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News Release 14-034

National Science Foundation selects Northwestern University Professor Fay Lomax Cook to head Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate

Fay Lomax Cook

Fay Lomax Cook

March 12, 2014

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected Fay Lomax Cook to serve as assistant director for the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences (SBE). SBE's mission is to promote the understanding of people and their lives by supporting research that reveals basic facets of human behavior and helps provide answers to important societal questions and problems.

SBE works with other disciplines to ensure that basic research and solutions to problems build on the best multidisciplinary science. SBE also houses a national statistical center that provides mission-critical information about science and engineering in the U.S. and in the world.

Cook is a professor at Northwestern University, where she is a faculty fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and a professor of human development and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy. From 1996 to fall 2012, she directed the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, which is one of the nation's leading centers of nonpartisan, interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research.

Her research focuses on the interrelationships between public opinion and social policy, the politics of public policy, public deliberation, energy policy, and the dynamics of public and elite support for programs for older Americans, particularly Social Security.

"Dr. Cook will lead a directorate that enriches all parts of our society, including government, academia, education, and business and industry," said NSF Acting Director Cora B. Marrett. "Her deep experience and expertise in these areas will be of great value to NSF and to the research community."

Research and discovery in the behavioral, social and economic sciences can shed light on how the brain processes information to influence behaviors, how disaster response systems and disease prevention efforts can be enhanced, and how investments shape our economy. SBE provides 56 percent of the federal funding for basic research at academic institutions in the SBE sciences.

Cook has lectured around the world and written and published scholarly articles, book chapters and five books, including Talking Together: Public Deliberation and Political Participation in America (2009, University of Chicago Press).

She has been president of the Gerontological Society of America; a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences; and a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. She has also been a member of the Expert Panel on Performance Outcome Measurement, U.S. Administration on Aging; a member of the Ford Foundation's research advisory committee on Social Welfare Policy and the American Future; a scientific consultant to the National Institute on Aging; and a member of the North American Program Committee for the International Congress on Gerontology. She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and an elected member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Cook received her doctorate from the University of Chicago, where she also completed her master's degree in social policy.

Cook will begin her NSF appointment in September 2014.


Media Contacts
Dana Topousis, NSF, (703) 292-7750, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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