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NSB Chair Kelly - NSF Director Colwell
The National Science Board - A History in Highlights, 1950-2000
Table of Contents | Preface | Acknowledgements | Former Members | Exec Secretaries/Officers | Timeline

2000 and Beyond

The Board's agenda and the Foundation's under the leadership of NSF Director Rita Colwell meshed with that of the Clinton White House. For FY2001, the President requested, and Congress approved, the largest budget increase in Foundation history-13.6 percent. In addition to support of core areas, other priorities included information technology research, where NSF already had a primary role. Another is nanoscale science and engineering. NSF leads other federal agencies in efforts to understand phenomena on the scale of one billionth of a meter. A third area of emphasis is biocomplexity, kicking off the Foundation's growth in the environmental realm.

Another critical objective is building the twenty-first century workforce. NSF is continuing to develop human resources at all levels of education-formal and informal, in schools, homes and communities. The Foundation will give priority to research on learning, systemic reform, teacher preparation, rigorous instruction, and accountability. "From here on," Kelly says, "it will be a question of public understanding and political will" to improve U.S. student achievement.

We are inspired by all that our predecessors have accomplished. I hope that in another fifty years, those who follow us will find similar reasons to celebrate. Eamon M. Kelly, Board Chair (1998-2002) While the Foundation's budget is likely to grow, basic research-which is now primarily funded by the federal government-is just 0.002 percent of the total U.S. economy. This alarms Kelly. "We know as a result of the past fifty years that basic research is the only investment that pays off with such high returns," he says. "Applied research and development work do not have anywhere near the same impact."

In coming years, Kelly says the Board will push hard to "stimulate the political environment and the public's understanding" to realize the importance of a higher level of investment in basic research. The Foundation, he says, "is responsible for the health of the scientific enterprise, and the only agency responsible for the general well-being of the entire spectrum of the natural and social sciences."

In this sense, the National Science Foundation is a national treasure. For 50 years, it has enabled scientists and engineers to advance an endless frontier. What would Vannevar Bush think if he could see the National Science Board today? Kelly's ready answer is: "He would see the fulfillment of a vision in which the Board has moved science policy to center stage in the service of the Nation."

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