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Scientist in a lab NSB Chair Hackerman 1977 NSF Director Atkinson 1979 NSF Director Slaughter
The National Science Board - A History in Highlights, 1950-2000
Table of Contents | Preface | Acknowledgements | Former Members | Exec Secretaries/Officers | Timeline

Steady State, Steady Strain

During its tenure in the late 1970s, the Carter Administration was well disposed toward NSF. President Jimmy Carter made former Board member Frank Press, a strong proponent of basic research, his science advisor. The White House and Congress increased current dollar funds for the agency, though rampant inflation took away any real gain.

Richard C. Atkinson, a Stanford University psychologist who had been Stever's Deputy Director, became NSF Acting Director in 1976 (he was confirmed as Director in May 1977, the first behavioral scientist to hold that position). Hackerman, the Board's chairman at the time, helped steer the Foundation among competing pressures. Some universities, for example, were calling for more applied programs within NSF. A number of Congressmen-with MACOS fresh in their minds-were pushing for greater public participation in NSF deliberations. In June 1977, the Board passed a resolution welcoming the appointment to the Board of "nonscience or public members." President Carter appointed more industry representatives to the Board so as to encourage more input from that important sector.

The Board also held hearings around the country, to learn what states and localities wanted from the Foundation. Hackerman favored new approaches to raising the quality of research and education in regions that normally did not succeed in the fierce competition for NSF funds. "The Foundation's awards are an educational tool, not just a scientific tool," he says today. "If you look at the roster of faculty of the top six or ten institutions, they come from everyplace.. So you have to cast the net broadly, to catch the neophyte who will be a good scientist or engineer."

In 1979, the Foundation launched the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The program funds partnerships among colleges and universities, state governments, and industry in states that get the fewest NSF awards-eighteen states in the program's first year. During the program's initial decade, the Foundation's $43 million investment in EPSCoR attracted an additional $149 million worth of state spending.

The 1970s had been a rough-and-tumble ride, but with the Board's help, the Foundation emerged with a more socially relevant agenda, broader geographic distribution in funding, and the agency's commitment to basic science intact.

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