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News Release 04-019

NSF Announces $24 Million Program in Human and Social Dynamics

Priority area to provide new insights into how people both create and respond to change

February 12, 2004

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

ARLINGTON, Va.—The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a newly expanded foundation-wide priority area in Human and Social Dynamics (HSD), which expects to fund up to $24.24 million in awards in 2004.

The overarching goal of this priority area is to advance understanding of human and social changes that crisscross cultural, political, environmental, economic and technological boundaries. War refugees, for example, affect ecosystems across political borders, and the flow of official and unofficial information influences how individuals and global markets respond the threat of terrorist attacks.

Ultimately, this priority area aims to help individuals and organizations anticipate and respond to a rapidly changing world. Priority area research will also build new research capacity in the social and behavioral sciences, shedding new light on human development and cognition and their interaction with external environments.

“NSF’s investment in this priority area will provide new insights into how humans both create and respond to social, technological and environmental change,” said Norman M. Bradburn, NSF’s assistant director for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate. “The research it supports will improve our understanding of how people and organizations make decisions, take risks and deal with uncertainty. The area is also targeting for study large-scale change, such as globalization, the evolution of society and its interaction with the environment and the implications of culture for conflict and assimilation.”

Solving the challenges Human and Social Dynamics present will require collaboration by researchers from across the social and behavioral sciences and from disciplines ranging from mathematics, engineering and computer science to biology and the physical sciences. The priority area will extend for the next five years, with funding levels expected to increase in subsequent years.

In 2004, the priority area is seeking proposals in three topic areas: agents of change, dynamics of human behavior, and decision-making and risk.

Agents of change projects will focus on the dynamics of transformational changes in humanity and society, such as globalization, democratization, migrations and the spread of epidemics. Such changes often transcend national and physical boundaries and involve cascading interactions of human beliefs and behaviors with social and economic institutions, technological change and environmental forces.

The dynamics of human behavior seeks to unravel links between mental processes and behavior as well as the processes through which individuals and collective entities, such as families and firms, form, grow, learn, change and act. Research will also explore the interaction of humans with other systems, both natural and artificial, including the technological-systems designed to enhance human abilities.

Decision-making and risk projects will focus on how humans and organizations can make better decisions in an uncertain world, with a special focus on chronic risks and risks from extreme and unanticipated events. Risks being studied can range from those associated with crime and auto accidents to climate change and terrorist attacks.

In concert with the three topic areas, NSF will also highlight and fund efforts that advance the tools, methods and resources available to scientists who are pursuing the answers to priority area questions.

Detailed information about the Human and Social Dynamics priority area and the program announcement may be found at For researchers interested in submitting proposals, web-based letters of intent are due by March 3, 2004, and the deadline for full proposals is March 30, 2004.


Media Contacts
David Hart, NSF, (703) 292-7737, email:

Program Contacts
Sally M. Kane, NSF, (703) 292-8700, email:
Miriam Heller, NSF, (703) 292-7025, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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