National Science Foundation
January 30, 2014
Congress established the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes." With an annual budget of $7.2 billion (fiscal year 2014), NSF funds discovery, learning, innovation and research infrastructure to boost U.S. leadership in all aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and education. In contrast, other federal agencies support research focused on specific missions, such as health, energy or defense.
Vision, Goals. NSF's FY2011-2016 Strategic Plan states the Foundation's vision: "NSF envisions a nation that capitalizes on new concepts in science and engineering and provides global leadership in advancing research and education." NSF's three interrelated strategic goals are: Transform the Frontiers, Innovate for Society and Perform as a Model Organization.
Research and Education Priorities. NSF supports basic research and education in all scientific and engineering disciplines. We are the funding source for approximately 21 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. NSF invests in transformational research to catalyze breakthroughs in national priorities including robotics, clean energy, nanotechnology and cybersecurity. We also support these National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) activities: National Nanotechnology Initiative; Networking and Information Technology R&D; and U.S. Global Change Research Program, and NSF-wide investment areas such as: Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science, Engineering and Education; Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability; Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace; and Cyber-Enabled Materials, Manufacturing and Smart Systems. NSF is also committed to developing a highly capable and diverse science and engineering workforce that is prepared to drive discovery and innovation and provide global leadership in the years ahead. Broadening participation by underrepresented groups in science and engineering is a longstanding NSF commitment.
Results. Through the merit review process, we fund the best ideas and best people in science and engineering. NSF-supported advances include: Doppler radar, the Internet, Web browsers, bar codes, magnetic resonance imaging, ink jet printers, computer-aided design systems, artificial retinas, tissue engineering and other technology-based innovations that spur economic activity and improve the quality of life of all Americans.
- In FY2012, an estimated 319,000 people (researchers, postdoctoral fellows, trainees, teachers and students) were supported directly by NSF;
- To date, more than 200 Nobel Prize winners, including five of the 2012 Nobel laureates, received NSF support at some point in their careers.
Research Infrastructure. NSF supports a research infrastructure that provides multi-users with advanced capabilities for measuring, observing, manipulating and experimenting across the broad science and engineering enterprise. Our portfolio, developed and managed in cooperation with U.S. and international partners, includes research vessels, astronomical observatories, particle accelerators, seismic observatories, U.S. research stations in the Antarctic, unique ecological research sites, large datasets including long-term survey data, and advanced cyberinfrastructure including cutting-edge computational and communications networking capabilities. Among NSF's recent investments:
- The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), inaugurated in March 2013 by NSF and international partners Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Europe and Chile, is located in northern Chile and comprises 66 antennas. ALMA is one of the world's most powerful telescopes and will provide high resolution images of the earliest galaxies in the distant universe and the formation processes of planets circling stars in our own Milky Way galaxy.
- The research vessel Sikuliaq, a next generation, global class, ice-capable, research vessel, was launched in October 2012 by NSF in cooperation with the Marinette Marine Corporation and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The ship will allow researchers to work in ice-covered waters not previously accessible on a routine basis and play an essential role in our understanding of the Arctic Ocean system and how it is changing. The R/V Sikuliaq--an Inupiat word meaning young sea ice--was built with the first and largest single award made by NSF using Recovery Act funds.
- The Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) is a long-term program to provide 25 to 30 years of sustained ocean measurements to study climate variability, ocean circulation and ecosystem dynamics, air-sea exchange, seafloor processes, and plate-scale geodynamics. The system will provide a permanent presence in the ocean with advanced sensors and platforms and near real-time interactive capability.
- The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) will be the first research platform and the only national experimental facility specifically designed to enable research to answer continental-scale questions on causes of and responses to environmental change and the mechanisms involved in observed changes.
- The Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), under construction in Maui, Hawaii, will enable understanding of the sun's life cycle of magnetic fields. The telescope's collecting area--a factor of 16 greater than today's solar telescopes--will provide the sensitivity to measure both weak fields and rapidly evolving stronger fields.
Organization. As an independent federal agency, NSF does not fall under any cabinet department. NSF's activities are guided by the 25-member National Science Board, which also serves as a policy advisory body to the President and Congress. NSF is headed by a Director who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
NSF program activities are organized by seven directorates and one program office: the Biological Sciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Education and Human Resources; Engineering; Geosciences; Mathematical and Physical Sciences; and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorates; and the Office of International and Integrative Activities. Internal operations--including salaries and expenses for about 1,400 permanent staff--account for approximately 6 percent of NSF's overall budget.
Dana Topousis, NSF, (703) 292-7750, firstname.lastname@example.org
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) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
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Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
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