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Photo of Dr. France A. Cordova

Dr. France A. Córdova
National Science Foundation


Arlington, VA

January 6, 2017

Photo: NSF/Stephen Voss

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Title slide title: NSF INCLUDES
Broadening Participation in Science and Engineering

Slide words: Dr. France A. Córdova
Director, National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA
January 6, 2017

Slide images: (left to right) photo ofelementary students searching for microorganisms in their classroom; photo of graduate students in the lab at the Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (ERC-RMB); photo of woman undergraduate geology major; photo of students in the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP)

Image credits: (left to right) Barry Myers; NSF ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials, North Carolina State University; Doug Levere, University at Buffalo; Dan Koeck

Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to join you today. I hope that you all have enjoyed your time here the last couple of days, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to share with you in this important step in the development of the NSF INCLUDES initiative. My colleagues who have been attending this meeting are keeping me posted, and tell me that the work you are doing is truly exciting and innovative. I am hopeful that NSF INCLUDES will launch a national network of networks that will make a difference in broadening participation in STEM, at scale, soon.

NSF has been a longtime supporter of not only increasing investments in STEM education, but broadening participation in STEM in order to develop a well-prepared future workforce across all levels.

That is part of the motivation for the creation and development of NSF INCLUDES. As you know, this initiative is an agency-wide effort, and program officers throughout the Foundation share my excitement for its future. I know that they have been here through this meeting, getting to know you and learning about your projects. The goal - and your work is central to this - is to find the best talent from everywhere and develop it so that the nation's STEM-capable workforce can keep our country competitive.

Our vision is to transform science and engineering so that it is fully and widely inclusive; there are many brilliant minds that will contribute to the innovations and discoveries of the future.

NSF supports a portfolio of activities with this goal. Thanks to all of you who have, over the years, been a part of the NSF Broadening Participation portfolio of projects. Those projects provide us examples of successful policies and practices, and they affect the lives and career possibilities of thousands of students. Building on that foundation now we, through your work, are in the process of moving the needle toward scaling broadening participation efforts that make a difference.

NSF INCLUDES is set up to create a sustainable collaborative system that seeks out and builds on partnerships and alliances focused on women, minorities, people of low socioeconomic status, people with disabilities, and other people who have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. I am confident that each of your Launch Pilot projects is considering bold, innovative ways for solving the underrepresentation challenges that we are facing. All of this work can become part of a national movement for ensuring that our STEM workforce is innovative and ready to meet the challenges of the future.

Slide title: Five critical components of NSF INCLUDES

Slide words:

  1. Innovative ideas
  2. Collective impact-style partnerships
  3. Shared goals and measurements
  4. Senior-level leadership
  5. Potential to work at scale through networks

Slide image: photo of two CompuGirls students programming the actions of a humanoid robot

Image credit: John C. Williams, Humanoid Engineering & Intelligent Robotics (HEIR) Lab, Marquette University

Our vision for NSF INCLUDES contains five critical components. I know that you have discussed these. Let me give you my own perspective. First, we are searching for innovative and evidence-based ideas that can scale to national levels, and the first step has been the funding of your proposals. How can approaches that have worked well in certain institutions, locations, and with certain groups be expanded and enhanced? What are some new, untested ideas that can be tried in your pilots?

Second, INCLUDES is based on a model of collective-impact style partnerships. Each partnership brings fresh ideas and resources that can be shared across the network. We need to learn from and leverage these investments for lasting change. You have started down that road, and I am impressed by the array of partners and collaborators that have been assembled in this first round of Launch Pilots.

Third, you all will need to identify shared goals and measurements in order to track progress. The targets must be consistent and measurable, and include appropriate documentation. NSF staff and others will study this portfolio of inaugural Launch Pilots, so that we can work together to figure out what is successful, and what adjustments need to be made to continuously improve.

We also need senior-level leadership to move their institutions, professional societies, and communities forward in STEM as part of the NSF INCLUDES network. Those leaders will be part of sharing to ensure that lasting institutional change takes hold, and that we understand how it happens. I’m so pleased to see so many people in the room who are in critical positions in their institutions to make change happen.

Finally, each project, each partnership and alliance is not a silo. That is why you are here today. We need to develop the support structures that allow us to scale our innovations. We need to know each other and understand what each of us brings to this initiative. And then there should be potential for growth at scale. The growing NSF INCLUDES network will be critical to this.

Slide title: Design and development launch pilots

Slide image: photo of people attending an INCLUDES conference listening to Dr. France A. Córdova on screen

Image credit: Lloyd Jeremiah

You, the Principal Investigators, have a very important role to play in this initiative. You are the ones that will set the standard for how we go about engaging our communities and boosting participation among all the diverse and talented people in our nation in STEM. You will lay the foundations for what comes next. As you know, eventually we will issue a call for proposals for NSF INCLUDES Alliances, which will build on all the good work that come out of these Launch Pilots. Focusing on a collective-impact type model, we aim to diversify the science and engineering enterprise to strengthen U.S. leadership in STEM around the world.

We also need to learn from you as we create the NSF INCLUDES Backbone Organization, which will function to guide the vision and strategy, align the initiative's activities, establish measurement practices, build public will, advance policy, and mobilize funding across the network. I understand that there is great excitement about the workshops that are being planned.

You are here today because you believe in the importance of STEM education and a strong STEM workforce, and because you have great ideas that made it through two steps of merit review - a very competitive preliminary proposal process and then the final proposal submissions. You are integral to the 40 NSF INCLUDES launch pilots now set up at institutions across the country. Last month I had the pleasure of meeting a number of you when I attended NSF INCLUDES meetings at UC-San Francisco and West Los Angeles College, and I was delighted to see your creativity firsthand.

I am intrigued by everything that you are planning to do, and am struck by your collective boldness and commitment. The collection of projects is addressing different groups and taking different approaches to broadening STEM participation that will help transform how we take on continuing challenges of building a diverse, innovative STEM workforce for the future.

Slide title: Looking Ahead: Ten Big Ideas

Slide words: Research Ideas
(top left to right) Navigating the New Arctic; Harnessing the Data Revolution, Harnessing Data for 21st Century Science and Engineering; Work at the Human Technology Frontier: Shaping the Future
(middle left to right) Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype; The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution; Windows on the Universe: The Era of Multi-messenger Astrophysics

Process Ideas
(bottom left to right) Growing Convergent Research at NSF; NSF-INCLUDES: Enhancing Science and Engineering through Diversity; Mid-scale Research Infrastructure; NSF 2050: Seeding Innovation

Slide images: (top left to right) aerial photo of melting ice in the Arctic; word graphic about data science; illustration of creative teams working on giant digital tablets and communicating digitally
(middle left to right) photo of a hand watering a seedling; illustration of quantum computation with trapped ions; photo of IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica; aerial photo of LIGO in Livingston, LA; photo of radio telescopes at Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile
(bottom left to right) illustration suggesting convergence; U.S. map with photo montage of diverse people; photo of a broken bridge; futuristic NSF 2050 graphic

Image credits: (top left to right) Roger Wakimoto, NSF; James Kurose, NSF; Jesus Sanz/
(middle left to right) ©; S. Kelley, Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), University of Maryland; F. Fleming Crim, NSF; LIGO Scientific Collaboration; F. Fleming Crim, NSF
(bottom left to right) ©; design by Trinka Kensill, NSF; ©; © and design by Adrian Apodaca

NSF INCLUDES is just one of the approaches that NSF envisions for shaping and changing the future of the scientific enterprise. That future rests on the foundation of years of investments NSF has poured into fundamental research. For more than six decades, those investments have focused the nation's scientific and technical talent on solving important challenges facing modern society. Science has now progressed and seen so many incredible breakthroughs in that time, and we are on the verge of crossing into new frontiers of innovation.

You all, as one of our newest cohorts of NSF PIs for a major, NSF-wide program, are a part of a new approach by the NSF to look toward the future and point to key directions in science. I want to share just a bit about this with you, so that you can see how the work of NSF INCLUDES is central to our current look at the future. I also want to emphasize that at NSF, science and education are integrated - our emphasis is on preparing the scientific workforce, and as you all know that needs to happen in close concert with a vision of the direction of science. So I will take a few minutes now to turn to the topic of the science of tomorrow.

NSF looks toward the future and sees great potential for groundbreaking science. It was with this vision that NSF debuted a set of its own 10 Big Ideas, research and process agendas aimed at catalyzing new breakthroughs from science and engineering communities and capturing new investments to realize their full potential. I argue that having the talented, diverse workforce of scientists and engineers to advance progress on these ideas is essential. And that's why NSF INCLUDES is one of them. But first let me briefly describe them.

  • Navigating the New Arctic - NSF seeks to expand Arctic research to understand the processes facing the region and their potential global effects. By building out a dense network of sensors across Alaska that would include new, cheaper technologies such as 3-D printed and autonomous sensors, we can document changes in the Arctic land, sea and air.
  • Harnessing Data for 21st Century Science and Engineering - Our vision for the future calls for bold approaches to data science and cyberinfrastructure. By Harnessing Data and building on our foundation of past investments, the nation is well-positioned to take on the new era of big data, as well as new and fundamental data-driven research questions.
  • Working at the Human-Technology Frontier - NSF's investment in our nation's research and development efforts toward Work at the Human-Technology Frontier will help ensure that tomorrow's technologies are effective, efficient, adaptive, and human-centered. This vision of the future offers the hope of true collaboration between humans and machines - one where robots and humans have a complementary relationship as opposed to a competitive one.
  • Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype - which promises to bridge the biggest gap in biological science by determining how an organism's genes interacting with the environment influences its unique characteristics.
  • The Quantum Leap - This initiative aims to extend our understanding of the quantum world, furthering breakthroughs in the development of novel technologies. Exploiting quantum phenomena like superposition, entanglement, and squeezing will enable the next wave of precision sensors and more efficient computations, simulations, and communications.
  • New Windows on the Universe - Combining the use of NSF's unique facilities allows scientists to explore the mysteries of space and space-time.
  • Growing "Convergent" Research - would integrate knowledge, tools, techniques, and modes of thinking from widely diverse fields to address pressing societal problems and "questions without borders" - disciplinary borders. Funding Convergence requires new approaches to merit review, support and funding.
  • Mid-scale Research Infrastructure - NSF funds both large-scale and small-scale research projects. In between those two funding categories, there are important research opportunities - including sensors and IT - that deserve attention. NSF's Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure initiative would target projects costing less than 100 million dollars, but more than our MRI funding of a few million dollars.
  • NSF 2050: Seeding Innovation - This would be a new cross-agency fund for bold, forward-thinking research projects that transcend traditional approaches and push forward the frontiers of discovery and innovation.

Slide title: NSF INCLUDES

Slide images: (left to right) photo of female lab technician; photo of male researcher; photo of male government worker

Image credits: (left to right) A and N photography/; ©; ©

And those initiatives bring us to why we are here today. NSF is known as the place where discoveries - and discoverers - begin, and everyone here shares that fascination with discovery. Each one of those Big Ideas I previously mentioned needs a strong, deep, STEM-proficient workforce to unleash the full potential to do excellent science.

None of these initiatives can reach their full potential without talented, well-prepared scientists and engineers at all levels - from the Indigenous people who are critical to Navigating the New Arctic, to the data scientists who will be essential to Harnessing Data, to the skill, high-tech technicians who will design and build Mid-Scale Infrastructure. All of these Big Ideas require a workforce that is STEM-capable, versatile, and well-prepared to handle the challenges of the future. Our nation must attract more domestic talent into science and engineering fields, or our ability to compete globally could suffer as a result.

This is why I feel strongly about not only incorporating NSF INCLUDES as one of the Big Ideas, but highlighting it as the most important Idea. Because science is too important and rewarding to be exclusive, and too vital to the nation's future to leave anyone out.

Attracting enough domestic talent means looking everywhere, especially in areas that have been normally neglected. A recent McKinsey and Company study found that companies were 15% more likely to gain financial returns above their national industry median if they were in the top quartile of gender diversity. That probability rose to 35% for companies in the top quartile for racial/ethnic diversity.

That shows that a non-diverse STEM workforce is at a distinct disadvantage when compared with a diverse labor force. Diversity - of thought, perspective, or experience - is vital for excellence in research and innovation. Seeking and promoting talent that reflects our diverse nation and represents people from all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups will have the nation at the height of preparation for the challenges that await in the future.

All segments of society include the potential for developing the next Einstein. If we set out to embrace the totality of talent that is available to us, we can find that untapped passionate curiosity that will unearth tomorrow's greatest discoveries.

The best way we can shape the future is to create the STEM-capable workforce that will change it. That mission begins with you. Thank you for the hard work and creativity that you all are bringing to this NSF INCLUDES initiative. From the Team Captain of INCLUDES, let me say that we are now moving as one force in this goal to make a difference.

Slide title: NSF INCLUDES
Broadening Participation in Science and Engineering

Slide words: Dr. France A. Córdova
Director, National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA
January 6, 2017

Slide images: (left to right) photo of elementary students searching for microorganisms in their classroom; photo of graduate students in the lab at the Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (ERC-RMB); photo of woman undergraduate geology major; photo of students in the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP)

Image credits: (left to right) Barry Myers; NSF ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials, North Carolina State University; Doug Levere, University at Buffalo; Dan Koeck