Key Program Functions
and NSF's Core Strategies
NSF pursues its goals through four core
strategies, also enunciated in its Strategic Plan, against which
the agency tests its plans and programmatic activity. With varying
emphases, each key program function makes use of all of NSF's
core strategies to further these goals. The four strategies are:
- Develop Intellectual Capital.
NSF invests in the nation's
intellectual capital--in people and the ideas they create. This
means looking for areas that are particularly ripe for advancement,
identifying and supporting the best ideas in research and education
and the most capable people, providing large facilities if warranted,
and encouraging effective ways for engaging students with science
- Strengthen the Physical Infrastructure.
Creative, innovative ideas require tools for their pursuit. The
physical infrastructure (laboratories and other shared facilities,
instrumentation, and other research resources) is an enabling
aspect of NSF's activities. It helps create an environment in
which effective progress is possible. NSF promotes the intelligent
development of a versatile and adaptable infrastructure for the
future through all its key program functions. The Research Facilities
function is dedicated to this strengthening. Many research projects
produce, as a natural by-product, up-to-date research laboratories
and instruments. Education and Training programs also contribute
to physical infrastructure in many ways, such as supporting undergraduate
laboratories or developing software for learning and teaching.
- Integrate Research and Education.
NSF's close involvement with academic institutions gives it the
ability to promote the closer coupling of research and education.
NSF aims to engage researchers and educators in a joint effort
to infuse education with the joy of discovery at every level,
and to bring an awareness of the needs of the learning process
to research, creating a rich environment for both. Research Project
Support activities traditionally achieve this integration through
the mentoring of graduate students in research projects, but also
in other ways such as through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates
and Research in Undergraduate Institutions programs. Facilities
enable, for instance, doctoral dissertations in the most cutting-edge
fields. The Education and Training key program function supports
many programs which strive to integrate research and teaching,
such as graduate research traineeships and fellowships and Institution-wide
Reform of Undergraduate Education, and encourages inquiry-based
science and mathematics education at every level, even in kindergarten.
- Promote Partnerships.
NSF does not itself perform research or education activities.
Thus, the Foundation cannot achieve its goals without partnerships.
Success requires collaboration with many different partners, including
the academic community, industry, elementary and secondary schools,
other federal agencies, state and local governments, and other
institutions in the U.S. and abroad involved in science and engineering.
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