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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a United Statesmarker government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Healthmarker. With an annual budget of about $6.02 billion (fiscal year 2008), NSF funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by the United States' colleges and universities. In some fields, such as mathematics, computer science, economics and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

The NSF's director, deputy director, and the 24 members of the National Science Board (NSB) are appointed by the President of the United States, and confirmed by the United States Senate. 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 Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., and the current acting deputy director is Dr. Cora Marrett.

Grants and the merit review process

Although many other federal research agencies operate their own laboratories—notable examples being the National Aeronautics and Space Administrationmarker (NASA) and the National Institutes of Healthmarker (NIH)—NSF does not. Instead, it seeks to fulfill its mission chiefly by issuing competitive, limited-term grants in response to specific proposals from the research community. (NSF also makes some contracts.) Some proposals are solicited, and some are not; NSF funds both kinds.

NSF receives about 40,000 such proposals each year, and funds about 10,000 of them. Those funded are typically the projects that are ranked highest in a merit review process. These reviews are carried out by panels of independent scientists, engineers and educators who are experts in the relevant fields of study, and who are selected by NSF with particular attention to avoiding conflicts of interest. (For example, the reviewers cannot work at 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).

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 NSF’s national observatories, with their giant optical and radio telescopes; its Antarcticmarker 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 REU summer programs. Graduate students are supported through IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeships) and AGEP (Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate) programs and through the Graduate Research Fellowships, NSF-GRF. 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

National Science Foundation Building
NSF’s workforce numbers about 1700, nearly all working at its Arlington, Virginiamarker headquarters. That includes about 1200 career employees, 150 scientists from research institutions on temporary duty, 200 contract workers, and the staff of the National Science Board office and the Office of the Inspector General, which examines the foundation's work and reports to the NSB and Congress.

Research directorates

NSF organizes its research and education support through seven directorates, each encompassing several disciplines:

Other research offices

NSF also supports research through several offices within the Office of the Director:

Crosscutting programs

In addition to the research it funds in specific disciplines, NSF has launched a number of crosscutting projects that coordinate the efforts of experts in many disciplines. Examples include initiatives in:

In many cases, these projects involve collaborations with other U.S. federal agencies.

History and mission

The NSF was established by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. Its stated mission:
To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.


Some historians of science have argued that the result was an unsatisfactory compromise between too many clashing visions of the purpose and scope of the federal government. 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 Healthmarker (medical research) and the 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 Administrationmarker (space science) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (defense-related research).

Nonetheless, 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. Today, as described in its 2003–2008 strategic plan, NSF is the only U. S. federal agency with a mandate to support all the non-medical fields of research.

In the process, moreover, the foundation has come to enjoy strong bipartisan support from Congress. Especially after the technology boom of the 1980s, both sides of the aisle have generally embraced the notion that government-funded basic research is essential for the nation's economic health and global competitiveness, as well as for the national defense. That support has manifested itself in an expanding budget—from $1 billion in 1983 to just over $6.02 billion by FY 2008. ( fiscal year 2007).

Timeline

Pre-World War II
Academic research in science and engineering is not considered a federal responsibility; almost all support comes from private contributions and charitable foundations. Governmental research into science and technology was largely uncoordinated; military research is compartmentalized to the point where different branches are often working on the same subject without realizing it.
World War II
There is a growing awareness that America's military capability owes a great deal to the nation's strength in science and engineering. Congress considers several proposals to provide federal support for research in these fields. Separately, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sponsors the creation of several organizations to coordinate federal funding of science for the purposes of war, including the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development.
1945
Vannevar Bush—head of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, intimately connected with the Manhattan Project, and personal acquaintance of the President—was asked by President Roosevelt in 1944 to write a report on the what should be done in the postwar to further foster government commitment to science and technology. Bush issued his report to President Harry S. Truman in July 1945, entitled [http
1945–1950
Although there is broad agreement in Washington with the principle of federal support for science, there is far less agreement on exactly how that effort should be organized and managed. Thrashing out a consensus requires five years of negotiation and compromise.
1950
On May 10, President Truman signs Public Law 507, creating the National Science Foundation. The act provides for a National Science Board of twenty-four part-time members and a director as chief executive officer, all appointed by the president.
1951
In early March, Truman nominates Alan T. Waterman, the chief scientist at the Office of Naval Research, to become the first Director of the fledgling agency. With the Korean War underway, money is tight
1952
After moving its administrative offices twice, NSF begins its first full year of operations with an appropriation from Congress of just $3.5 million, a figure far less the almost $33.5 million requested. Twenty-eight research grants are awarded.
1957
On October 5, the Soviet Union orbits Sputnik 1, the first ever man-made satellite. The successful rocket launch forces a national self-appraisal that questions American education, scientific, technical and industrial strength. For 1959, Congress increases the NSF appropriation to $134 million, nearly $100 million higher than the year before. By 1968, the NSF budget will stand at nearly $500 million.
1958
NSF selects Kitt Peakmarker, near Tucson, Arizonamarker, as the site of the first national observatory, a research center that would make state-of-the-art telescopes available to every astronomer in the nation. (Prior to this time, there was no equal access; major research telescopes were privately funded, and were available only to the astronomers who taught at the universities that ran them.) Today, that idea has expanded to encompass the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, the Gemini Observatorymarker and the Arecibo Observatorymarker, all of which are funded in whole or in part by NSF. Along the way, moreover, NSF's astronomy program has forged a close working relationship with that of NASA, which was also founded in 1958
1959
The United States and other nations operating in Antarcticamarker conclude a treaty that reserves the continent for peaceful and scientific research. Shortly thereafter, a presidential directive based on the treaty gives NSF the responsibility for virtually all U.S. operations and research on the continent; the U.S. Antarctic Program continues to this day.
1960
Emphasis on international scientific and technological competition further accelerates NSF growth. The Foundation starts the Institutional Support Program, a capital funding program designed to build a research infrastructure among American universities; it will be the single largest beneficiary of NSF budget growth in the 1960s. NSF's appropriation is $152.7 million; 2,000 grants are made.
1968
The Deep Sea Drilling Project begins. Over the years, the project reveals much new evidence about the concepts of continental drift, sea floor spreading and the general usefulness of the ocean basins. The program also becomes a model of international cooperation as several foreign countries join the operation.
1972
NSF takes over management of twelve interdisciplinary materials research laboratories from the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (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. NSF begins to expand these laboratories into a nationwide network of Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers.
1972 : NSF launched the biennial Science & Engineering Indicators report to the President of the United States and U.S. Congress. Founded in 1968 as a research institution in bibliometrics and patent analytics ipIQ dba The Patent Board has provided patent indicators and science literature analysis since the intitial report in 1972.
1977
The first "Internet" is developed. This interconnection of unrelated networks is run by DARPA. Over the next decade, increasing NSF involvement leads 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 is assumed by the NSF.
1983
The agency budget tops $1 billion for the first time. Major increases in the nation's research budget are proposed as the country recognizes the importance of research in science and technology, as well as education. A separate appropriation is established for the U.S. [http
1985
In November NSF delivers ozone sensors, along with balloons and helium, to researchers at the South Pole so they can measure stratospheric ozone loss. The action is taken in response to findings made in May of that year, indicating a steep drop in ozone over a period of several years. The Internet project, now known as NSFNET, continues.
1990
NSF's appropriation passes $2 billion for the first time.
1990s
NSF funds the development of several curricula based on the NCTM standards, devised by the [http
1991
In March, the NSFNET acceptable use policy is altered to allow commercial traffic. By 1995, with the private, commercial market thriving, NSF decommissions the NSFNET, allowing for public use of the Internet.
1993
Students and staff working at the NSF-supported National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, develop Mosaic, the first freely available browser to allow World Wide Web 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.
1994
NSF, together with NASA and DARPA, launches the [http
1996
NSF-funded research establishes beyond doubt that the chemistry of the atmosphere above Antarctica is grossly abnormal and that levels of key chlorine compounds are greatly elevated. During two months of intense work, NSF researchers learn most of what we know today about the ozone hole.
1998
Two independent teams of NSF-supported astronomers discover that the expansion of the universe is actually speeding up, as if some previously unknown force, now known as dark energy, is driving the galaxies apart at an ever increasing rate.
2000
NSF joins with other federal agencies in the National Nanotechnology Initiative, dedicated to the understanding and control of matter at the atomic and molecular scale. Today, NSF's roughly $300 million annual investment in nanotechnology research is still one of the largest in the 23-agency initiative.
2001
NSF's appropriation passes $4 billion.


The NSF's Survey of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology reveals that the public has a positive attitude toward science but a poor understanding of it.


2004–5
NSF sends "rapid response" research teams to investigate the aftermath of the [http
2005
NSF's budget stands at just over $5.6 billion.
2006
NSF's budget stands at $5.91 billion for the 2007 fiscal year that began on October 1, 2006 and runs through September 30, 2007.
2007
NSF requests $6.43 billion dollars for FY 2008. ([http


Public attitudes and understanding

NSF surveys of public attitudes and knowledge have consistently shown that the public has a positive view of science but has little scientific understanding. The greatest deficit remains the public's understanding of the scientific method. Recent surveys indicate that elsewhere in the world, including Japan and Europe, public interest in science and technology is lower than in the United States, with Chinamarker a notable exception. A preponderance of Americans (54%) have heard "nothing at all" about nanotechnology.

Pornography investigation

In September of 2009, it was revealed that investigations into NSF employee misconduct involving accessing online pornography grew considerably the previous year. The increase was so great that the agency's inspector general cut back on investigating grant fraud.

See also



References

  1. National Science Board (NSB)
  2. NSF: Staff Directory, retrieved 2009-05-25
  3. NSF: Summer Research
  4. NSF: IGERT Programs
  5. NSF: AGEP Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate
  6. nsf.gov - Funding - Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program - US National Science Foundation (NSF)
  7. David M. Hart, The Forged Consensus: Science, Technology, and Economic Policy in the United States, 1921–1953 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).
  8. George T. Mazuzan, "The National Science Foundation: A Brief History" ( NSF Publication nsf8816).
  9. NSFNET, National Science Foundation Network
  10. nsf.gov - SRS Survey Descriptions - US National Science Foundation (NSF)
  11. Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 - Chapter 7: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding - Information Sources, Interest, and Perceived Knowledge
  12. Porn surfing rampant at U.S. science foundation. Jim McElhatton. The Washington Times. September 29, 2009.


External links



Science and Engineering Indicators, published by the National Science Board, provides a broad base of quantitative information on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise.


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