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News Release 17-112

NSF makes new awards to advance Science of Learning

Science of Learning program awards $8.2 million to projects that will advance theoretical insights about learning

Collage of images related to the Science of Learning

Research addresses learning across the lifespan in a variety of contexts.

November 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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.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) has awarded $8.2 million through its Science of Learning program to fund 24 new projects that will advance theoretical insights and fundamental knowledge of learning principles, processes, environments and constraints.

"NSF has shown long-standing leadership in the Science of Learning through past investments in the Science of Learning Centers and Science of Learning Collaborative Networks," said Fay Lomax Cook, assistant director for NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE). "These first awards from the Science of Learning program build on momentum in this field and demonstrate continued investment in projects that bridge disciplines toward a deeper understanding of societally important questions."

SBE developed the Science of Learning program to support the investigation of questions of great scope and complexity regarding how humans, other animals and machines learn. Such questions cross many scientific disciplines and scales from how cellular mechanisms and brain systems affect learning to the roles played by society and culture.

"Learning is essential to individual development, opportunity and achievement. It underpins our ability to address such challenges as educating the future workforce, increasing creativity and innovation, and developing the potential of human-technology interactions to improve productivity and opportunity," said Soo-Siang Lim, a Science of Learning program director.

The 2017 awards support research addressing learning across the lifespan in a wide range of domains, including memory, language and the development of scientific and inferential reasoning.

"The Science of Learning has become a robust field of research. The Science of Learning program establishes a home for this research here at NSF. With this home comes a predictable funding cycle to support innovative, integrative research proposals," said Howard Nusbaum, division director for SBE's Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences Division.

Some of the awards are co-funded by other programs in and outside of NSF.

The Science of Learning program contributes to NSF's investments in support of Understanding the Brain and the BRAIN Initiative, a coordinated research effort that seeks to enhance our understanding of the brain.

2017 Science of Learning program awards

Enhancing Cognitive Training with Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, John Jonides, University of Michigan

Understanding Learning Mechanisms and Language Acquisition through Intergenerational Conversations in Southwestern Ojibwe, a Native American language, Mary Hermes, Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia

Collaborative Research: Encoding and learning of internal models by the Purkinje cells of the cerebellum, Reza Shadmehr, Johns Hopkins University and Robijanto Soetedjo, University of Washington

CRCNS US-German-Israeli Research Proposal: Multi-Level Neuro-Computational Models of Basal Ganglia Dysfunction in Tourette Syndrome, Jonathan Rubin, University of Pittsburgh

CRCNS Research Proposal: US-German Collaboration: Influencing Brain Rhythms for Boosting Memory Consolidation, Maksim Bazhenov, University of California, San Diego

RAPID: Language Emergence from Inception, Rachel Mayberry, University of California, San Diego

Improving Vocabulary Learning through Working Memory Training: Examination of Causal Effects and Learning Trajectories, Young-Suk Grace Kim, University of California, Irvine

Developmental Changes in Reasoning about Biological Kinds, Marjorie Rhodes, New York University

The Development of Relational Processing in Infancy, Susan Hespos, Northwestern University

Collaborative Research: Learning Visuospatial Reasoning Skills from Experience, Maithilee Kunda, Vanderbilt University; Linda Smith, Indiana University

The Effect of Pictures in Books for Beginning Readers: Attention Allocation, Reading Fluency, and Reading Comprehension in K-2 Students, Anna Fisher, Carnegie Mellon University

The Development of Structural Thinking about Social Categories, Tania Lombrozo, University of California, Berkeley

The Development of Teaching and Social Learning Across Cultures, Cristine Legare, University of Texas at Austin

Interactions between speech perception and production during second language learning, Melissa Baese-Berk, University of Oregon

Cognitive Control Theoretic Mechanisms of Real-time fMRI-Guided Neuromodulation, Keith Bush, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Campus

Workshop on North American Indigenous Learning, Mary Linn, Smithsonian Institution

Integrating Different Perspectives on Social Learning, Mirta Galesic, Santa Fe Institute

Collaborative Research: Shaping the Future of Science through the Science of Learning, Thomas Shipley, Temple University; Leanne Chukoskie, University of California, San Diego

EAGER: Societies as learning communities: building the foundations for an empirical approach to the formation of collective memories, Alin Coman, Princeton University

Workshop: Mobilizing a Global Science of Learning to Address Future Challenges, Andrea Chiba, University of California, San Diego

EAGER: Identifying network dynamics promoting memory consolidation during sleep, Victoria Booth, University of Michigan Ann Arbor


Media Contacts
Stanley Dambroski, NSF, (703) 292-7728, email:

Program Contacts
Soo-Siang Lim, NSF, (703) 292-7878, email:
Kurt A. Thoroughman, NSF, (703) 292-7281, 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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