF receives over 50,000 such proposals each year, and funds about 10,000 of them. Those funded are typically projects that are ranked highest in a 'merit review' process, the current version of which was introduced in 1997. Reviews are carried out by ad hoc reviewers and panels of independent scientists, engineers, and educators who are experts in the relevant fields of study, and who are selected by the NSF with particular attention to avoiding conflicts of interest. For example, reviewers cannot work at the NSF itself, nor for the institution that employs the proposing researchers. All proposal evaluations are confidential: the proposing researchers may see them, but they do not see the names of the reviewers. The first merit review criterion is 'intellectual merit', the second is that of the 'broader societal impact' of the proposed research; the latter reflects a broader global trend for funding agencies to demand evidence of research 'impact' and has been met with opposition from the scientific and policy communities since its inception in 1997. In June 2010, the
National Science Board The National Science Board (NSB) of the United States establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF) within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President of the United States, President and the United ...
(NSB), the governing body for NSF and science advisers to both the legislative and executive branches, convened a 'Task Force on Merit Review' to determine "how well the current Merit Review criteria used by the NSF to evaluate all proposals were serving the agency." The task force reinforced its support for both criteria as appropriate for the goals and aims of the agency and published a revised version of the merit review criteria in its 2012 report, to clarify and improve the function of the criteria. However, both criteria already had been mandated for all NSF merit review procedures in the 2010 re-authorization of the
America COMPETES Act The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act of 2007 or America COMPETES Act () was authored by Bart Gordon Barton Jennings "Bart" Gordon (born January 24, 1949) is an American lawy ...
. The Act also includes an emphasis on promoting potentially transformative research, a phrase which has been included in the most recent incarnation of the 'merit review' criteria. Most NSF grants go to individuals or small groups of investigators, who carry out research at their home campuses. Other grants provide funding for mid-scale research centers, instruments, and facilities that serve researchers from many institutions. Still, others fund national-scale facilities that are shared by the research community as a whole. Examples of national facilities include the NSF's national observatories, with their giant optical and radio telescopes; its
Antarctic The Antarctic (US English or , UK English or and or ) is a around 's , opposite the region around the . The Antarctic comprises the continent of , the and other located on the or south of the . The Antarctic region includes the , wa ...

Antarctic
research sites; its high-end computer facilities and ultra-high-speed network connections; the ships and submersibles used for ocean research; and its gravitational wave observatories. In addition to researchers and research facilities, NSF grants also support science, engineering and mathematics education from pre-K through graduate school. Undergraduates can receive funding through Research Experiences for Undergraduates summer programs. Graduate students are supported through Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeships (IGERT) and Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) programs and through the Graduate Research Fellowships,
NSF-GRF The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP) is a prestigious grant awarded annually by the National Science Foundation The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an Independent agencies of the United States gover ...
. K-12 and some community college instructors are eligible to participate in compensated Research Experiences for Teachers programs. In addition, an early career-development program (CAREER) supports teacher-scholars that most effectively integrate research and education within the mission of their organization, as a foundation for a lifetime of integrated contributions.


Scope and organization

The NSF is broadly organized into four offices, seven directorates, and the
National Science Board The National Science Board (NSB) of the United States establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF) within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President of the United States, President and the United ...
. It employs about 2,100 people in permanent, temporary and contractual positions at its headquarters in
Alexandria, Virginia Alexandria is an independent city An independent city or independent town is a city or town that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity (such as a province). Historical precursors In the Holy Roman Empire ...

Alexandria, Virginia
. Prior to 2017, its headquarters were located in
Arlington, Virginia Arlington County is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambers (publisher), Willia ...
.https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2017/08/24/national-science-foundation-relocating-to-its-new.html In addition to around 1,400 permanent employees and the staffs of the NSB office and the
Office of the Inspector General In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Wash ...
, the NSF workforce includes some 200 scientists on temporary duty and 450 contract workers. Scientists from research institutions can join the NSF as temporary program directors, called "rotators", overseeing the merit review process and searching for new funding opportunities. These assignments typically last 1–2 years, but may extend to 4. The NSF also offers contracting opportunities. As of May 2018, the NSF has 53 existing contracts.


Offices

* Office of the Director * Office of the Inspector General * Office of Budget, Finance, and Award Management * Office of Information & Resource Management The NSF also supports research through several offices within the Office of the Director, including the Office of Cyberinfrastructure, Office of Polar Programs, Office of Integrative Activities, and Office of International Science and Engineering.


Research directorates

The NSF organizes its research and education support through seven directorates, each encompassing several disciplines: * Biological Sciences (molecular, cellular, and organismal
biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanisms, Development ...

biology
,
environmental science Environmental science is an interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity (e.g., a research project). It draws knowledge from several oth ...
) * Computer and Information Science and Engineering (theoretical
computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for their application. Computer science is the study of , , and . Computer science ...
, fundamental hardware and software, systems and networking, and
artificial intelligence Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules and concept Concepts are defined as abstra ...

artificial intelligence
) * Engineering (bioengineering, environmental systems, civil and mechanical systems, chemical and transport systems, electrical and communications systems, and design and manufacturing) * Geosciences (geological, atmospheric and ocean sciences) * Mathematical and Physical Sciences (
mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no general consensus abo ...
,
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, phys ...
,
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scie ...

physics
,
chemistry Chemistry is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. T ...

chemistry
and
materials science The interdisciplinary Interdisciplinarity or interdisciplinary studies involves the combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity (e.g., a research project). It draws knowledge from several other fields like sociology, a ...
) * Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (
neuroscience Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system In biology, the classical doctrine of the nervous system determines that it is a Complex system, highly complex part of an animal that coordinates its Behavior, actions and Sens ...

neuroscience
,
management Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spok ...

management
,
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
,
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the scie ...
,
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...
,
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistics
,
science of science policyScience of science policy (SoSP) is an emerging interdisciplinary research area that seeks to develop theoretical and empirical models of the scientific enterprise. This scientific basis can be used to help government, and society in general, make be ...
and
economics Economics () is a social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the behaviour and interact ...
) * Education and Human Resources (
science Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of ...
, technology education, technology, engineering education, engineering and mathematics education at every level)


Overseas sites

Prior to October 2018, NSF maintained three overseas offices to promote collaboration between the science and engineering communities of the United States and other continents' scientific communities: * Brussels for Europe, formerly based in Paris (established 1984; relocated to Brussels in 2015) * Tokyo for East Asia, except China (established 1960) * Beijing for China (established 2006) All three overseas offices were shut down in October 2018, to reflect the agency's move to a more nimble international posture. Rather than maintain dedicated offices, NSF will dispatch small teams to specific international institutions. Teams may work for up to a week on-site to evaluate research and explore collaborations with the institution.


Crosscutting programs

In addition to the research it funds in specific disciplines, the NSF has launched a number of projects that coordinate the efforts of experts in many disciplines, which often involve collaborations with other U.S. federal agencies. Examples include initiatives in: * Nanotechnology * The science of learning * Digital library, Digital libraries * The ecology of infectious diseases


National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics

NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) gathers data from surveys and partnerships with other agencies to offer official data on the American science and engineering workforce, graduates of advanced U.S. science and engineering programs, and R&D expenditures by U.S. industry. NCSES is one of the Federal Statistical System of the United States, principal U.S. statistical agencies. It is a part of the NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE).


Criticism

In May 2011, Republican Party (United States), Republican Senator Tom Coburn released a 73-page report, "National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope", receiving immediate attention from such media outlets as ''The New York Times'', Fox News, and MSNBC. The report found fault with various research projects and was critical of the social sciences. It started a controversy about political bias and a Congressional Inquiry into federally sponsored research. In 2014, Republicans proposed a bill to limit the NSF Board's authority in grant-writing. In 2013, the NSF had funded the work of Mark Carey at University of Oregon with a $412,930 grant, which included a study concerning gender in glaciological research. After its January 2016 release, the NSF drew criticism for alleged misuse of funding.Paul Baske
U.S. House Backs New Bid to Require ‘National Interest’ Certification for NSF Grants
February 11, 2016, retrieved July 12, 2017
Some historians of science have argued that the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 was an unsatisfactory compromise between too many clashing visions of the purpose and scope of the federal government. The NSF was certainly not ''the'' primary government agency for the funding of basic science, as its supporters had originally envisioned in the aftermath of World War II. By 1950, support for major areas of research had already become dominated by specialized agencies such as the
National Institutes of Health The National Institutes of Health (NIH ) is the primary agency of the United States government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government) is the national government of the United States The United Sta ...
(medical research) and the United States Atomic Energy Commission, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (nuclear and particle physics). That pattern would continue after 1957 when U.S. anxiety over the launch of Sputnik led to the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (space science) and the DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (defense-related research).


See also

* American Association for the Advancement of Science * Capital Jury Project * C-MORE, the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education, an NSF Science and Technology Center * International Council on Nanotechnology * Mid-InfraRed Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE) (largely based at Princeton University in the US) * National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program * National Digital Library Program (NDLP) * Research council * Scientific literacy * Science and Technology Policy Institute * SedDB, online database for sediment geochemistry * U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation * United States National Academy of Sciences * USA.gov * USAFacts


References


Further reading


Oral history interview with Bruce H. Barnes, 26-Sep-1990
– Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Barnes describes his duties as a program director at NSF. He provides brief overviews and examples of NSF's support of research in theoretical computer science, computer architecture, numerical methods, software engineering, and the development of networking. He describes NSF's support for the development of computing facilities through the 'Coordinated Experimental Research Program'.
Science and Engineering Indicators
published biannually since 1972 by the
National Science Board The National Science Board (NSB) of the United States establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF) within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President of the United States, President and the United ...
, provides quantitative information on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise. * Mark Solovey. 2020. ''Social Science for What?: Battles over Public Funding for the "Other Sciences" at the National Science Foundation''. MIT Press.


External links


Official Website

National Science Foundation
in the Federal Register
IGERT

TerraFly Autopilot Walk from Metro to NSF offices
* Historic technical reports from the National Science Foundation (and other federal agencies) are available in th
Technical Report Archive and Image Library (TRAIL)

"U.S. lawmakers unveil bold $100 billion plan to remake NSF", Science (May, 26, 2020)
{{Authority control National Science Foundation, Independent agencies of the United States government Science and technology in the United States Government agencies established in 1950 Scientific organizations established in 1950 1950 establishments in the United States Funding bodies Scientific research foundations