THE HISTORY OF ERE
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 report, Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation was issued in February 2000. It presents the findings and recommendations developed by the Task Force on the Environment and approved unanimously by the National Science Board.
One result of this report was the establishment of the NSF Working Group on Biocomplexity in the Environment, later renamed the Working Group on Environmental Research and Education. This group serves both as an internal advisory group and an investment design team whose primary responsibilities are to provide communication support for the broad ERE Portfolio and to identify areas of opportunity for future investment (e.g., the Biocomplexity in the Environment Initiative). Members are drawn from each NSF directorate as well as from the budget office, the international programs office, and the NSB Task Force on the Environment.
In addition to the working group, NSF established a standing Advisory Committee on Environmental Research and Education.
ERE PRIMARY FUNCTIONS
NSF has supported activities associated with environmental research and education for decades, primarily through disciplinary programs. In recent years, program officers have recognized that many exciting research opportunities in this area cut across extant disciplines and have formed interdisciplinary and interorganizational programs in response.
In supporting activities at the interdisciplinary frontiers, NSF has sought to integrate holistic multidisciplinary investments with disciplinary-intensive opportunities. Because of the tremendous opportunity for advances in environmental science and engineering revealed by this integrative approach, NSF considers environmental research and education a strategic priority for the Foundation.
ERE EDUCATIONAL AND OUTREACH ACTIVITIES
A cornerstone of NSF programs is the integration of research and education. Most research projects have educational components targeted at students and teachers at all levels and the general public. In addition, NSF supports many programs whose central focus is education. Examples of those that have an environmental concentration include the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, the Math and Science Partnership program, the Digital Libraries Initiative, and the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program.
ERE RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
Much of NSF's support for environmental research is focused on understanding fundamental processes involved in physical, biological, and human system interactions. Examples include research in the areas of ecosystem dynamics, cell function, atmospheric chemistry, biogeochemical cycles, political or economic institutional processes, coastal ocean processes, population biology and physiological ecology, Earth system history; solar influences, and the study of the interactions responsible for the ozone hole. NSF also supports research activities across all scientific and engineering disciplines to address issues related to the preservation, management, and enhancement of the environment. Areas of interest include air and water quality, biodiversity, environmental technology, natural disaster reduction, water and watersheds research, and risk assessment.