text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text
Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to directorate navigationSkip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation HomeNational Science Foundation - Directorate for Engineering (ENG)
design element
ENG Home
About ENG
Funding Opportunities
Advisory Committee
Career Opportunities
See Additional ENG Resources
View ENG Staff
ENG Organizations
Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET)
Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI)
Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS)
Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)
Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI)
Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
Proposals and Awards
Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide
Proposal Preparation and Submission
bullet Grant Proposal Guide
  bullet Grants.gov Application Guide
Award and Administration
bullet Award and Administration Guide
Award Conditions
Other Types of Proposals
Merit Review
NSF Outreach
Policy Office
Additional ENG Resources
NSF National Nanotechnology Initiative

NSF Engineering: The Long View

NSF Engineering: The Long View


Our Vision. In partnership with society, engineering creates, integrates, and applies new knowledge across ever-changing disciplines to create shared wealth, protect and restore the environment, and improve the quality of life.

As we enter the 21st century, society's well-being will increasingly depend on maintaining a preeminent engineering work force and technical knowledge base. This challenge will be ably met by a strong and dynamic engineering community, forged out of the many engineering and related disciplines.

Advancements in the quality of education will give tomorrow's engineers a broader command of science and technology, as well as a rich and holistic context for solving societal problems and creating new products and processes. Our engineers will reflect the rich fabric of life, with all its diversity, and will, therefore, have a better understanding of the world and its people. They will be able to assume stronger leadership roles in government, industry, and academe. Likewise, the education of all citizens will include an early exposure to the engineering process and its impact on society, which is needed to understand and deal with our rapidly changing technological world.

Continued disciplinary strength and added attention to disciplinary interfaces, where increasingly new knowledge is created, will generate fresh ideas and directions for engineering education and research and boost the synergy between them. Integrative partnerships among universities, industry, and government will develop to exploit new discoveries, applying engineering solutions to the Nation's most pressing problems, such as renewing the Nation's civil infrastructure, revitalizing manufacturing and the service industries, improving health care, and protecting the environment.

In partnership with all NSF entities, other Federal agencies, the private sector, and public constituencies, NSF's Engineering Directorate (ENG) will play a vital and catalytic role in realizing this vision.

Our Mission. ENG seeks to strengthen the capability of engineering--its knowledge bases and systems, its institutions, and its human and physical resources--to contribute to the Nation's prosperity, security, and welfare. It does this by supporting programs and activities that foster innovation, creativity, and excellence in engineering education, fundamental research, and knowledge application and by promoting the natural synergy between these elements.

Our Goals. In pursuit of this mission, ENG seeks to

  • Improve the quality of engineering education and the attraction and retention of students to yield well-educated, professionally oriented engineers who are able to assume broad leadership roles in society.

  • Foster intellectual growth and technological advances by supporting leading-edge research in the engineering disciplines, at disciplinary interfaces, and in multidisciplinary areas.

  • Encourage integration and synergy between education and research, the fields of science and engineering, and research and practical applications.

  • Capitalize on the rich diversity of human resources by increasing the number of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities who participate fully in engineering education, research, and practice.

  • Promote new partnerships and cooperation among the diverse engineering constituencies, including academe, industry, other Federal agencies, and other nations.


Past Efforts. In 1986 NSF set out to strengthen and revitalize the support of engineering education and research within the Foundation. The goals were to (1) strengthen support for cross-disciplinary, systems-oriented research; technology-driven fields, such as design and manufacturing; and emerging technologies, such as biotechnology and light wave technology; (2) improve undergraduate engineering education; and (3) increase the participation of underrepresented groups in engineering. To date there has been significant progress in meeting these goals. ENG is currently supporting 18 Engineering Research Centers, which provide unique environments focused on technological systems where cross-disciplinary education and research have flourished and yielded new technologies and engineering graduates responsive to industry's contemporary and future needs. Support for design, manufacturing, materials, biotechnology, and other technology-oriented fields has grown substantially in the past 7 years. Support for undergraduate education has grown substantially, with eight engineering education coalitions helping to change the educational paradigm. Support for underrepresented groups has increased significantly during the past few years, but it is too early to tell what broad impact ENG's efforts in this area will have on the engineering community.

Current Planning Context. In the past 2 years, there has been new emphasis on strategic thinking, at both the Directorate and agency levels. Last year, with considerable input from the ENG Advisory Committee, the ENG Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) produced the first ENG Long View document. Concurrently, the NSF Director and the National Science Board (NSB) chartered The National Science Board Commission on the Future of the National Science Foundation whose Report provided the framework for our subsequent efforts. A dominant theme in the Commission Report is the need for greater linkages and integration in all facets of NSF activities. The NSB Commission went on to provide a robust context for NSF's long-term vision:

The history of science and its uses suggest that NSF should have two goals in the allocation of its resources:

  • 1. To support first-rate research at many points on the frontiers of knowledge, identified and defined by the best researchers.

  • 2. To balance the allocation of resources in strategic research areas in response to scientific and engineering opportunities to meet national goals.

It is in the national interest to pursue both goals with vigor and in a balanced way.

Pursuant to the NSB Commission Report, ENG has been engaged with NSF staff to develop five strategic themes to guide ENG efforts through the next decade. These themes are embraced in this document and are as follows:

    • Intellectual Integration--to synergize the knowledge and skills of diverse disciplines and cultures

    • Organizational Integration--to promote mutually beneficial sharing of knowledge and resources

    • Investment in People--to enable our work force and provide tomorrow's scientists and engineers

    • Organizational Agility--to respond positively and creatively to change

    • Accountability--to build the public's trust

    Social, Economic, and Policy Context. The United States is preeminent in science and engineering, thanks to broad and patient public support for investment in higher education and research since World War II. However, as the United States faces severe fiscal constraints because of soaring budget deficits, intensive international economic competition, and complex societal problems, expectations for benefits from scientific and engineering research are growing and changing. There is realization that scientific leadership does not translate automatically into economic and industrial success. There are calls for the academic research community to be more responsive to the Nation's needs and to be more accountable to the public. ENG must embrace this change by making its programs more attractive to policymakers and the public. This must be done by enhancing ENG's mission of fostering excellence, quality, and innovation in engineering education and research.

    As the sense of national security shifts from a military to an economic focus, the Nation will be increasingly pressed for leadership to increase the quality of education and research, especially in creating new knowledge to underpin the strategic technologies upon which the Nation's economy depends. It is also likely that the defense sector, including the national laboratories, will play an expanding role in the development of civilian technology. Interagency collaboration in planning and implementing education and research programs will increase, and ENG must seek new and innovative partnerships with other agencies.

    Quote from: Jose Ortega y Gasset, philosopher "Mission of the University", 1944

    As corporate research becomes more sharply focused on market-oriented research, with fewer companies supporting long-term research, industry will increasingly rely on university-based research to underpin industrial technologies. For industries to remain competitive, there will be a growing need to shorten the lead time between discovery and deployment of technology, and to manage appropriately technological innovation. ENG's efforts to foster appropriate university/industry interfaces thus will become increasingly important.

    Changing demographics, new information-intensive technologies, and accelerating costs will intensify university focus on the nature of the mix of research and teaching. In the engineering schools, the traditional engineering disciplines are changing, with the boundaries becoming increasingly blurred. Schools will become more selective in nurturing their research capabilities and bolder in educational innovation. ENG support and leadership will be needed to help engineering schools implement these changes.

    As the result of improved communications and transportation, the world is rapidly shrinking. Over the past 10 years there have been several mutually reinforcing trends: (1) convergence in technical capabilities of industrialized nations, e.g., the emergence of the Far Eastern countries as technological powers; (2) global integration of national technology markets; (3) the integration of Europe through the European Community (EC); (4) improved access to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; and (5) stronger intellectual and economic links to Africa and Latin America. This new global environment demands that the engineering community at large and the ENG staff become more internationally oriented.


    During the next several years, ENG will employ a twofold strategy:

      • 1. Capitalize on the momentum gained in nurturing individual investigator scholarship, strengthening interdisciplinary systems-oriented research, increasing the participation of underrepresented groups, focusing on undergraduate engineering education, and fostering the emergence of new research areas and technologies.

      • 2. Accelerate progress in integrating engineering education and research, developing more strategic foci for ENG initiatives, expanding new interfaces with other disciplines and organizations, and strengthening the academe/industry interface.

      In concert with the engineering community, ENG will seek to identify needed changes in engineering education and research and then use its resources and prestige to help the community progress toward jointly identified goals. Change will result in both incrementally steady improvement and "paradigm shifts," such as--

      • Changing the culture (and reward system) of universities to place renewed value on quality education and curriculum innovation in the context of education and research being viewed of equal value and as complementary parts of an integrated whole.

        Changing the role of faculty and the reward system to value the integration, synthesis, and application of knowledge as well as the discovery of new knowledge.

        So as to synergize activities, ENG's investment strategy is one of maintaining an appropriate balance among objectives that frequently overlap, such as--

      • Fundamental research in pursuit of new knowledge for its own sake, and for its strategic importance to societal needs

      • Established and new investigators

      • Single-investigator projects, group projects, and research centers and facilities

      • Mature and emerging fields of research

      Quote from: President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, December, 1992

      Disciplinary and cross-disciplinary research

      Accomplishing this balance is not trivial, since ENG makes more than 7,000 award decisions annually. The balance must be based on conscious policy and priorities developed through the strategic planning process. The following are strategic directions for which ENG, in partnership with all NSF entities, will concentrate substantial planning and implementation efforts over the next 5 to 10 years.

      Fostering new paradigms to improve the quality of engineering education.

      Quality engineering education is the development of intellectual skills and knowledge that will equip graduates to contribute to society through productive and satisfying engineering careers as innovators, decisionmakers, and leaders in the global economy of the 21st century. Quality engineering education demands a process of continuous improvement of and dramatic innovation in student, employer, and societal satisfaction, by systematically and collectively evaluating and refining the system, practices, and culture of engineering education institutions. The studies, workshops, and papers of the past decade display the following set of dilemmas facing engineering education:

        • Emphasis on analysis/reduction over synthesis/integration in the curriculum.

        • Emphasis on the research mission of academe over teaching and educational innovation.

        • Slow integration of research results into the engineering curriculum.

        • Limited undergraduate involvement in challenging projects and research. Inadequate knowledge of industrial problems, capabilities, and approaches.

        • Introductory courses that cause student attrition, rather than enthusiasm.

        Quote from: Thomas Jefferson, 1820

        Addressing these dilemmas suggests a change in the paradigm underlying engineering education. Most important, a balance must be struck between the current focus on engineering science by discipline and a fresh focus on the integrative nature of engineering. The curriculum must emphasize the integration of ideas from multiple disciplines and technologies to define and solve significant engineering problems. This emphasis should extend from initial courses involving teams of engineering students to advanced courses introducing current research ideas. The curriculum requires an increased consideration of design tradeoffs, uncertainty, efficiency of process, and quality.

        ENG currently has several efforts under way to address these limitations. Key among these are the Engineering Education Coalitions (EEC), the ENG Faculty Internships, the Combined Research Curriculum Development Program, the Engineering Research Centers (ERC), and the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). The Coalitions address the need for improved introductory experience in engineering and increased teaching of integration in the engineering curriculum. The ENG Faculty Internships seek to improve the interaction of engineering faculty with industry. The Combined Research Curriculum Development Program addresses the need to increase the rate at which research advances are invested in the undergraduate curriculum. The ERC program is an important focus for participation of students in state-of-the-art research pursued jointly by academe and industry. The REU program supports the training of faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students in an integrated research experience. Innovative partnerships such as these provide a focal point for achieving a change in the paradigm underlying engineering education.

        ENG's long-term strategy is to use partnerships with the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) and other Federal agencies to encourage the improvement of engineering education and promote a cultural change in the engineering education community. Participation of ENG in the multi-agency defense conversion program, the Technology Reinvestment Project (TRP), designed to improve the teaching of manufacturing across the engineering curriculum, is an example of such an effort. These partnerships will seek to (1) break down the walls separating disciplinary efforts, (2) modernize curriculum and facilities, and (3) utilize advanced technologies to improve learning in the new curriculum and promote interaction between disciplinary communities. ENG also will utilize the traditional grant process to encourage the cultural change required to address the challenges facing engineering education.

        Fostering intellectual growth and technological advances by enabling researchers to conduct leading-edge research.

        "Enablement" requires that ENG provide the resources needed by investigators to undertake and complete specific research projects. It requires providing funds not only for individual grants but also to ensure access to human resources and infrastructure, including laboratories, computer-communications facilities, and state-of-the-art instrumentation. In recent years, the real dollar value of an average individual investigator grant has been seriously eroded. Chronic underfunding of individual grants can impede progress in a field and force investigators to spend inordinate amounts of time writing and reviewing proposals.

        Simultaneously, the number of proposals from individual engineering faculty has greatly increased, with the effect that quality research proposals, which would otherwise be funded, are being rejected for lack of resources. Clearly, there is a balance that ENG must maintain between making fewer, larger grants and making more, smaller grants. Either extreme could have serious consequences. ENG's strategy for "enabling" researchers has the following elements:

        Maintain flexibility to make grants of a range of sizes and selectively increase award sizes in response to the identified needs of specific communities of researchers.

        Evaluate "enablement" through studies and assessments involving the engineering community.

        The support of new investigators (those who have not been previously supported by NSF) also figures prominently in ENG's strategy for enablement. Through newly targeted programs, ENG will continue to maintain support for this group at about 20 percent of total investigator-initiated research.

        ENG will selectively promote the use of the small group grant mechanism in implementing research initiatives. This type of grant allows NSF to assemble a multi-institution, multidisciplinary team of first-rate individual investigators to collaborate on multidisciplinary research and systems-oriented issues.

        Promoting strategic research through multidisciplinary, interagency initiatives and fostering the growth of emerging interdisciplinary areas and technologies.

        Because education and research are closely tied with the application of knowledge to the pressing concerns of society, strategic research in critical areas of national priority has become an integral part of ENG's portfolio. These efforts are identified and developed through the strategic planning process, which involves workshops with the appropriate research and user communities to explore and define research opportunities and needs.

        Frequently, ENG's special initiatives are part of a larger national R&D strategy, coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the newly established National Science and Technology Council. Examples of areas where there have been strategically focused interagency efforts to accomplish national goals include Advanced Manufacturing Technology and Information and Communication R&D. Such interagency initiatives are developed with extensive leadership and input from the science and engineering community at large, as well as from government agencies. They are designed to increase the potential for early application of recently discovered knowledge by promoting cooperation among academe, industry, and government at all levels. Furthermore, they devote significant attention to education and training, as well as research, through such activities as curriculum development and instrumentation support. Within budget constraints, ENG's strategy is to be fully supportive of and meet commitments made to such interagency initiatives.

        Examples of Areas Targeted for Rapid Development

        With extensive self-study and input from the research and user communities, ENG's strategic planning process has identified, in partnership with other NSF directorates, a number of multidisciplinary research areas for aggressive planning and program development, including the following:

        Advanced Manufacturing Technologies. Manufacturing is the foundation of the U.S. economy. There is now an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate the development and application of new knowledge and advanced technologies--the processes, information, equipment, and tools needed to dramatically improve the manufacturing capabilities of a broad spectrum of U.S. industries, ranging from biotechnology and construction to electronics and automotive. The contribution of many disciplines are needed to develop the advanced technologies that will enable advanced manufacturing in the 21st century. Within NSF, ENG is playing a critical leadership role in integrating efforts across the disciplines. For the next several years, the directorate will focus on the development of intelligent (sensor-based) manufacturing cells/systems; advanced fabrication and processing methods; and integrated computer-based tools for product, process, and enterprise design. An important cross-cutting issue is the development of environmentally conscious manufacturing technologies that will emphasize methods of pollution prevention and minimization of resource waste. A manufacturing infrastructure must also be put in place to support distributed design and manufacturing, and new ways must be found to manage these technologies and integrate them with a knowledgeable work force.

        Information and Communication Technologies. Advances in this area are essential to economic growth and competitiveness in many key U.S. industries, and they also are critical for the national defense. The transition from analog to digital processing may provide a window for the United States to regain its competitiveness in areas such as consumer electronics. In partnership with NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate, ENG plays a key role in supporting research and education that underpins the development of advanced computer-communications technologies. A major national goal is to develop the common services, systems development and support environments, and intelligent user interfaces that are the foundation of a universally accessible national information infrastructure. Several areas where ENG can make a significant contribution include (1) Health Care Delivery Systems--distributed access in clinical diagnosis and treatment planning using advanced telecommunications and networking technologies; (2) Advanced Manufacturing Technology--virtual factory demonstration projects and pilot projects using information modeling, visualization, and distributed databases to demonstrate approaches to agile manufacturing; (3) Civil Infrastructure Systems--distributed large-scale databases, libraries, and knowledge-based expert systems for assessment strategies and design methodologies; and (4) Engineering Education--integration of telecommunications, computer, and multimedia technologies for new approaches to learning.

        Advanced Materials and Processing. The goal is to improve the manufacture and performance of materials to enhance the Nation's quality of life, security, industrial productivity, and economic growth. ENG, in partnership with NSF's Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS) Directorate, supports activities ranging from basic research encompassing the creation of new materials featuring precisely tailored properties and enhanced performance to the development of processing technologies that can be integrated with design and manufacturing requirements. The diversity of materials is very wide, encompassing biodegradable polymers, high-temperature ceramics, and durable materials for artificial limbs and joints, to name just a few examples.

        Biotechnology. Biotechnology is a burgeoning industry worldwide, promising profound impact on the forefront of innovative technologies in health care, agriculture, energy, and environmental management. Basic fundamental research drives advances in all components of biotechnology, as advances in manufacturing and bioprocessing underpin implementation. In partnership with NSF's Biological Sciences Directorate, ENG plays an important role in the support of biotechnology and bioprocessing, including research at several Engineering Research Centers. Priorities include biotechnology research applicable to (1) development of pharmaceutical production/manufacturing processes and scale-up; (2) restoration, maintenance, and remediation of the environment; and (3) improving, restoring, and preserving human health.

        Civil Infrastructure Systems. The rebuilding of our deteriorating infrastructure depends strongly on successful research efforts that will lead to new designs, more durable materials, network systems with better controls and communications, and improved decisionmaking and management processes. An integrated cross-directorate, multidisciplinary research initiative will be aggressively pursued to underpin this effort. It will build on NSF's past and current research efforts but will also envelop a bold, new strategy that requires systems integration at all levels and focuses on the need to develop and apply new scientific and engineering knowledge in the following four key areas: deterioration science, assessment technologies, renewal engineering, and institutional effectiveness and productivity.

        Improved Health Care Delivery Through Engineering. There is a critical national need to contain the costs of health care, while also improving the quality of and access to the health care system. This multidisciplinary thrust seeks to develop new engineering approaches to increased productivity in the hospital environment; new technologies that can enable the delivery of care outside the hospital environment and enable low-cost diagnosis and therapy; advanced materials for use in implants or external devices to increase device longevity; and improved information and communication systems for better access to health care and increased patient independence.

        Advanced Environmental Technologies. The growing consensus among experts and nations is that, to secure present and future industrial development and economic growth, a number of extremely complex environmental problems must be solved and new ways for managing natural resources and for producing goods and services need to be found. For this to occur, new knowledge must be generated where engineering and life, social, and earth sciences are integrated to (1) improve existing and create new remedial environmental technologies; (2) develop environmentally sound extraction/production systems where waste and contam-ination are prevented or minimized; and (3) better understand the relationships between human activities and the environment.

        Management of Technological Innovation. Research in this field emphasizes the structure of engineering judgment and decisions. Therefore, the overall goal of NSF's support of this research, led by an NSF ENG-SBE (Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate) team, is to create new methods and tools to (1) enhance the ability of the engineering practitioner to assess and meet market needs and requirements and simultaneously contribute to innovation and quality; (2) encourage the latest and newest materials, processes, and technologies into product and process design; and (3) improve the ability of corporations to formulate and integrate technology and business strategies that strengthen their competitiveness and productivity. Since the management of technological innovation focuses on the interface between engineering and business, research teams will be supported that combine expertise in engineering; business management; social, behavioral, and economic sciences; and industrial practice.

        Quote from: Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate "Ideas and Information," 1989

        Increasing human diversity in engineering education, research, and practice.

        Historically, engineering has been among those professions in the United States that have had only modest success in attracting and retaining in its ranks women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities. Besides the democratic imperative of equity, recent demographic trends suggest that engineering will not have the appropriately educated human resources to meet crucial societal needs, as well as help the Nation remain globally competitive, unless talented persons from such groups are vigorously recruited, fully educated, and given equal access to career opportunities. Significant problems exist all along the student career path. Therefore, an effective long-term plan should target such problems and develop a set of proactive strategies that enable underrepresented groups to (1) enter the engineering educational system well prepared, (2) successfully complete it, and then (3) experience career advancement and fulfillment, whether it is in the context of industry, academe, or government. Confronting obstacles faced by underrepresented groups along the student career path will include efforts by ENG to increase the visibility of engineering as a career option, to develop and disseminate new educational paradigms for enhancing student attraction and retention, to further the movement of undergraduates to graduate engineering education and research, and to allow underrepresented groups to compete more fully in their chosen engineering careers. ENG's implementation strategy involves several components:

          • Dedicated support for a complementary set of targeted programs designed to attract and retain underrepresented groups in engineering.

          • Collaborative support of programs with other units within NSF as well as outside groups and organizations.

          • Increased support for individual investigators in mainstream programs and in the Engineering Education Coalitions and Engineering Research Centers.

          • Leadership within the engineering community through advocacy and outreach, such as visits and presentations.

          • ENG's providing a role model to the engineering community by example of its diverse work force, advisory committees, and proposal review panels.

          Encouraging mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries.

          The past decade has been marked by several mutually reinforcing trends: (1) increasing global integration of institutions, industries, and markets; (2) convergence in the science, engineering, and technical capabilities of industrialized nations; (3) the integration of Europe through the European Community; (4) the transition of China and the former Soviet-bloc countries from adversaries to potential partners; and (5) stronger intellectual and economic links to Africa and Latin America. This new global environment demands that the engineering community at large and the ENG staff become more internationally oriented. ENG's strategy for achieving this includes the following elements:

          • Working with the Division of International Programs to increase support for collaborative engineering educational and research efforts between the U.S. engineering community and other countries on a bilateral as well as a multinational basis. This includes support for collaborations between engineering programs at U.S. institutions and selected sister institutions overseas.

          • Increasing the competence of the engineering community in international affairs through workshops with foreign partners to review research and education trends, supporting students and faculty for short-and long-term visits abroad, and efforts to assess foreign research/technologies vis-a-vis the United States.

          • Supporting and facilitating the engineering academic community's access to foreign centers of excellence, and encouraging the continuation and advancement of the collaborative work performed overseas when the researcher returns to the home U.S. institution.

          ENG's strategy will be to support initiatives that are highly cost-effective and strongly promote strategic objectives that are leveraged with the resources of other organizations. For example, a joint initiative with the Division of International Programs (INT) will support academic researchers for collaborative research at foreign centers of excellence. Research proposals of 2 years' duration will be considered, where the first year overseas will be supported by INT, and the second year will be supported by the participating ENG program for reentry back to the principal investigator's home institution.

          Building stronger bridges between academe and industry.

          Improved bridges are desirable because universities educate personnel and create fundamental knowledge for industry, and industry provides technical challenges and support to universities. As the interval between discovery and industrial innovation becomes shorter, university-industry partnerships must be strengthened to exploit new opportunities that will arise in areas such as biotechnology, optoelectronics, telecommunications, and civil infrastructure.

          ENG already has many of the key elements in place for achieving this goal, including (1) a focused division with a major venture capital arm, i.e., the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program; (2) the establishment of successful partnerships, such as the Engineering Research Center (ERC) program, the Industry University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) Program, the State IUCRC Program, and the Engineering Education Coalitions (EEC) Program; (3) the Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) program, which provides significant opportunities for collaborative research among university and industry investigators; and (4) the appointment of industrial leaders to its Advisory Committees. Although an excellent foundation has been established, the Directorate must do much more to encourage a working partnership between universities and industry. Practical mechanisms for improving the university/industry interface have been identified through ENG's strategic planning process and fall into four general categories: (1) facilitating people exchange, (2) expanding information flow, (3) enabling resource sharing, and (4) increasing integration of research efforts. Some efforts identified as high priority are

          Strengthening of the GOALI Program. This program includes several elements designed to facilitate interaction between scientists and engineers in academe and industry. The Engineering Faculty Internship program has provided successful experience in sending university researchers to industry for extended stays. ENG is also experimenting with a new approach, the Combined Research Industrial Sabbatical Program (CRISP), which is designed to encourage long-term collaborative work between university and industrial researchers. It includes a six-month industrial sabbatical at the beginning of a three-year research project, student involvement in both university and industrial settings, and an allowance for implementation of the research results at the industrial facility. The Industry/University Cooperative Research Projects (IUCRP) Program provides for the direct interaction of university and industry researchers on projects of mutual research interest. Industry supports its researchers while ENG funds the academic researchers.

          Student Internships. Consideration will be given to establishing opportunities to encourage undergraduate student collaboration on industry-defined projects, often with the work performed on-site in industry. The funding of such projects would be as supplements to any existing awards with the participation of firms engaged in cooperative research, particularly in the small business and small industry categories. ENG will also consider providing funds for graduate students to spend a part-time residency in the participating industrial laboratories.

          Technology-Focused Consortia. Such consortia have the potential to offer access to industrially relevant, pilot-scale equipment that is not feasible to install at a university. At the same time, university researchers have assembled a broad range of analytical expertise that is needed by the consortia. NSF can play a constructive role in funding the participation of university researchers in existing consortia and in creating prototypes for industry-led, university-energized discovery, such as with the ARPA-NSF Agile Manufacturing Initiative.

          Expansion of Partnerships with the States. The framework for cooperation between the States and NSF is built on the States' explicit recognition of the importance of science, technology, and education to economic growth at the local level. The idea is based on the notion that innovation happens locally and that state governments not only are more adept in synergizing local business development but also have many technology-deployment initiatives under way. For example, Pennsylvania's Ben Franklin Partnership has been recognized as a model for technology-based economic development.

          Increasing organizational agility and enabling the ENG work force.

          A variety of innovative approaches must be undertaken to (1) simplify management and promote better communication; (2) enable the ENG staff to function at a higher autonomous level; (3) integrate, coordinate, and synergize various activities and processes; and (4) substantially increase organizational agility. The latter is defined to mean the ability of an organization to quickly and flexibly respond to changing needs and opportunities and to the requirements of its customers (e.g., the public, the Congress, the Administration, and the education and research communities). Some of the key strategies for accomplishing this include--

          • Continuing to appoint the best people available, thus broadening the participation of women, minorities, and the disabled.

          • Empowering ENG employees through better training and career development opportunities, better access to information, and first-rate office automation and equipment.

          • Implementing flexible organizational arrangements to make intellectual boundaries more permeable, thus promoting intellectual partnerships and team building.

          • Incorporating strategic thinking in all Directorate activities and assessing program and management outcomes on a regular basis.

          • Improving Directorate processes by experimenting with new ways of doing business, including different review methods for proposals (e.g., the use of concept papers and electronic panel review) and new support mechanisms.

          Evaluating and assessing progress.

          Program evaluation is an important element in the Directorate's strategy for achieving the goals of the Long View. Periodic evaluation of the impact and utility of ENG's programs will provide crucial information for (1) constant improvement in program design and management; (2) planning decisions regarding future directions and funding levels; and (3) external requests for evidence of program impact and utility. At present, ENG receives information about its programs from several sources. Committee of Visitors (COV) reviews examine the propriety of the merit review process in each program. Workshops and the ENG Advisory Committee provide subjective feedback on the quality of program performance and effectiveness. Periodic, Directorate-level program status reviews enable ENG staff and the Assistant Director/ENG to discuss each program's plans, opportunities, and progress. Directorate program staff also collect anecdotal "nuggets" of successes from awardees to respond to requests from Congress and others for evidence of program results.

          Collectively, these mechanisms are important but do not fully meet ENG's growing needs for internal and external accountability. With increasing interest in and scrutiny of ENG programs and activities, systematic, externally conducted program evaluations are needed to enhance the ability of Directorate staff to make informed, defensible decisions about future investments.

          The ENG program portfolio is highly differentiated in both substance and scale. Each type of program will require a different evaluation approach. In addition, the questions that a specific evaluation is intended to answer must be consistent not only with the design of the program, but also with its level of maturity.

          Evaluation of fundamental research will examine a variety of input and output characteristics of ENG support for disciplines over time and in relation to its goals. In terms of input, studies would look at such things as the breadth of ENG's portfolio of awards in a discipline, the degree to which these awards were for state-of-the-art research, and the extent to which ENG's support focused on research problems of importance to academe and industry. Evaluation of strategic research programs, for example, the earthquake hazard mitigation program, will involve examination of their success in meeting identified strategic goals and their impact on the specified problem or issue.

          Center programs, especially those more than 5 years old, will receive a combination of progress monitoring via formalized data collection and formal studies of the impact of the center. Infrastructure programs will receive systematic tracking of participants to enable monitoring of academic and career progress, plus longitudinal evaluations of the programs' impact on participants. Every ENG program or activity should have a plan that specifies how evaluation of its portfolio will be carried out. Similarly, all new programs and initiatives should include an evaluation plan in the initial proposal that is linked to the program's goals.

          Summary--Toward More Holistic Engineering

          Quote from: President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore "Technology for America's Economic Growth. A New Direction to Build Economic Strength" February 22, 1993

          As we move into the swifter current of the 21st century, the world grows more exciting, more complex, and more connected. Solutions to tomorrow's problems will require the contributions of many disciplines and points of view. For example, engineering research on renewing the civil infrastructure will have to incorporate knowledge on the human, economic, and institutional context. The same is true for research aimed at protecting the environment, improving health care, and making manufacturing more productive. Because engineering's core as a profession lies in integrating all knowledge to some purpose, engineering must take the lead in drawing together the science and engineering disciplines.

          It all begins with the student--each engineering student must receive a holistic education that cultivates his or her ability to bridge the boundaries between the disciplines and make the connections that will produce deeper insights and lead to more creative solutions.

          In partnership with many others, the Engineering Directorate can help create more holistic and integrated engineering--in research, education, and practice. This is the unifying concept that binds together the various plans and strategies contained in this document. The plans and strategies will change over time, but this concept, this vision, will serve to guide the Engineering Directorate long into the future.

          General Information

          For more information see--

          STIS (Science and Technology Information System) flyer

          (how to get on-line information about NSF programs)

          NSF General Publications

          NSF Guide to Programs

          (program details and deadlines)

          Grants for Research and Education in Science and Engineering

          (how to apply for grants; forms required; etc.)

          To order these publications:

          via Internet: pubs by phone: 703-306-1130

          by FAX: 703-644-4278

          by mail: Forms and Publications Unit National Science Foundation 4201 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA 22230

          NSF's Engineering Directorate is also described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA,47.041=Engineering) issued by the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration.

          About the National Science Foundation

          The National Science Foundation (NSF) Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-507) created NSF to promote the progress of science and engineering, and education in those areas. NSF is independent--not part of any other Federal department or agency--and run by a presidentially appointed director and a board of 24 scientists and engineers, university officials and industry leaders, and a staff of about 1,200. NSF accounts for almost a fourth of all Federal support to academic institutions for basic research. With assistance from more than 55,000 outside experts, NSF reviews nearly 30,500 proposals a year and awards more than 16,000 grants and contracts to some 2,000 universities, colleges, academic consortia, nonprofit institutions, and small businesses.

          In accordance with Federal statutes and regulations and National Science Foundation policies, no person, on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin, or disability, shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under, any program or activity receiving financial assistance from the National Science Foundation.

          The National Science Foundation has TDD (Telephonic Device for the Deaf) capability, which enables individuals with hearing impairment to communicate with the Division of Personnel and Management about NSF programs, employment, or general information. This number is (703) 306-0900.

          Email this pagePrint this page
          Back to Top of page