The quality of life in the 21st century will depend in large measure on the generation of new wealth, on safeguarding the health of our planet, and on opportunities for enlightenment and individual development. The environment is a critical element of the knowledge base we need to live in a safe and prosperous world.
In August 1998, the National Science Board established the Task Force on the Environment within its Committee on Programs and Plans. The Task Force was created to provide guidance to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in defining the scope of its role with respect to environmental research, education, and scientific assessment and in determining the best means of implementing related activities related. The task force was charged with:
- reviewing the scope of current NSF activities related to research, education, and scientific assessment on the environment; and
- developing guidance for NSF at the policy level that would be used to design an appropriate portfolio of activities consistent with the overall National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) strategy, the goals of the NSF Strategic Plan, and activities of other agencies and organizations that support related programs.
This report, Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation, presents the findings and recommendations developed by the Task Force on the Environment and approved unanimously by the National Science Board. The report is based on an extensive review of relevant policy documents and reports, a process of hearings and consultations with invested communities, invited commentary from a broad range of organizations and individuals, and feedback through a public web site [http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/tfe]. The task force also examined a wide variety of environmental programs at NSF to determine the factors most likely to result in effective new research and educational activities.
On behalf of the National Science Board, I want to commend Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the chair of the task force, and the other task force membersDrs. Mary K. Gaillard, Robert M. Solow, and Warren M. Washington of the National Science Board; Dr. Mary Clutter, NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences; and Dr. Robert Corell, NSF Assistant Director for Geosciencesfor their outstanding work in pulling together this important and complex report. Dr. Penelope Firth, Program Director for Ecosystem Studies, provided superb support as the Executive Secretary to the task force.
The Board is especially grateful for the strong support provided throughout by the Director of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Rita R. Colwell, and by NSF's Deputy Director, Dr. Joseph Bordogna.
Eamon M. Kelly