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News Release 17-118

NSF announces James Ulvestad as Chief Officer for Research Facilities

New position will advise NSF director on research facilities portfolio

Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

NSF supports research facilities that support many disciplines of science and engineering.

December 13, 2017

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.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) is pleased to announce that James S. Ulvestad will serve as the agency's first Chief Officer for Research Facilities (CORF), a position created in recognition of the critical role research infrastructure plays in science and engineering.

"For almost seven decades, NSF has helped build the research infrastructure that allows the United States to be a world leader in discovery and the generation of new knowledge," said NSF Director France A. Cordova. "Investment at that scale requires high-level oversight throughout the lifecycle of facilities from concept to construction and operation. It requires responsiveness to the scientific community and accountability to the public and its elected representatives. I can think of no one more suited to assume this role than Dr. James Ulvestad."

Ulvestad will advise the NSF director on all aspects of the agency's support for major and mid-scale research facilities throughout their lifecycle. He will also collaborate with NSF employees involved in oversight and assistance of the NSF multiuser research facilities portfolio. Ulvestad will begin his duties as CORF Jan. 2.

"The development of new tools and technologies and the integration of data at unprecedented scales has made research infrastructure critical for continued innovation in science and engineering," Ulvestad said. "Developing, supporting and enhancing research facilities that are dynamic, flexible and adaptive to the needs of the science and engineering community are key challenges for NSF and our partners. I am looking forward to this opportunity, and am pleased that NSF continues to address these challenges."

The need for broad oversight of NSF-supported research facilities was recognized by Congress in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA), enacted in 2017, which requires NSF to "appoint a senior agency official whose responsibility is oversight of the development, construction, and operations of major multiuser research facilities across the Foundation." NSF has invested in facilities aimed at enhancing a wide range of science and engineering fields, including the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which garnered a 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for three of its seminal contributors, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the Academic Research Fleet (ARF) and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

NSF is also working to ensure the scientific community has access to facilities that address current and future research needs, naming Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure as one of its "10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments."

Ulvestad most recently served as NSF acting assistant director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), leading a directorate that supports research at scales ranging from subatomic particles to the Milky Way galaxy and the universe. Prior to that, Ulvestad led MPS' Division of Astronomical Sciences from 2010 to 2017.

During his time in MPS, Ulvestad was responsible for stewardship of some of NSF's most prominent investments in infrastructure, including the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), National Solar Observatory (NSO), Gemini Observatory, and LIGO.

Before joining NSF, Ulvestad served as NRAO's assistant director.


Media Contacts
Aya Collins, NSF, (703) 292-7737, 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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