04-23 September 2004
the National Science Foundation
The National Science
Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency created by the
National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 USC 1861-75).
The Act states the purpose of the NSF is "to promote the progress
of science; [and] to advance the national health, prosperity, and
welfare by supporting research and education in all fields of science
From those first days, NSF has had a unique place in the Federal
Government: it is responsible for the overall health of science
and engineering across all disciplines. In contrast, other Federal
agencies support research focused on specific missions such as
health or defense. The Foundation also is committed to ensuring
the nation's supply of scientists, engineers, and science and engineering
NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and
engineering. It does this through grants and cooperative agreements
to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems,
businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations
throughout the US. The Foundation accounts for about one-fourth
of Federal support to academic institutions for basic research.
NSF receives approximately 40,000 proposals each year for research,
education and training projects, of which approximately 11,000
are funded. In addition, the Foundation receives several thousand
applications for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships. The agency
operates no laboratories itself but does support National Research
Centers, user facilities, certain oceanographic vessels and Antarctic
research stations. The Foundation also supports cooperative research
between universities and industry, US participation in international
scientific and engineering efforts, and educational activities
at every academic level.
NSF is structured much like a university, with grants-funding
divisions for the various disciplines and fields of science and
engineering and for science, math, engineering and technology education.
NSF also uses a variety of management mechanisms to coordinate
research in areas that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.
The Foundation is assisted by advisors from the scientific and
engineering communities who serve on formal committees or as ad
hoc reviewers of proposals. This advisory system, which focuses
on both program directions and specific proposals, involves approximately
50,000 scientists and engineers each year. NSF staff members who
are experts in a certain field or area make award recommendations;
proposers get unattributed verbatim copies of peer reviews.
Grantees are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities
and preparing the results for publication. Thus, the Foundation
does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.
NSF welcomes proposals on behalf of all qualified scientists,
engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women,
minorities and persons with disabilities to participate fully in
its programs. In accordance with Federal statutes, regulations
and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex,
national origin or disability shall be excluded from participation
in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination,
under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from
NSF, although some programs may have special requirements that
Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers
with Disabilities provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons
with disabilities to work on NSF-supported projects. See Chapter
II, Section D.2 for instructions regarding preparation of these
types of proposals.
The National Science Foundation has Telephonic Device for the
Deaf (TDD) and Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) capabilities
that enable individuals with hearing impairments to communicate
with the Foundation about NSF programs, employment or general information.
TDD may be accessed at (703) 292-5090 and (800) 281-8749, FIRS
at (800) 877-8339.
The National Science Foundation Information Center may be reached
at (703) 292-5111.