The National Science Foundation Act of 1950, which created the NSF, states that "The Foundation shall consist of a National Science Board ... and a Director." Jointly the Board and the Director pursue the goals and function of the NSF, including the duty to "recommend and encourage the pursuit of national policies for the promotion of research and education in science and engineering."
In addition, The National Science Board has two important roles. First, it establishes the policies of NSF within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President and the Congress. In this capacity, the Board identifies issues that are critical to NSF's future, approves NSF's strategic budget directions and the annual budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget, and approves new major programs and awards. The second role of the Board is to serve as an independent body of advisors to both the President and the Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering and education in science and engineering. In addition to major reports, the NSB also publishes occasional policy papers or statements on issues of importance to U.S. science and engineering.
The NSB is made up of 25 Members appointed by the President. The NSF Director is an ex officio Member. Members serve six-year terms. With the exception of the NSF Director, one-third of the Board is appointed every two years. NSB Members are drawn from industry and universities, and represent a variety of science and engineering disciplines and geographic areas. The NSB is apolitical. The NSF Act of 1950, as amended, states that nominees to the "Board (1) shall be eminent in the fields of the basic, medical, or social sciences, engineering, agriculture, education, research management or public affairs; (2) shall be selected solely on the basis of established records of distinguished service; and (3) shall be so selected as to provide representation of the views of scientific and engineering leaders in all areas of the Nation." The NSB elects its own Chairman and Vice Chairman. The Chairman, in turn, is authorized to make appointments to the NSB staff. The NSB Office is headed by the Board Executive Officer.
The NSB meets about five times a year (usually four times at the NSF headquarters in Arlington, VA, and one in another part of the country). The public is invited to attend all open sessions, subject to provisions of the Government in the Sunshine Act.
The NSB also approves, along with the NSF Director, the selection of the Alan T. Waterman Awardee. The annual award, established by Congress, recognizes an outstanding young researcher in a field supported by NSF. Awardees receive a grant of $1,000,000 for scientific research or advanced study.