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Abstract Thinking
In 2016, NSF unveiled a set of "Big Ideas" -- 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering. With its broad portfolio of investments, NSF is uniquely suited to advance this set of cutting-edge research agendas and processes that will require collaborations with industry, private foundations, other agencies, science academies and societies, and universities and the education sector. The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge -- indeed to define that cutting edge -- of global science and engineering leadership and to invest in basic research and processes that advance the United States' prosperity, security, health and well-being.

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Harnessing the Data Revolution

Engaging NSF's research community in the pursuit of fundamental research in data science and engineering, the development of a cohesive, federated, national-scale approach to research data infrastructure, and the development of a 21st-century data-capable workforce. Read more.

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The Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier

Understanding how constantly evolving technologies are actively shaping the lives of workers and how people in turn can shape those technologies, especially in the world of work. Read more.

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Navigating the New Arctic

Establishing an observing network of mobile and fixed platforms and tools across the Arctic to document and understand the Arctic's rapid biological, physical, chemical, and social changes. Current Arctic observations are sparse and inadequate for enabling discovery or simulation of the processes underlying Arctic system change or to assess their environmental and economic impacts on the broader Earth system. Read more.

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Windows on the Universe: The Era of Multi-Messenger Astrophysics

Using powerful new syntheses of observational approaches to provide unique insights into the nature and behavior of matter and energy and help to answer some of the most profound questions before humankind. Read more.

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The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution

Exploiting quantum mechanics to observe, manipulate, and control the behavior of particles and energy at atomic and subatomic scales, resulting in next-generation technologies for sensing, computing, modeling, and communicating. Read more.

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Understanding the Rules of Life

Elucidating the sets of rules that predict an organism's observable characteristics, its phenotype. Read more.



Mid-scale Research Infrastructure

Developing an agile process for funding experimental research capabilities in the mid-scale range. The National Science Foundation's science and engineering activities rely increasingly on infrastructure that is diverse in space, cost and implementation time -- everything from major observatories to nationwide sensor networks to smaller experiments. There are many important potential experiments and facilities that fall between these; this gap results in missed opportunities that leave essential science undone. Read more.



NSF 2026

Investing in bold foundational research questions that are large in scope, innovative in character, originate outside of any particular directorate, and require a long-term commitment. This Big Idea is framed around the year 2026 in order to tie into the Nation's 250th anniversary ("sestercentennial"). Read more.

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Growing Convergence Research

Framing challenging research questions at inception, and fostering the collaborations needed for successful inquiry. Read more.