NSF's Goals...Setting a True Course

Caption: The radio telescopes and other astronomical facilities that NSF supports enable researchers to view the universe from multiple perspectives.

This strategic plan establishes three broad, closely interrelated goals for NSF that show the way to realizing the agency's vision and fulfilling its statutory mission. These goals both reflect and reach beyond NSF's traditions - with the intent of placing the Foundation in a pivotal position to help secure the Nation's scientific and technological future:

The first goal listed above is truly an overarching goal for the Foundation. It is a direct extension of the Administration's goal of "World Leadership in Basic Science, Mathematics, and Engineering." World leadership in all aspects of science, mathematics and engineering requires that the second and third goals be attained. Those latter goals are components of the first that are particularly timely. Likewise, world class efforts across a broad spectrum of science, mathematics and engineering support the attainment of the second and third goals. Their achievement depends on an ample infrastructure of talent, ideas, and physical and financial resources.

Upholding World Leadership

NSF sees its role as enabling the U.S. to uphold a position of world leadership in research and education. It will work to fulfill this goal by providing the U.S. with a world-leading capability in all aspects of science and engineering - inquiry and discovery, dissemination, integration, and application of knowledge, education and training, facilities and instrumentation. This entails taking advantage of NSF's many unique strengths - especially its commitment to excellence, its ability to work in partnership with other organizations, its commitment to linking the processes of education and research, and its experience at connecting research and education to national priorities. The agency strives to ensure that the Nation retains a strong human and physical infrastructure for science, mathematics, and engineering. This infrastructure is both a key to world leadership and a resource on which the Nation may draw for other purposes. Upholding a position of world leadership requires exercising leadership to promote international cooperation in science and engineering, and NSF pledges to make international cooperation an important element of meeting this goal.

Imaging(David Hoffman, James T. Hoffman)
Caption: This computer-generated image of minimal surface area illustrates how advanced imaging technologies have opened new frontiers in mathematics and other disciplines.

Promoting the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge is the traditional core of NSF's activities. Integration across fields of knowledge and tying discovery to the potential uses of new knowledge have played an increasingly important role in NSF's programs in recent years. The second goal signifies the importance of combining all these elements in our programmatic activities. It also describes NSF's explicit recognition of the role of science, mathematics and engineering in service of society. NSF is committed to devoting a significant and balanced portion of its portfolio to areas of strategic importance to the Nation. In cooperation with the Administration and the Congress, and with input from the private sector and other organizations, NSF will define and revise its role in such areas through its continuing planning process.

The third goal encapsulates NSF's threefold commitment to science and engineering education and human resource development: (1) to give every American the understanding of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology needed for full participation as an educated citizen and for personal enrichment; (2) to provide the Nation with a technologically sophisticated workforce; and (3) to provide opportunities for young people that will attract them to and prepare them for careers in science, mathematics, and engineering.

Catalyzing Partnerships

NSF holds no illusions that it can achieve these goals unilaterally. That is why this plan places such strong emphasis on working in partnership with other public and private organizations engaged in science, mathematics, and engineering. As the first sentence in "The NSF Vision" states, NSF views itself as a"catalyst" - meaning it provides the tools, the programs, and the funding to help others pursue the frontiers of knowledge and advance teaching and learning. Insimplest terms, NSF lives, leads, and works through its many partners in the research and education enterprise.

NSF in a Changing World: The National Science Foundation's Strategic Plan

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