The NSF Mission

Seedling(Robert Reichert. Search Magazine. The Rockefeller University)
Caption: By introducing a signal gene from E.coli bacteria into this seedling, scientists and engineers, supported through NSF's Biotechnology Initiative, discover how environmental signals activate genes.

The National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-507) set forth NSF's mission and purpose:

To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense....

The Act authorized and directed NSF to initiate and support:

Over the years, NSF's statutory authority has been modified in a number of significant ways. In 1968, authority to support applied research was added to the Organic Act. In 1980, The Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act gave NSF standing authority to support activities to improve the participation of women and minorities in science and engineering. Another major change occurred in 1986, when engineering was accorded equal status with science in the Organic Act.

NSF has always dedicated itself to providing the leadership and vision needed to keep the words and ideas embedded in its mission statement fresh and up-to-date. Even in today's rapidly changing environment, NSF's core purpose resonates clearly in everything it does: promoting achievement and progress in science and engineering and enhancing the potential for research and education to contribute to the Nation. While NSF's vision of the future and the mechanisms it uses to carry out its charges have evolved significantly over the last four decades, its ultimate mission remains the same.

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

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