NSF Activities in Crosscutting Areas of Research and Education

Among the many research and education frontiers that NSF's programs address are many areas of clear importance to the Nation. The Foundation invests a major portion of its resources in a number of well-defined areas, which are organized and focused around specific national objectives identified by the President's National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and the Foundation's own planning process. The fundamental nature, the quality, and the educational impact of the work supported in these areas are consistent with those of all activities supported by the Foundation.

NSF's programmatic activities in these areas are designed in keeping with the Foundation's unique role among federal agencies and its longstanding partnership with the academic sector. The following goals are common to all of NSF's activities in crosscutting areas:

NSF also aims to foster the natural connections among the different areas, because these interconnections are critical to success. They effectively allow the Foundation to increase the return on its investment in these areas, to reduce duplicative efforts, and to coordinate the allocation of its resources.

The following sections provide an overview of activities in each of the seven defined crosscutting areas currently supported by NSF. These overviews describe the goals and objectives of the activities in each interdisciplinary area and the pertinent NSF directorates, divisions, and programs.

Advanced Materials and Processing

The overall goals of Advanced Materials and Processing Program (AMPP) are to enhance the materials knowledge base and apply it to problems of national importance, and to provide interdisciplinary education and training that will prepare future scientists and engineers for careers in universities, government, and industry.

AMPP has three objectives:

  1. to synthesize novel materials with desirable properties;
  2. to advance the understanding of the behavior and properties of materials; and
  3. to develop processes to produce, modify, and shape materials.

The program also supports individual and small group projects, interdisciplinary centers, and national synchrotron, neutron scattering, and high magnetic field user facilities and major instrumentation for shared use. AMPP fosters interagency collaborations and promotes materials-related activities through university/industry/government consortia. In addition, the program supports undergraduate education activities in materials curriculum development and research experiences for undergraduates.

The research seeks to provide an improved understanding of the interrelationships among synthesis, processing, and performance of materials, and a description of their structure, composition, and properties at the atomic, molecular, microscopic, and macroscopic levels. Research focuses on the following classes of materials: metals; ceramics; polymers; composites; and electronic, optical/photonic, biomolecular, magnetic, and superconducting materials.

The development of science, engineering, and educational aspects of new and strategic materials spans the Foundation. Each of the following directorates support AMPP: BIO, ENG, GEO, MPS, and SBE. Considerable effort is focused on the diverse areas of materials research, and significant opportunities exist at the interface of disciplines that require cooperative review and funding. In addition, international collaborations play an increasingly important role in advancing the field. The strengthening of interdisciplinary research as an innovative route to new research areas and economic opportunities is an important theme in AMPP.

For More Information

For further information, contact Dr. Adriaan de Graaf, Executive Officer, Division of Materials Research, (703) 306-1812.


The NSF is one of 12 federal agencies participating in a government-wide effort under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to coordinate and maximize the impact of the federal investment in research in biotechnology. Analysis of the biotechnology research programs and budgets of these 12 federal agencies shows that the pattern of federal support for biotechnology research has left important gaps in the knowledge base underlying future applications in several critical areas including biotechnology related to the environment, manufacturing/bioprocessing, agriculture, research on the social impact of biotechnology, and the infrastructure and training specific to biotechnology research in these areas.

NSF internal working groups and outside advisors have identified six areas of interdisciplinary biotechnology research in which NSF can make major contributions.

Research infrastructure and human resources for biotechnology in these areas are important components of the biotechnology effort. NSF's approach to this crosscutting area is interdisciplinary, with an emphasis on fundamental and "proof of concept" research, training, instrumentation, research resources, and university/industry cooperation. The BIO, ENG, GEO, MPS, and SBE Directorates and OPP contribute to the biotechnology area. A variety of funding modes is utilized, including individual investigator awards, interdisciplinary groups, and centers. In supporting biotechnology research, NSF continues to rely on the scientific and engineering communities to develop specific projects within the six identified areas.

For More Information

For further information contact the following.
In the BIO Directorate:
--Dr. Maryanna Henkart, Deputy Director, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, (703) 306-1440.
In the MPS Directorate:
--Dr. John Hunt, Deputy Director, Division of Chemistry, (703) 306-1857.
In the ENG Directorate:
--Dr. Fred Heineken, Program Director, Biotechnology Program, (703) 306-1319.

Civil Infrastructure Systems

The Civil Infrastructure Systems (CIS) area addresses the need to develop fresh strategies for the management of existing infrastructure systems that have degraded due to age, neglect, misuse, or excessive demand, and to create an infrastructure that enables sustained economic growth well into the next century. Intelligent renewal of the infrastructure must begin with integrated research--cutting across traditional disciplines--that will lead to new designs and techniques, more durable materials, new integrated network systems with better controls and communications, and improved decision-making and management processes. This integration must include strategies for optimizing performance of interacting systems and subsystems. It is also important that this be done so as to facilitate knowledge transfer to the end user. For example, this integrated approach must involve the participation of social and behavioral scientists and policymakers and the development of reliable databases that specify all aspects of infrastructure renewal and management.

NSF will contribute to the intelligent renewal of civil infrastructure systems through the support of research that focuses on the scientific, engineering, and educational developments needed to sustain civil infrastructure systems. The purpose of this research is to develop new knowledge, innovative approaches, and methods through projects that involve engineers; economists; and physical, mathematical, materials, and social scientists. New understanding of system performance and guidance in support of resource allocation decisions in civil infrastructure systems investment and management is the primary goal of research activities in the CIS area, rather than improvements in isolated civil infrastructure components.

The strategy of CIS is to capitalize on the advances in new materials; structural systems; automated construction; nondestructive evaluation techniques; ground improvement; development of underground space; prefabricated assemblies; corrosion inhibition; electrooptic communication; understanding of public decisions, management, location, and siting; and public finance. Situations where disciplinary boundaries can be crossed to stimulate interactions create particularly effective opportunities.

In supporting CIS research and education, NSF has the following goals:

  1. to enrich the science and engineering knowledge base that can advance the understanding, assessment, and intelligent renewal of civil infrastructure systems;
  2. to encourage the integration, application, and transfer of knowledge that will contribute to intelligent infrastructure renewal; and
  3. to integrate research with education and training to produce the next generation of engineers, scientists, and others who will design, build, maintain, and use the civil infrastructure of the future.

To achieve the CIS goals, emphasis is placed on developing new system integration approaches that will incorporate innovations in scientific and engineering knowledge in the following key areas:

CIS is a coordinated effort involving the ENG, MPS, and SBE Directorates. Through activities within these directorates, NSF supports a broad range of research on civil infrastructure that enriches the knowledge base and underpins the development of new technologies in the area of civil infrastructure systems technologies. Activities in the CIS area are primarily carried out through support of unsolicited investigator-initiated research and several university-based research centers. As the need arises, NSF may issue program announcements inviting proposal submissions in targeted research areas.

For More Information

For further information, contact Dr. Priscilla P. Nelson, Program Director, Civil and Mechanical Systems Division, at (703) 306-1361, or by Internet at

Environment and Global Change

As an agency whose mission is to support fundamental research and education in all science and engineering disciplines, NSF seeks to support a diverse set of activities that will enhance the understanding of complex environmental and global change processes. To accomplish this goal, NSF's Environment and Global Change activities support basic disciplinary research, and focused interdisciplinary research activities. In past years, the coordination of these diverse but complementary activities were managed under two separate areas: Environmental Research and Global Change. Recognizing shared goals and emphases, the two have been merged.

NSF's Environment and Global Change activities seek to broaden the scientific understanding of our environment through support of investigator-initiated research and research collaborations that fall within the following categories.

In addition to participating in international research efforts, NSF--in coordination with 18 federal agencies--plays an active role in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which focuses on activities in the areas of environment and global change. This interagency scientific research program was established by the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to enhance research aimed at understanding and responding to global change, including the cumulative effects of human activities and natural processes on the environment. NSF also has been a major catalyst for interagency activities dealing with other important environmental issues. These activities cut across a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines to address issues related to the preservation, management, and enhancement of the environment. Specific areas of interest include air quality, biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics, environmental technology, natural disaster reduction, water and watersheds research, and risk assessment.

The BIO, ENG, GEO, MPS, and SBE Directorates and OPP all contribute to the Environmental and Global Change Research Programs.

For More Information

For further information on NSF Environment and Global Change activities--including information on focused global change research programs--contact Leila Harris, Assistant Coordinator for NSF Environment and Global Change Activities, at (703) 306-0891, or by Internet at

Information on research opportunities in global change, including brief descriptions and contact information, can be found in the publication NSF Global Change Research Program (NSF 95-45).

The following are other publications on environment and global change, including announcements of special funding opportunities.

NSF 96-22     Methods and Models for Integrated Assessment (Flyer)
NSF 95-47     Terrestrial Ecology Research Initiative
              (FY 1996 Program Announcement soon to be released)
NSF 95-48     NSF/EPA Partnership for Environmental Research
              (FY 1996 Interagency Announcement of Opportunity soon to be released)
NSF 96-2      Environmental Geochemistry and Biogeochemistry

High Performance Computing and Communications

The High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Program--with its recent expansion to include information infrastructure--supports and elaborates upon the federal HPCC Program goals. These include

The NSF has long supported computing and communications, and it is upon these historic strengths that the HPCC Program has been structured. The following are the goals of the HPCC Program:

To support these goals, the HPCC Program is divided into three components.

  1. The Research component addresses discipline-specific and multidisciplinary activities that are focused on enabling computing and communications required to allow scientists and engineers to effectively utilize emerging high performance computing and communications. This component supports research that focuses on technologies which will better enable the global information infrastructure of the 21st century by providing support for individual investigators through NSF-wide research programs and for interdisciplinary groups that involve virtually every research area at NSF.

  2. The Research Infrastructure component provides and demonstrates state-of-the-art HPCC technology through various networks, the Supercomputer Centers, the Metacenter Regional Alliances, and various instrumentation programs that are geared toward enabling researchers in all disciplines.

  3. The Education and Training component increases the pool of citizens who are capable of utilizing and contributing to the emerging national opportunities for HPCC technologies in all segments of society. It does this through activities in EHR and in CISE, and by support of graduate students and postdoctorals on research awards.

The HPCC Program intersects to all NSF crosscuts, both through the Research Infrastructure activities and through the results of enabling computing and communications research and education. The BIO, CISE, EHR, ENG, GEO, MPS, and SBE Directorates and OPP contribute to the HPCC Program.

For More Information

For further information, contact Dr. Robert Voigt, HPCC Coordinator, (703) 306-1900. For more specific information concerning the HPCC Program, see the Supplement to the PresidentHigh Performance Computing and Communications: Foundation for America and the HPCC fiscal year 1996 Implementation Plan. They are available electronically on Internet at ; on Mosaic at; or from the HPCC National Coordination Office at (301) 402-4100.


NSF's manufacturing activities support the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) interagency effort to build, sustain, and extend U.S. leadership in the manufacturing sector. The goal of MAN is to discover new and fundamental knowledge to enable the development of advanced manufacturing technologies that enhance the performance of U.S. manufacturing industries. This mission is to be achieved through coordinated government, industry, and university programs that accomplish the following broad strategic goals:

Manufacturing is a highly integrative activity, and manufacturing-related problems are among the most complex interdisciplinary problems faced by modern society. NSF has a wide range of programs that allow it to address this complexity within the context of a broad and coherent interdisciplinary research program. The Foundation concentrates its efforts on developing the fundamental science and engineering knowledge base that underlies manufacturing technology, management, and education and training, as well as technology transfer, diffusion, and implementation. Particular focus is given to enhancing the institutional, physical, and human resources that constitute the manufacturing research and education infrastructure.

MAN is a collaborative effort among the CISE, ENG, MPS, and SBE research directorates. Its research agenda is primarily carried out through the support of unsolicited investigator- initiated research in addition to research at manufacturing-related, university-based research centers. As the need arises, NSF will issue program announcements inviting proposal submissions in targeted research areas.

For More Information

For further information, contact Dr. Bruce Kramer, Director, Division of Design, Manufacture, and Industrial Innovation, (703) 306-1330.

Modeling of Biological Systems--The Interface of Biology, Mathematics, and the Physical Sciences

Characterization of biological systems has reached an unparalleled level of detail. To organize this detail and arrive at a better fundamental understanding of life processes, it is imperative that powerful conceptual tools from mathematics and the physical sciences be applied to frontier problems in biology.

Modeling of biological systems is an important partner of experimental work. All facets of biology--environmental, organismic, cellular, and molecular--are accessible to chemical, physical, and mathematical approaches. The Foundation encourages increased collaboration among physical scientists, mathematicians, and biologists in addressing biological problems.

Most NSF resources for biosciences have been directed toward experimental investigation. An enhanced cooperative effort to emphasize theoretical approaches will provide new conceptual frameworks for experimentalists, and attract scientists with diverse skills and training to foster multidisciplinary cooperation in the study of biological problems.

All of the divisions in the BIO Directorate and the Divisions of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Materials Research located in the MPS Directorate are coordinating efforts to provide a focal point for encouraging multidisciplinary modeling proposals.

For More Information

For further information, contact the following.

In the BIO Directorate:

In the MPS Directorate:

Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education

Through the Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education (SMETE) initiative, NSF is able to improve science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education for all U.S. citizens. It does this by providing sustained leadership in the coordinated federal interagency effort to improve education in these areas. Consonant with the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, NSF SMETE goals are

To achieve these goals, SMETE has identified seven priority areas, which are

  1. reforming elementary, secondary, and undergraduate education;
  2. promoting interdisciplinary and intersectoral graduate education;
  3. promoting public understanding of science and lifelong learning;
  4. enhancing technology education;
  5. ensuring human resource development;
  6. developing an adequate science and technology workforce; and
  7. expanding postdoctoral education.

The above priority areas are undergirded by five cross-cutting, enabling activities:

  1. increased use of educational technologies;
  2. identification, dissemination, and adoption of exemplary instructional materials;
  3. establishment of educational partnerships;
  4. ensured accountability through program evaluation; and
  5. increased research on teaching and learning.

These goals and priority areas provide the focus for the Foundation's activities that are conducted primarily by the EHR Directorate, with other activities headed by the following directorates: BIO, CISE, EHR, ENG, GEO, MPS, SBE, and the Office of Polar Programs (OPP). Described below are key activities undertaken in the priority areas.

For More Information

For further information, contact Dr. Wanda E. Ward, Staff Associate, Office of the Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources, (703) 306-1660.

Faculty Early Career Development

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that supports junior faculty within the context of their overall career development. It combines in a single program the support of quality research and education in the broadest sense. The program emphasizes the importance the Foundation places on the development of full and integrated academic careers that include both research and education.


CAREER applicants must be in their first or second full-time tenure-track or equivalent academic appointment; have begun their first appointment on or after July 1, 1991; not hold or have held tenure on or before the program application deadline; and be employed at a U.S. institution that awards a baccalaureate or advanced degree in a field supported by NSF. Current or former recipients of the Presidential Young Investigator Award or Presidential Faculty Fellowships are not eligible.

Award Size and Duration

The duration of awards is at least four but no more than five years. The funding level is consistent with the scope of the project and NSF directorate and disciplinary practice. Four year awards are not less than $200,000 and five year awards are not less than $250,000. The intent is to provide stable support at a sufficient level and duration to enable awardees to achieve the education and research career development objectives of the program.

Deadlines and Additional Information

CAREER proposals must be submitted in accordance with the target dates or deadlines of the appropriate disciplinary program. The CISE, EHR, ENG, and MPS Directorates have a set deadline of October 17, 1995, for fiscal year 1996. The deadline for BIO, GEO, OPP, and SBE is December 15, 1995. For specific information on proposal development, consult the disciplinary program contacts given in the publication titled Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program (NSF 95-118). Also included are general information about each discipline's participation in the CAREER Program and guidelines for preparing proposals on research activities and education innovations. For a copy of this publication, contact Forms and Publications, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230, (703) 306-1130.

Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry

A major objective of the NSF is to improve the Nation's capacity for intellectual and economic growth. It does this by supporting the discovery of new knowledge and the enhancement of a skilled workforce. Industry can outline new technical challenges and assist in the support of academic institutions. By serving as a catalyst for industry/university partnerships, NSF helps ensure that intellectual capital and emerging technologies are brought together in ways that promote economic growth and an improved quality of life.

The Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) initiative aims to synergize industry/university partnerships by making funds available to support an eclectic mix of industry/university linkages. Special interest is focused on affording the opportunity for faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students to conduct research and gain experience with production processes in an industrial setting; for industry scientists and engineers to bring industry's perspective and integrative skills to academe; and for interdisciplinary industry/university teams to conduct long-term projects. This initiative targets high risk and high gain research with focus on fundamental topics that would not have been undertaken by industry; development of innovative, collaborative industry/university educational programs; and direct transfer of new knowledge between academe and industry.

To meet this objective, the GOALI initiative provides funding for faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students to develop creative modes of collaborative interactions with industry through individual or small group projects, and for industry-based fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The following are examples of GOALI mechanisms. Proposers may modify or adapt them to meet individual needs and/or realize imaginative ideas.

The topics addressed in a GOALI award need not focus on fundamental issues only, but should address long-term generic research within an intellectual envelope shared by the industrial partner. Fundamental research in academe is performed in parallel with more applied research in industry. Industrial partners are encouraged to provide scientific and technical feedback, support personnel and equipment, and facilitate testing of the research results when suitable. Investigators are expected to integrate research objectives with educational and human resource goals and industry needs.

GOALI also places emphasis on improving industry/university research linkages in the design of products and processes. The research should strengthen the fundamental scientific and engineering foundations on which new design and production practices and methods may be based. This emphasis aims to improve the basic understanding and development of integrated design tools in both academe and industry.

The length of support requested should be appropriate to the purpose and can vary. For example, a visit to industry could be for two months, while a full research proposal could take up to three years.

Although cost-sharing for collaborative work is encouraged, the industrial partners are not required to match NSF research award funds for work performed in universities. However, where faculty visit industry to perform research for a longer time, it is expected that industry will provide 50 percent of the salary, considered cost-sharing. A co-investigator or co-advisor from industry is required in a collaborative project or industrial fellowship.

Support by GOALI may be provided through a grant or through a supplement for an eligible existing NSF award. Proposals in the GOALI initiative are required to compete with all other proposals received at NSF for the respective research/educational program.

While flexibility exists for proposals focused on one or more of the examples listed above, the following directorates offer GOALI-related activities. For further information, consult the corresponding program announcement.

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) supports postdoctoral and graduate student research experiences in industry by offering opportunities for postdoctoral studies through two programs: Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biosciences Related to the Environment (see the program announcement NSF 94-114) and Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowships (see the program announcement NSF 94-133). Graduate Student Industrial Internships are provided for bioscience graduate students who have been awarded grants from the BIO Directorate to work in industry under the guidance of an academic advisor and an industrial mentor.

The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) offers opportunities in all areas supported by the directorate, such as postdoctoral fellowships in industry. For information on proposal submission and evaluation criteria, see the publication CISE Postdoctoral Research Associates in Computational Science and Engineering (in revision).

The Directorates for Education and Human Resources (EHR), Engineering (ENG), and Geosciences (GEO) support research and education projects and fellowships in all disciplines that fall within their purview. For more information, see the publication GOALI: FY 1996 Guidelines for EHR, ENG, and GEO Directorates (NSF 95-111).

The Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) offers opportunities in all areas usually supported by the directorate. Specific opportunities for industry/university collaboration are described in the following program announcements: University/Industry Cooperative Research Programs in the Mathematical Sciences (NSF 94-100), Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Chemistry (NSF 95-107), and NSF/NIST Interaction in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (copies available from the Chemistry Division).

The Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) supports--in addition to other activities--research in the framework of two initiatives. The first initiative advances the mission of the Decision, Risk, and Management Science Program and is designed to encourage theory-building in actual operational and managerial processes, problem-solving, risk management, strategic planning, and decision-making in private sector organizations. Further information can be found in the publication SBE/DRMS Joint NSF/Private Sector Research Opportunities (NSF 92-136). The objectives of the second initiative include supporting research to develop or improve concepts, theories, and methodologies for better managing transformations to quality organizations; and encouraging the development of new tools or processes, thereby leading to quality improvements in organization. Further information can be found in the publication Transformations to Quality Organizations (NSF 95-99).

For More Information

For further information, contact Dr. M.C. Roco, Coordinator for the NSF GOALI Initiative, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 525, Arlington, VA 22230, (703) 306-1371. The GOALI announcement (NSF 95-112) and the directorate guidelines are available on Mosaic.

Persons interested in submitting proposals for the GOALI initiative should contact the program director in the area of science most closely related to their field of research for details on program guidelines.