National Science Foundation
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Arlington, VA 22230
NSF Dear Colleague Letter
Information Technology Workforce
The Federal government plans to increase its investments in fundamental,
long-term research in information technologies (IT), encouraging, in
particular, research spanning information technology and scientific
applications, and in the area of social, ethical and workforce issues. To
help ensure that the United States continues its worldwide leadership in IT,
we need to strengthen the technological workforce and to produce a continuous
supply of well-trained high-quality professionals in engineering and computer
and information science (Presidentís Information Technology Advisory
Without an IT workforce that is large enough to meet both the public and
private sectorsí growing demand, and that is adept at using and producing
information technologies, we surely risk losing the scientific, economic and
human resource advantages we now enjoy.
In this respect, the under-representation of women and minorities in the
IT workforce is a serious national problem. There is agreement among some of
the nationís leading researchers and scientists that systematic research
efforts are needed to address this problem. Hence, the National Science
Foundation is announcing a new special emphasis on the IT workforce (ITW)
that will support a broad set of scientific research studies focussed on
the under-representation of women and minorities in the IT workforce.
ITW welcomes proposals that address important research questions related to
the under-representation of women and minorities in the IT workforce. While
there is no consensus on a single definition of the IT workforce, we
encourage researchers to carefully articulate and justify their own
definition of the IT workforce model. A suggested, but not exhaustive, list
of possible research questions is included in Appendix A. These research
topics revolve around three basic themes:
Multi-disciplinary collaboration among researchers in IT, the social
sciences, and education is strongly encouraged. Research can address issues
at the individual level, at the societal level, at the institutional level,
or across levels of analysis. All proposals should take into consideration
existing relevant research on the IT workforce. Small projects (one to two
investigators) as well as medium-sized multi-site team projects (three to
five investigators) will be supported.
ITW encourages research using a variety of methods. These include tools
design, development and experimental evaluation, simulation and modeling,
survey analysis, statistical models, ethnographic work to test models, case
studies, and the development of new methods for understanding increasingly
complex processes and dynamics of transformation. Formal meta-analysis
methodologies across previous studies and intervention programs will be
supported in order to build on the results of earlier work and to add to the
ITW will also support the analysis and assessment of existing information
tools and technologies and their possible differential uses and implications
for Women and Minorities in IT. It will also support the design,
development, and assessment of prototypes of new information tools and
technologies that will benefit women and minorities in IT.
Proposals may be submitted by any organization eligible for NSF support as
reflected in the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG). Multi-disciplinary collaboration
between researchers in IT and the social sciences is strongly encouraged.
Proposal Preparation Instructions
Proposals submitted in response to this Dear Colleague Letter should be
prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in
the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) NSF 00-2 and must be submitted
via Fastlane. Visit our site on the World Wide Web
Proposals for the ITW Special Emphasis must be submitted by 5pm, local time,
on June 22, 2000, using NSFís FastLane electronic proposal submission system,
see the Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) for instructions. The complete
text of the GPG (including electronic forms) is available electronically on
the NSF Web site at:
http://www.nsf.gov/. When submitting your proposal, please
type "NSF-00-77" in the block entitled "Program
Announcement/Solicitation No./Closing Date."
Contact for Additional Information
Please send all inquiries by Email to
Proposals submitted explicitly in response to this Dear Colleague Letter will
be considered for funding as well as proposals that fit the criteria of ITW
but which are submitted to other programs, divisions or directorates. ITW
awards may be funded for up to 3 years and will generally range from $75,000
to $250,000 per year. Depending on the availability of funding, between 15
and 25 proposals may be selected for support per funding cycle.
Environment and Culture: How the environment, culture and other
social contexts (e.g., households, neighborhoods, communities) shape interest
in IT, and how interest in and use of IT shapes the environment, with
particular emphasis on increasing our understanding of developmental issues
at different ages.
- IT Educational Continuum: Understanding how the overall
educational environment influences studentsí progress along the educational
continuum from grade school to entry into the workforce, and why students who
have the potential to succeed in the study of IT disciplines take educational
paths that preclude or make it difficult to enter the IT workforce.
- IT Workplace: Why women and minorities who have the potential to
succeed in the IT workforce take alternative career paths, what barriers and
obstacles they must overcome, and how the IT workplace can foster increased
retention and advancement of women and minorities.
Assistant Director, CISE
APPENDIX A: RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Theme 1: Environment and Culture
- Given the relative newness of computing technologies in the world today
and the strong demand for skilled IT workers in the US, why are women and
minorities underrepresented in various sectors of the IT workforce?
- How does access to computer technology affect interest in IT
- What role does socialization play in the development of individual
attitudes, stereotypes, aspirations, educational and career choices related
to IT? Do expectations and ethnic values transmitted through family, peers,
teachers, and role models influence educational and career choices related to
- How does popular culture through media, toys, games, and the
entertainment industry influence educational and career choices related to
- What are the design principles for information tools and technology that
encourage and support the interest and participation of women and minorities
Theme 2: IT Educational Continuum
- How do household investments in IT education and equipment for children
affect the choices these children make later in life?
- Why do students who have the potential to succeed in the study of IT
disciplines take educational paths that preclude or make it difficult to
enter the IT workforce?
- How does the overall educational environment influence such studentsí
progress along the educational continuum from grade school to entry into the
- The importance of taking appropriate courses in mathematics and science
has long been recognized as an integral part of preparation for IT careers.
Why are minorities still under-represented in the study of mathematics and
science? What role is played by counselors, teachers, and parents in
aptitude identification and encouragement of students to persist in studies
necessary for IT?
- IT is increasingly being integrated into K-16 education. What is the
impact on women and minorities of efforts to provide access to and general
use of computers in K-16 education?
- The traditional focus of entry level computer courses is on programming
with extensive work in computer laboratories, and with sequential course
prerequisites. What is the impact on women and minorities, of different
teaching methods and learning styles in IT education?
- What is the impact of the perception of relevance and social benefit of
computing in attracting and retaining women and minorities?
- A variety of information technologies are used in educational settings.
What role do they play in attracting and retaining women and minorities in
- Are there common characteristics among women and minorities with advanced
degrees in IT that explain their persistence and success in IT fields?
- There are a number of intervention programs in place designed to attract
and retain women and minorities in IT disciplines. What are the effects of
interventions on the retention and success of women and minorities in IT?
- There are many ways of mentoring students, faculty and workers in the IT
fields. What are the effects on the retention and success of women and
minorities in IT, of the different mentoring models and strategies? How
should issues of replication, scalability and delivery be
- How can educational institutions be structured and managed to ensure
diversity? What is necessary to attract and retain women and minorities as
IT faculty? Is there knowledge to be gained from multidisciplinary studies
across fields such as engineering, medicine and law, by comparing models of
intervention that have been successful in attracting and retaining women and
Theme 3: IT Workplace
- The rapid and continuing changes in the IT work environment fuels the
need for IT workers to participate in lifelong education, training and
self-development. What is the appropriate balance among these?
- Why do women and minorities who have the potential to succeed in the IT
workforce take alternative career paths? What barriers and obstacles must be
- How can the IT workplace foster increased retention and advancement of
women and minorities?
- Do quality of life issues related to IT careers such as burnout, long
workdays, and lack of social interaction influence retention and career
mobility of women and minorities in the IT workforce?
- How do evaluation, reward structures and family-friendly practices impact
the retention of workers in the IT workforce?
- Do stereotypes and the status of the IT profession affect the recruitment
and retention of women and minorities into IT careers? What are the effects
of traditional and non-traditional entry and career paths on retention and
career mobility? What are the formal qualifications and desired
characteristics of IT workers that are necessary to be successful in IT
occupations? How do degrees (or lack thereof) impact career paths and
advancement? Do the desired characteristics fit men more so than women,
non-minorities more so than minorities?
- Prior empirical work has shown that market as well as environment and
culture influence studentsí and professionalsí career choices. What can be
learned from investigations of the IT labor markets that might explain the
under-representation of women and minorities in IT?
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