Picture of Neal LaneSeptember, 1997

To the Reader:

In February, 1995, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Board published NSF in a Changing World, a strategic plan designed to guide NSF for five to ten years. Since its publication, it has served as a touchstone for all our activities, providing an overarching sense of purpose and direction.

The strategic plan at hand provides an operational implementation of NSF in a Changing World, in compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). It provides concrete outcome goals that are tied to the results of NSF's grants for research and education in science and engineering and also addresses our goals for excellence in managing the agency. It describes investment strategies and actions we intend to take to implement those strategies. It illustrates by example some of the many activities already underway that embody the strategies. It tells you much about what we intend to do, but, for reasons of brevity, it says very little about the uniqueness and importance of NSF's mission and the rationale for the approach we have chosen to follow. I believe the rationale is important in setting the proper context for the elements of this plan. Thus, I would encourage you to take the time to read NSF in a Changing World in order to find out why NSF is special and what makes it tick. It would serve as a good backdrop for reading this plan.

The organization of this GPRA strategic plan presents a set of key investment strategies for each of our programmatic outcome goals. This makes the plan easier to read, but obscures the fact that there are a small number of quite general strategies that have impact across and, thus, create synergy among the outcome goals. These include NSF's commitment to: (1) using competitive merit review with peer evaluation to identify the most promising ideas from the strongest researchers and educators; (2) integrating research and education to strengthen both; (3) working in partnership with the science and engineering communities and potential users of the results of NSF investment in order to identify areas of emerging opportunity; and (4) assuring that both NSF and the research and education communities reap optimal benefit from the revolution in information, communications, and computing technologies.

Over the years covered by this strategic plan, there will be changes. There can be no diminution of our commitment to competitive merit review with expert peer evaluation, but we will experiment with the processes so as to ease the burden on both the research and education communities and NSF staff. We will continue our strong partnership with academic institutions and the science and engineering community, but look to expand our interactions with other components of the Federal government, with the private sector, with the states, and with other nations. The revolution in information, communications, and computing technologies is one of many factors contributing to rapid change in the character of academic institutions. We consider that we have a special obligation to help ensure that what results is productive change for all concerned so that America's colleges and universities -- unparallelled elsewhere in the world -- can continue their critical contributions to this nation's strength through their integrated activities in research and education.

NSF will stage its actions over the life of the GPRA strategic plan, managing through a balanced approach that permits us to achieve synergy among our many diverse activities. Annual performance plans and budget requests will evidence that balance. It would be very easy to emphasize a single outcome goal to the exclusion of the others, but their interdependencies make it very important that we not do so. Too much of one good thing can lead to not enough of another.

I want to thank all who made contributions to the development of this plan -- staff, members of the research and education communities, colleagues at other agencies, congressional staff, and all those with a stake in the future of NSF. This plan would not exist without them. I believe the plan gives us a strong operational base for moving into the next century.

This is the first stage of NSF's compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act. Annual performance plans and reports will come next. I hope you will continue to follow our efforts to convey to the American people the many benefits they receive from their support of NSF. This is an agency with its mission aimed straight at the future of the nation. This plan is only the beginning of the story.

                Neal Lane

National Science Foundation
GPRA Strategic Plan
FY 1997 - 2003

Table of Contents

A Letter from the Director Page i
The NSF Mission Page 2
Outcome Goals and Investment Strategies Page 3
Critical Factors for Success Page 14
    Appendix 1:  External Factors Affecting Success
    Appendix 2:  Linking the Strategic Plan to the Annual Performance Plans
    Appendix 3:  Evaluation
    Appendix 4:  Integration of NSF Plans with Those of Other Agencies
    Appendix 5:  Information Technology in Support of NSF's Mission


The National Science Foundation is a catalyst for progress through investment in science, mathematics and engineering. The agency is guided by its longstanding commitment to the highest standards of excellence in the support of discovery and learning. NSF pledges to provide the leadership and stewardship necessary to sustain and strengthen the Nation's science, mathematics, and engineering capabilities and to promote the use of those capabilities in service to society1.

NSF's continuing mission is set out in the preamble to the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 (Public Law 810507):

To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes.

The Act authorizes and directs NSF to initiate and support:

The NSF Act establishes the Presidentially-appointed National Science Board (NSB) to assure that the Foundation implements this charge throughout its programs. Furthermore, the Act charges the NSB to provide policy advice to the President and Congress in order to assure the productivity and excellence of the science and engineering enterprise.

The NSF Act, as amended, NSF's core responsibilities. Over the Foundation's history, specific additional charges have been made to the agency within the framework of these broad mission elements. Such charges include: fostering the interchange of scientific and engineering information nationally and internationally, supporting the development of computer and other methodologies, maintaining facilities in the Antarctic and promoting the US presence through research conducted there, and addressing issues of equal opportunity in science and engineering.

The Foundation exercises its authority primarily by making merit-based grants and cooperative agreements and providing other forms of assistance to individual researchers and groups, in partnership with colleges, universities and other institutions -- public and private, state, local and federal -- throughout the US. By providing these resources, NSF contributes to the health and vitality of the US research and education system, which enable and enhance the nation's capacity for sustained growth and prosperity. As an investment agent, NSF builds a portfolio that is designed to realize its mission and goals. The individuals and organizations in which NSF invests conduct the work that ultimately determines the outcomes of the investment process that NSF manages.

1 This GPRA-compliant strategic plan is based on NSF in a Changing World, the NSF strategic plan approved by the National Science Board in 1994, from which these opening words are taken. It describes a functional implementation of the ideas found in that document.

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NSF expects the following as outcomes from its investments, taken in the aggregate and observed over time.

The outcomes for the investment portfolio as a whole are greater than the sum of outputs and outcomes of individual awards. The extent of the synergy among awards is partially determined by how NSF makes award decisions. Connections that NSF facilitates once the investments are made are also important.

The following pages provide information on the investment strategies NSF uses in working toward each of these goals; an action plan for each goal that will be useful in linking the outcome goals to the development of annual budgets and performance plans and in providing guidance to the program officers; and a brief descriptive standard for addressing NSF's success in making progress toward the goal. A few examples of NSF activities that illustrate elements of the strategies or the action plan are also included.

Because the conduct of research and education activities in science and engineering supported by NSF takes place outside the agency, external factors have a significant impact on NSF's performance. In particular, the circumstances of our institutional partners in academia, the private sector and the government affects how the individuals are able to respond in both proposing and conducting research and education activities. Appendix 1 describes several broad themes that influenced the development of investment strategies and also articulates how external factors beyond NSF control influence the agency's ability to make progress toward the outcome goals. Appendix 4 provides more detail on the important connections between NSF and other federal agencies.

Developing a portfolio of investments that can realize these outcome goals requires an efficient, effective agency with supportive management principles and objectives.

Strategies to address this goal are discussed in the section entitled Critical Factors for Success.

Goal 1: Discoveries at and across the frontier of science and engineering.

Discovery -- new knowledge, new ideas and theories, new tools and approaches -- opens new doors to understanding and solving problems and new paths for economic growth. It is the key indicator of progress in science and engineering and an engine for innovation. The quest for discovery drives the imagination, creativity, and work of scientists and engineers. The innovation that results from discovery is a driving force for continued economic growth and an improved standard of living for all Americans.
NSF is successful in making progress toward this outcome goal when, in the aggregate,
NSF grantees make important discoveries; uncover new knowledge and techniques, both expected and unexpected, within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries; and forge new high-potential links across those boundaries.

Key Investment Strategies

Advances in knowledge flow from the creativity of individuals and groups. NSF investments enable and facilitate creativity in the research process and support the facilities and instrumentation necessary for these efforts. To enhance and enable these advances, NSF will:
  • Provide support for the most promising ideas as identified through merit review of competitive proposals.
  • Emphasize innovation and creativity by identifying and emphasizing areas of emerging opportunity and taking informed risks where consensus on appropriate directions is just beginning to form.
  • Encourage cooperative research efforts -- among disciplines, where partners work at different locations, in different sectors, and across international boundaries.
  • Stimulate and support development of instrumentation, facilities, and other shared research platforms (both national and international) to advance and promote discovery at the frontier.
  • Assist science and engineering in taking full advantage of and contributing to the development of information, communication, and computational ideas and technologies.
  • Encourage investigators to link the process of discovery with the education of students.
Life in Extreme Environments

What processes led to the formation and adaptation of life on Earth? Could life exist on other planets? What diverse forms of life exist on Earth, and what can we learn from them about the possibility of life existing elsewhere? Such fundamental questions have intrigued humankind for generations.

As a consequence of decades of individual research efforts, recent discoveries and technological advances have revolutionized our perceptions of the potential for life in extreme environments. Examples include new evidence of the incredible diversity of microbial life on Earth, the development of molecular techniques for analyzing genetic material, discoveries concerning volcanism on our ocean floors, the potential identification of oceans on Europa, and the discovery of planets in other solar systems. Research on life in extreme environments will capitalize on these discoveries and promote interdisciplinary activities to cross traditional research boundaries in areas with the highest potential for significant breakthroughs.

Action Plan for FY 1997-FY 2003

In developing annual budgets and performance plans and in providing guidance to the program officers who manage NSF's investment portfolio, NSF will:
  • Maintain a viable, credible merit review process.
  • Give appropriate attention to innovation and creativity as merit review criteria.
  • Give appropriate attention to merit review criteria addressing the impact of proposed research activities on the education of participants.
  • Obtain the advice of the science and engineering community in identifying emerging opportunities.
  • Implement funding emphases within the budget to capitalize on emerging opportunities and to explore new directions in science and engineering.
  • Seek an appropriate balance between emerging opportunities and the continuity of effort needed to sustain the development of the fundamental knowledge base underpinning scientific and engineering advances.
  • Complete major NSF research facilities currently under development and initiate planning and construction for the next generation of multi-user facilities; give priority to a safe, environmentally-sound, effective research facility at the South Pole.
  • Oversee the efficient, effective operation of NSF-funded multi-user facilities.
  • Implement initiatives to enable researchers to take full advantage of the information revolution.
  • Maintain support for instrumentation to ensure that researchers have access to state-of-the-art equipment for cutting edge research.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project is a pioneering effort to design and construct a novel scientific facility that will open a new window on the universe beyond that accessible with electromagnetic radiation or with any of the known particles.

Gravitational waves are predicted by the general theory of relativity. The presence of large amounts of mass or energy causes the "fabric" of space-time to become distorted, or curved; we observe this distortion as gravity. When large masses move suddenly, some of this space-time curvature ripples outward, spreading much the way ripples do on the surface of a pond after a stone has been thrown into the water. These ripples of gravitational radiation propagate through the universe, virtually unimpeded. Their detection by LIGO will open a vast window to study astrophysical phenomena invisible by any other known technique.

To detect gravitational radiation, LIGO will measure optically the motion of suspended mirrors separated by a distance of four kilometers. The movements of LIGO's mirrors are as small as 10-18 m, one thousandth the diameter of a proton! Achieving this sensitivity requires a remarkable combination of technological innovations and scientific progress.

New Methods in Computational Biology

Computational innovations are changing the ways biologists ask questions, and biological phenomena are posing important new challenges to fundamental and applied computer science. For example, algorithms to match functions with structures in the brain by mathematically mapping imaging, spectroscopic, and functional data to a comprehensive model structure are critical in understanding how the brain functions as well as driving significant developments in computer science. These basic studies require the development of new mathematical, computational, and biological methods, and they also yield practical software systems. They will have a profound impact on understanding brain function.

Goal 2: Connections between discoveries and their use in service to society.

In a world that is increasingly technologically driven, America's national security, economic competitiveness, health, environment, and quality of life depend on taking advantage of discovery. Linking advances in science and engineering with their potential uses generates a productive exchange of knowledge, information, and technologies. These linkages accelerate innovation, often yielding new insights into the underlying research.
NSF is successful in making progress toward this outcome goal when, in the aggregate,
the results of NSF-supported work are rapidly and readily available through publication and other interaction among researchers, educators, and potential users; and when new applications are based on knowledge generated by NSF grantees.

Key Investment Strategies

NSF's role in addressing the use of discovery in service to society is in making sure that the channels of communication are open, that results are accessible to potential users, that NSF researchers are alert to how the results of their investigations might be of value to others, and that NSF's investment portfolio appropriately supports national priorities. In working to establish connections, NSF will:

  • Support collaborative research involving researchers in colleges and universities with those in industry and other research organizations here and abroad.
  • Establish linkages with other agencies, including cooperative programming, that assure an appropriate role for NSF and complementarity of effort.
  • Develop prototypes for cooperative activities with state governments and the private sector.
  • Expose students to cutting edge research with the potential for application.
  • As targets of emerging opportunity are identified by the community, assess potential impact on society.
  • When the merit review system identifies promising ideas that can link with potential applications, provide opportunities for investigators to connect with potential users.
NSF/EPA partnership

The NSF partnered with the US Environmental Protection Agency to conduct joint extramural grants programs in areas of mutual interest. Staff at both agencies have worked in teams on three competitions that place the finest fundamental research in the context of environmental issues with scientific significance and societal relevance. Water and Watersheds emphasizes interdisciplinary research-explicitly including the social and economic sciences-that takes a systems approach to understanding watersheds; Technology for a Sustainable Environment concentrates on pollution prevention research; and Decision Making and Valuation for Environmental Policy emphasizes research on decision making and measurement of values where market prices are absent.

The Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) program uses a variety of mechanisms to promote university-industry partnerships. For example, a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics is conducting research in both academic and industrial settings. She is working with faculty at Yale University and staff at AT&T on the use of wavelets as a problem-solving tool. Wavelets enable very complex mathematical functions to be accurately represented by much simpler functions and their derivatives. Wavelet techniques are rapidly becoming the preferred mechanisms for digital storage and transmission of data. The research includes use of wavelets to model and tune queues, switches, and other components of computer networks to understand them better and improve their performance.

Action Plan for FY 1997-FY 2000

In developing annual budgets and performance plans and in providing guidance to the program officers who manage NSF's investment portfolio, NSF will:
  • Make information on results of NSF-funded research readily available to potential users.
  • Participate in Presidential, government-wide, and bilateral programs that link fundamental research results with mission-oriented activities.
  • Make research centers a focal point for linkages of all types.
  • Maintain and enhance activities that ensure significant liaison with business and industry, with an emphasis on activities that involve students.
  • Obtain assistance from the science and engineering community, including potential users of the results, in identifying targets of opportunity with potential impact on society.
  • Encourage appropriate attention to merit criteria related to potential impact of research and education activities.
  • Support the development of the Next Generation Internet to provide widespread access to newly emerging information.
  • Provide students with opportunities to participate in research activities outside the college or university setting.
  • Incorporate research findings in undergraduate and graduate curricula.
  • Highlight the development and testing of new and emerging learning technologies.
Digital Libraries

Six university-industry consortia are engaged in research projects, with potential applications in such areas as education and environmental management. They are developing real-world testbeds to study and demonstrate new concepts, methodologies and prototypes. NSF funding of Digital Libraries supports fundamental research leading to enabling information technologies and infrastructures for information access, knowledge sharing, and user/system collaboration.

Small Business Innovation Research

ENVIROGEN, Inc. of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, founded in 1988 with about 10 employees, applies new biotechnology techniques to solve industrial effluent and hazardous waste problems. The firm's research has included the study of bacteria that could express enzymes that can break down contaminants such as trichloroethylene (TCE) in groundwater aquifers. But although such promising bacteria do exist naturally, and can be grown and inserted into aquifers, they rapidly "stick" to solids and are able to decontaminate only a small portion of an aquifer. As a result of support from successful Phase I and Phase II proposals to the NSF SBIR Program, the firm has succeeded in developing "non-adherent" strains of bacteria which can more effectively move through contaminated aquifers. The treatment of TCE-contaminated ground water is now practical and the firm is actively marketing this technology. The company has now grown to over 100 employees and is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The New Jersey Technology Council recently named the company "Environmental Company of the Year".

Engineering Research Centers: Links to a Competitive World

As a direct result of the research funded and the industrial partnerships formed through the Engineering Research Center in Data Storage Systems at Carnegie Mellon University, the center has been able to provide leadership in the formation and development of the National Storage Industry Consortium and has worked successfully with other members to develop four cooperative university/industry research thrusts in data storage systems technology. All four of the programs are directed at developing the advanced, high density storage systems that are vital to the US computer industry's ability to maintain its competitive edge in the world markets and continue its world leadership of the information super-highway.

Goal 3: A diverse, globally-oriented workforce of scientists and engineers.

The competence and capabilities of the nation's science and engineering workforce keep America at the forefront of innovation and technological progress. Because science and technology now drive economic growth and shape public policy, professionals trained in science and engineering are being called upon to fulfill an increasingly broad set of responsibilities. A diverse science and engineering workforce that is representative of the American public and able to respond effectively to a global economy is vitally important to America's future.
NSF is successful in making progress toward this outcome goal when, in the aggregate,
NSF programs provide a wide range of opportunities to promising investigators; expose students and scientists and engineers to world-class professional practices and increase their international experiences; strengthen the skills of the instructional workforce in science and technology; ensure access to modern technologies; enhance flexibility in training to suit an increasingly broad set of roles for scientists, engineers, and technologists; when business and industry recognize the quality of students prepared for the technological workforce through NSF-sponsored programs; and when the participation of underrepresented groups in NSF-sponsored projects and programs increases.

Key Investment Strategies

The nation's universities and colleges educated and trained the professionals who made possible America's current competitive position. To remain a world leader, a strong academic research and educational capability must be maintained. In order to facilitate the development of the scientific and engineering workforce, NSF will:

  • Support advanced training in science and engineering through fellowships, traineeships, and assistantships.
  • Involve students at all levels with pioneering research.
  • Promote models of education for a productive, globally-oriented workforce with skills needed for the 21st century.
  • Develop partnerships for broad-based, multi-disciplinary training.
  • Use all aspects of NSF activity to enhance diversity in the science and engineering workforce.
  • Encourage the development of those initiating careers in science and engineering.
  • Strengthen the capabilities of current and future educators of science, mathematics, engineering and technology at all levels in both content and teaching methods.

This Summer of Applied Geophysical Experience (SAGE) is a Research Experiences for Undergraduates site that incorporates a comprehensive suite of modern geophysical methods to investigate the geological structural problems of the Rio Grande Rift. Students continue their summer hands-on field experience at their home campuses and at one-week workshops during the following year. Students participate in every aspect of the program. SAGE is sponsored by NSF, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and 5 colleges and universities, who furnish both faculty and equipment. Additional equipment, workstations, and participants are provided by major energy companies (e.g. Exxon, Chevron), contractors, and computer manufacturers. The NSF award supports 15 undergraduates, who work with and are mentored by a like number of graduate students.

Japan Summer Programs

The NSF summer programs in Japan, which started in 1990, have now supported 390 American graduate students for two months in Japan. The programs provide first-hand experience in Japanese university, government or corporate laboratories, an introduction to Japan's science and science policy infrastructure, language training, and exposure to Japan's society and culture. NIH and USDA have joined the NSF program, providing support for additional students in research fields related to their respective missions.

Action Plan for FY 1997-FY 2003

In developing annual budgets and performance plans and in providing guidance to the program officers who manage NSF's investment portfolio, NSF will:
  • Emphasize merit review criteria addressing the impact of proposed research activities on education.
  • Reduce the gap in funding rates between new investigators and those with prior NSF funding.
  • Increase the share of support for graduate students provided through traineeship models.
  • Increase the participation of underrepresented groups in all NSF programs.
  • Accelerate investments in programs that provide research opportunities in science and engineering at the undergraduate level.
  • Enhance investments in early career development activities.
  • Ensure students have access to and make effective use of modern instrumentation, including information, communications, and computational technologies.
  • Expand programs to strengthen the skills of science, mathematics, engineering and technology teachers.
  • Increase opportunities for students and new investigators to participate in the global science and engineering enterprise.
  • Increase opportunities for students and new investigators to experience science and engineering work in the private sector or in government.
  • Sustain investments for programs in schools and two-year institutions that promote training of the future technological workforce.
Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers: Partnerships with Minority Institutions

Morgan State University has had a long standing research partnership with the Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs) at UC-San Diego and Johns Hopkins University. The current focus of the interactions is on pulsed laser deposition of magnetic multilayers with the goal of understanding the underlying physical principles as well as their potential application to magnetic storage and sensor technology. The MRSEC at the U. of Pennsylvania and the Stanford/IBM Almaden/UC Davis MRSEC partnership have also placed summer undergraduate participants from Morgan State in their respective research programs.

North Carolina A&T University has developed partnerships with the MRSECs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Purdue University in the area of magnetic oxides and semiconductors, respectively. The interaction with Purdue is focused on research on novel nitride semiconductors which have potential application as high-brightness light emitting diodes in a spectral range from red to ultraviolet. The goal is to identify and reduce defects which currently limit the usefulness of devices made of these materials. Both partnerships provide an ideal training ground for graduate and undergraduate students participating in activities ranging from the investigation of fundamental materials properties to the fabrication of prototype devices.

Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER)

With support from NSF's CAREER program, which fosters the integration of research and education in the early career development of college faculty, an investigator at Santa Clara University is engaging undergraduate students in biological research through a series of laboratory courses. Each year, the students carry out research in genetics and development that builds on the results of the previous year's course. In 1996, students identified genes that are required for proper development by screening for mutations that cause developmental defects in a nematode worm. In 1997, the major research goal will be to begin cloning some of the genes identified the previous year. This direct and meaningful research experience is promoting the students' critical thinking and preparing them for future careers in science and technology.

Goal 4: Improved achievement in mathematics and science skills needed by all Americans.

Proficiency in essential skills and understanding of basic concepts in mathematics and science will be critical to the earning power of individuals and to the nation's economic competitiveness and quality of life in the 21st century. NSF is the only agency that directly aims at developing such proficiencies at all levels of education. Our activities set the stage for improved education in science and mathematics, both formal and informal, and lead to improved achievement in essential skills on the part of all Americans over time.
NSF is successful in making progress toward this outcome goal when, in the aggregate,
NSF programs lead to the development, adaptation, and adoption of successful models, products, and practices; train teachers in standards-based approaches that demonstrate capability to improve teaching and learning; stimulate faculty to develop expertise on effective learning environments and to pursue vigorous combinations of teaching and research; catalyze system-wide improvement; and facilitate improved student performance.

Key Investment Strategies

In order to facilitate the development of essential skills in mathematics and science for all Americans, NSF will:

  • Promote broad-based or system-wide reform in science, mathematics, engineering and technology education that is based on national standards.
  • Establish linkages with other agencies, including cooperative programming, that assure an appropriate role for NSF and complementarity of effort.
  • Develop prototypes for cooperative activities involving state and local educational agencies and the private sector.
  • Encourage academic institutions and the scientists and engineers with which NSF works to become more directly involved in the preparation and enhancement of K-12 teachers.
  • Support development of standards-based materials for K-12 and undergraduate education.
  • Explore the use of technology in learning environments, including in non-classroom learning, life-long learning, and learning opportunities for parents of K-12 students.
  • Establish a strong research base for education and learning.
  • Promote understanding of science and technology through informal science and technology programs.
  • Encourage active participation of parents, community organizations, and the private sector in improving achievement in essential mathematics and science skills.

Northeastern University's Center for the Enhancement of Science and Mathematics Education (CESAME) demonstrates how school districts can successfully implement specific standards-based instructional materials. Through a contractual agreement, the project provides districts in Massachusetts with multi-year funding, technical assistance, professional development guided by curriculum developers, and linkages to statewide reform efforts. The project also conducts research to determine the most effective model for disseminating such materials and works to make districts accountable by collecting data and continually focusing on achieving a sustained, high-quality materials implementation.

Funded by NSF's Teacher Enhancement program, the project provides expertise in implementing high quality materials to any Massachusetts district engaged in mathematics and science reform, and leads one of the five regional centers of the Massachusetts Statewide Systemic Initiative (SSI).

This five-year project, funded for over $ 4.4 million, has leveraged an additional $ 3.8 million in cost-sharing from district funds, Northeastern University, and the Noyce Foundation.

Action Plan for FY 1997-FY 2003

In developing annual budgets and performance plans and in providing guidance to the program officers who manage NSF's investment portfolio, NSF will:

  • Implement and expand K-12 system-wide reform initiatives, particularly in urban areas.
  • Disseminate effective strategies and models to be adapted to suit the needs of particular schools or districts.
  • Participate in Presidential, government-wide, and bilateral programs that link fundamental research results with mission-related activities.
  • Expand support for activities that encourage the integration of technology with learning. Emphasize support for partnerships between developers of learning technologies and education experts.
  • Expand support for incorporating standards-based science and mathematics education in K-12 classrooms, emphasizing implementation of high quality science and mathematics curricula at school and district levels in conjunction with appropriate teacher training.
  • Challenge colleges and universities to undertake teacher preparation and enhancement activities that make intense use of academic scientists and engineers.
  • Support development of performance-based student assessments needed to measure educational performance and progress in standards-based reform efforts.
  • Expand K-12 outreach efforts at NSF-supported centers and facilities.
  • Develop partnerships between informal science and mathematics programs for the general public and formal classroom education.
Teacher Preparation in Louisiana

What began as a movement to change the way mathematics is taught in grades K-8 in the Louisiana State Systemic Initiative has grown into a program that addresses the way in which teachers are taught. The NSF-funded Louisiana Collaborative for Excellence in the Preparation of Teachers is resulting in a set of future teachers who will transform teaching practice in the state. In the first three years of the program, over 100 faculty (both mathematics faculty and education faculty) on 15 campuses across the state have been involved in the project, 69 courses for future teachers have been revamped, and approximately 20,000 students have been affected. The central principle is to demonstrate during the education of future teachers the new methods of teaching mathematics that they will be expected to implement in the classroom. For example, working in small groups on challenging problems and using technology resources such as calculators or the Internet will be important tools for future teachers.

Informal Science Supplements

In 1996, 14 research awards in the biological sciences were supplemented in amounts up to $50,000 each so that scientists could provide broad dissemination of the results of their research. The major objective of these activities was to promote science literacy for the general public in out-of-school settings. The supplemental activities included television programs, interactive computer-based activities, development of new World Wide Web sites such as "Fossil Horses in Cyberspace", museum and zoo exhibits, and interactive traveling exhibits.

Goal 5: Timely and relevant information on the national and international science and engineering enterprise.

NSF's role in providing information on the science and engineering enterprise is important to assessing the health of the science and engineering enterprise and to the development of appropriate national policies. One such assessment is the report of the National Science Board to Congress on indicators of the state of science and engineering in the United States. Also, a number of long-running series of data provide a detailed picture over time of trends in areas such as Federal and private sector funding of research and development and the science and engineering workforce. Such information on the national science and engineering enterprise is complemented by parallel studies of patterns in other nations. The types of information required by policy makers change over time, and NSF must ensure that studies addressing new types of data are incorporated as needed.
NSF's success in meeting this goal is dependent upon
the timeliness, accuracy, accessibility and relevance of the information provided to the many users.

Quantitative performance goals can be established and assessed on an annual basis using data on NSF processes and customer surveys.

Key Investment Strategies

In order to ensure that it efficiently provides meaningful information on the science and engineering enterprise , NSF will:

  • Consult with users of the information as to what they need for effective policy development, modifying existing studies or adding new ones where feasible.
  • Maintain long-standing time series of information that permit users to discern trends.
  • Enhance connections with organizations gathering information on science and technology in other countries.
  • Expand analysis of the impact of science and technology on America's economic progress and quality of life.
  • Increase efficiency and timeliness of the data gathering and reporting processes.
  • Increase accessibility of data to users.
Reliance of US Patents on Academic Science and Engineering

Recent results of a research project to examine citation patterns of US patent applications have shown close links between basic science and technology and patentable innovations. The results also indicate that US industrial firms are increasingly using academic research findings in their technological inventions.

International Science and Technology Data and Analysis

NSF has taken a leadership role in the development and analysis of international science and technology data. This included producing the first Science and Technology Indicators report for the countries in the Americas, in conjunction with the Organization of American States. The information was developed to support the heads of state at the First Summit of the Americas. The World Bank also called upon NSF to obtain data and materials on science and education capabilities of Russia, China, and India. The information was used in making budget and investment decisions for the Bank.

Action Plan for FY 1997-FY 2003

In developing annual budgets and performance plans and in providing guidance to the program staff who manage the collection and analysis of information, NSF will:

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Excellence in managing the agency's processes is an NSF goal on a par with our mission-oriented outcome goals. Pulling together a portfolio of investments that can realize NSF's outcome goals requires an efficient, effective agency with supportive management principles and objectives. The portion of NSF's budget devoted to administration and management is about six percent. The success of past investments is a testimony to the effectiveness with which judgment is exercised and decisions are made.
NSF's success in managing for excellence will be addressed using quantitative performance goals and performance indicators that are established and assessed annually.


The resources NSF has at its disposal include NSF's staff of approximately 1200 government employees, an additional 150 scientists and engineers on various types of visiting appointments with the agency, and 115 contractors who support the agency's work; access to outstanding information management systems that help the agency process approximately 30,000 competitive proposals, 10,000 new awards and 10,000 continuing awards per year; and the science and engineering community itself, which donates thousands of person hours per year to the review of proposals for research and education.

These are critical resources that enable NSF to manage effectively in support of its mission. They help maintain an outcome-oriented, excellence-driven investment portfolio that invests over $3 billion per year in research and education in science and engineering. The budget needed to support these resources is about 6% of NSF's FY 1998 budget request. The agency must maintain an adequate level of support staff and other management tools in order to assure the excellence of the projects that ultimately determine progress toward the outcome goals.

But the expected returns of any investment portfolio are highly dependent on the level of investment. For NSF, the budget request and subsequent appropriation for any given year establishes the level of investment. Uncertainty about either the size of the budget request or the size of the appropriation is a barrier to good management of the funds and a threat to successful performance. NSF has structured this GPRA strategic plan so that the investment strategies and actions planned are consistent with budget resources (investment resources) projected in the President's FY 1998 Budget Request for NSF. Significant deviation from those numbers will require modifying the plan. More modest deviation can be accommodated by adjusting target levels of performance in annual performance plans.

Critical Factors in Managing for Excellence

Four critical factors are the most important influences on NSF's success in managing for excellence in support of its mission.

Factor 1:  Operating a viable, credible, efficient merit review system.

The merit review system is at the very heart of NSF's selection of the projects through which its outcome goals must be achieved. This selection is made from among the many proposals that NSF receives, most of which are submitted as unsolicited proposals, others submitted in response to specific solicitations. Operating the merit review system is the principal "business" of the agency. "Customers" for this process include both individual members of the science and engineering community and the academic and other research institutions through which the proposals are submitted.

Key Strategies

  • Regularly assess system performance of all aspects of the merit review system.
  • Benchmark the efficiency, effectiveness, and integrity of NSF's merit review system against similar processes run by other organizations. Develop alternative mechanisms for obtaining and reviewing proposals and evaluate their potential for use in determining NSF's investments.
  • Meet NSF's customer service standards for time for proposal preparation, and for review and decision time.
  • Reduce burden on proposers and reviewers while maintaining quality of decision processes.
Merit Review Criteria

In any competitive merit review process, the criteria used in making selections govern the quality of the outcome. The National Science Board (NSB) is responsible for establishing NSF's merit review criteria. Following an extensive internal review of NSF's merit review system, the NSB established in 1996 a joint NSB/NSF staff task force to consider revision of the merit review criteria which at that time were more than a decade old. Based on the recommendations of the task force, the NSB approved new, streamlined criteria for use beginning October 1, 1997.

Implementation plans are well underway. NSF will monitor how reviewers use the new criteria in order to provide continuing feedback on their effectiveness.

Factor 2:  Exemplary use of and broad access to new and emerging technologies.

In order to manage increasing workload with approximately the same staff level, NSF has moved aggressively to adopt new technologies in our business processes. The recent adoption of the Information Technology Management Reform Act affirms the importance of information technologies in the conduct of federal business. NSF is well-positioned to develop exemplary mechanisms to streamline business interactions, enhance organizational productivity, and maintain financial integrity and internal controls.

Key Strategies

Bar Chart-FastLane Review Submissions

The FastLane Review Submission module has been well received by the university community. Utilization has grown in each quarter beginning in 1996, growing dramatically during FY 1997.

Factor 3: A diverse, capable, motivated staff that operates with integrity.

Any investment process is highly dependent on the capability and integrity of the staff that operates it. NSF's staff has traditionally met all the challenges it has faced. But we recognize that the future will require innovative methods of recruitment, development, and recognition to have the diverse, motivated staff we need to meet the challenges of the future.

Key Strategies

  • Develop and implement a human resources plan for the agency that lays the groundwork for recruitment and development activities in the future.
  • Provide needed training for staff on both continuing issues of importance such as avoiding conflicts of interest and on new directions such as electronic proposal submission.
  • Create a climate that invites and improves the participation of underrepresented groups in both career and temporary positions.
  • Explore new mechanisms for bringing active scientists, engineers, and educators to NSF on temporary assignments.
  • Demonstrate creative approaches to flexitime, flexiplace, telecommuting, independent research and development plans, and related issues of the work environment that will enable supervisors to extend the opportunities to all employees.
  • Evaluate the system of individual performance assessment. Recommend and implement improvements as needed.

NSF recognizes that the organization of the future places increasing demands on supervisors, managers and executives to manage an involved staff in a very different way. To meet this need, NSF has developed a competency based program designed to provide a broad spectrum of supervisory, managerial, and executive training and development opportunities to current NSF leaders to ensure performance excellence. The program uses a wide variety of formal seminars, developmental opportunities, and self-study to allow participants to concentrate on specific competencies that have been identified for enhancement.

Factor 4: Implementation of mandated performance assessment and management reforms in line with agency needs.

Major changes have taken place over the past several years in the requirements for accountability in federal programs. NSF's implementation of processes to meet these accountability requirements must be undertaken so as not to detract from the ability of the agency to address its long-term, outcome-oriented goals. Developing effective indicators of agency performance -- toward its mission-oriented goals, toward the effective use of agency resources in the investment process, and toward an efficient, effective agency that is a reliable partner to others -- is a challenge that NSF must meet in order to describe effectively how it is accountable to the public.

Key Strategies

  • Assess the reliability, completeness, appropriateness and usability of NSF's management data systems as they support GPRA and the CFO Act. Modify systems as needed.
  • Work with academic institutions and other grantees to assure reliable, valid collection of project reporting information by NSF's systems.
  • Align individual performance plans with agency and organizational (division, office, directorate) plans.
  • Continue to develop benchmarks and indicator data for reporting systems.
Financial Management at NSF

In the FY 1996 Annual Financial Report for NSF, the CFO noted that NSF continues to meet or exceed virtually every Federal goal for financial management performance. For example:

  • NSF paid virtually no interest penalties due to late payment to vendors.
  • Most NSF employees are paid through electronic funds transfers.
  • All required OMB reporting and reconciliations had been completed on time for the past three years.
  • Delinquent accounts receivable had been held to a minimal amount and write-offs, as needed, occurred promptly.
  • Increasing numbers of vendor and grantee transactions occur electronically.

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Four themes seem to dominate the world in which NSF currently operates. First, for the foreseeable future, NSF will invest in America's future knowledge base in concert with other U.S. institutions who, all at once, are unusually focused on cost efficiency. Second and related, there is a widespread blurring of borders of all types (disciplinary, national, public/private, etc.), intensifying emphasis on building partnerships, not only for sharing costs, but to reemphasize the benefits of comparative advantage and to gain the benefit of different experiences. Third, all sectors are trying to harness burgeoning information technology for expanding their particular opportunities (including facilitating partnerships), as well as for reducing costs. And fourth, it is increasingly evident that both intellectual and industrial innovation depend intimately on a healthy source of new knowledge.

Setting the Scene

Research universities are shedding departments or merging them and exploring a variety of cost-cutting measures. While increasing its R&D investment, big business has cut back on the fundamental research it performs, and shifted the nature of corporate labs toward becoming an interface between firms and external sources of novel technology. Federal agencies, under intense fiscal pressures, are refocusing their S&T activities and support on their core missions, withdrawing support from research whose relationship to those missions is most uncertain.

Research universities are expanding their research partnerships with industry. And, as industry turns increasingly to external sources for fundamental research and pioneering technology, industrial funding of academic research has grown faster than overall industrial R&D. Some of the impetus for these partnerships arises from a heightened awareness (on both sides) of the need for graduate education in science and engineering that better recognizes the trend toward more non-academic jobs, and that is more efficiently completed than at present. While seemingly leaving the long-term research needs of the nation to academe, at the same time industry wants universities to clearly understand industry's long-term research needs. International collaboration in research is also growing as a share of the U.S. research effort. The blurring of disciplinary boundaries requires drawing together those with complementary expertise in order to make progress, leading to experiments in review processes and funding mechanisms.

Computation, information and communication technologies pervade all these efforts and jointly create enormous opportunities for learning and innovation. Information is more quickly, widely, and cheaply available, diminishing constraints of space and time.

Importantly, the merging of high-speed computing with broadband communication is expanding the availability of convenient learning for students of all ages and increased access to and sharing of research infrastructure for individual investigators and collaborative research teams.

Additionally, a growing feature of the landscape, from NSF's point of view, may be the withdrawal of a number of its funding partners both in the Federal government-notably national labs-and elsewhere from some areas of fundamental long range research. This suggests that NSF must keep a steady view of the far horizon, thinking strategically in all its management and program development actions. While other players may be forgoing long-range research, in favor of focusing on the core of their enterprises in the near-term, and universities are looking for ways to ease their financial stresses as well as to educate their graduate students for a broader spectrum of career opportunities, NSF alone has the mission to sow the seeds of our future science and technology. Thus it is important to work to overcome risk aversion, natural as such aversion is in an era of tight budgets.

Key Factors External to the Agency that Could Significantly Affect NSF's Performance in Achieving the Outcome Goals

Because the work of research and education in science and engineering that results in the achievement of NSF's outcome goals is done outside the agency, external factors have a significant impact on NSF's performance. In particular, the circumstances of our institutional partners in academia, the private sector and the government affects how the individuals are able to respond in both proposing and conducting research and education activities.

Discoveries at and across the frontier of science and engineering.

NSF relies on the academic research facilities available at colleges and universities across the country to provide a base from which grantees can build their research programs. To the extent that moves toward cost efficiency in academic institutions affect this base, allowing it to deteriorate or failing to maintain it at the state of the art, NSF's costs for support of research will increase. This could slow the pace of discovery or change the types of discoveries open to researchers. NSF would need to weigh in the balance the number of researchers whose work could be supported with the added cost of conducting the research. Likewise, colleges and universities frequently provide modest research support for young faculty or for more senior faculty temporarily without external support for their research. Should cost efficiencies curtail such support, it will be more difficult for individuals to get research programs going or to maintain them, forcing them to spend grant funds for start-up work and slowing the pace of discovery.

A similar situation pertains with funding for research and development made available by other federal agencies. To the extent that budget balancing requires other agencies to limit their funding of fundamental science and engineering, this will have an impact on both the balance of NSF funding across disciplines and on the overall pace of discovery. Many investigators work on several areas simultaneously, seeking support of complementary activities from different agencies. The synergy created by activities that reenforce one another is damaged when budget stringency threatens multiple sources of funding. Also, many NSF research projects take advantage of large, state-of-the-art, multi-user facilities supported by other agencies. To the extent those facilities cannot be maintained at the state of the art or operated efficiently or effectively, the pace of NSF-sponsored research will slow. NSF also depends on periodic development of new facilities by other agencies.

Connections between discoveries and their use in service to society.

Perhaps the most important factor in making links between discoveries and their use is the capacity of the potential users -- largely found in the private sector and the government -- to capitalize on fundamental science and engineering. As support for research in the private sector becomes increasingly focused on immediate products, the capacity to incorporate fundamental science and engineering might deteriorate, making connections difficult, if not impossible to develop and maintain. Similar problems could develop if government laboratories were to become increasingly focused on research and development of immediate applicability to mission needs.

A diverse, globally-oriented workforce of scientists and engineers.

The characteristics of the workforce of scientists and engineers are highly dependent on the systems through which they are educated and trained. While NSF can influence these systems through the types of proposal solicitations generated and types of awards made, the agency does not control them. To the extent that colleges and universities and state and local education agencies are seeking cost efficiencies, this may make them less open to experimentation with new models of education and training and make it more difficult for them to expose students to research opportunities.

Improved achievement in mathematics and science skills needed by all Americans.

Achievement in mathematics and science skills is most directly dependent on the educational systems, both formal and informal, that impart such skills to those who need them. NSF exerts influence on these systems through support of new models for education, teacher preparation and enhancement, development of instructional materials and learning technologies, and support for standards-based education at all levels. But it is the educational systems -- the schools, academic institutions, museums, and other organizations that comprise them -- that are the implementers. The political constraints and budget stringencies they face will have an impact on their implementation that NSF can neither predict or control. NSF programs influence educational systems and the public that supports them, but are only one influence among many.

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NSF will develop annual performance plans under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) with performance goals that provide strong accountability and management tools while reflecting the reality that the results of NSF's investment in research and education appear over long time scales and at uneven, unpredictable intervals. Performance reporting will be a particularly important tool in NSF's implementation of results-oriented management. It will provide the link between organizational performance in the past and needed improvements that can be taken as performance goals for the future.

Key Functions

NSF organizes its investments in three functional categories: research projects, research facilities, and education and training. Approximately 94% of NSF's budget goes directly to these investments. A fourth function, administration and management, provides support for the immediate activities of the agency. In order to make clear to the Administration and the Congress the total cost of running the agency, we are modifying previous descriptions of these functions, including in administration and management the funding of all staff covered by Intergovernmental Personnel Act agreements and certain program management costs paid through program funds. The key functions will be used as a basis for organizing both the performance plan and the agency's corresponding budget request.

The FY 1998 Budget Request leads to the following distribution of budget resources across the key functions, with the modification of administration and management.

Research Projects Support
Research Facilities
Education & Training
Admin. & Mgmnt.

Performance Planning

This strategic plan, with its outcome goals, investment strategies, and critical factors for success, provides the base for performance planning. NSF works toward the outcome goals through judicious investment in research and education projects. NSF's management, through appropriate use of information on past performance (where available) and application of strategies for enhancing investment outcomes, allocates available resources to obtain an optimal mix of outcomes and advocates the importance of additional resources to strengthen outcomes as needed. NSF staff, through the merit review process, select the individual projects to be supported, managing toward the optimal mix of outcomes, given the available resources.

Performance plans for an upcoming fiscal year will be developed in light of the analysis of past performance, assessment of how recent or projected changes in the investment portfolio will influence future performance, and fit with the outcome goals identified in this strategic plan. Given the expected lag between investment and outcomes, NSF will always be operating with only partial results information in developing its program strategies. We must use the judgment of our staff to change strategy as needed in order to improve the results likely to be produced. Where new approaches or strategies are indicated for one of the key functions, they will be highlighted in the budget and performance plan.

Performance goals for NSF will fall into two broad categories:

Performance goals for NSF management.

Annual performance goals for NSF management will be largely quantitative. They will derive from the key strategies under critical factors for success in the body of this GPRA strategic plan, with selected areas highlighted in a given year as it becomes particularly timely. Specific performance goals for each year will be determined by assessing past performance and making reasonable projections for levels of performance that can be expected. Sample performance goals for NSF management might include:

The specific percentages or timeliness targets will vary from year to year, to accommodate particular circumstances.

Performance goals for NSF programs.

Performance goals for NSF programs will appear in two basic forms:

Performance goals for NSF's investment processes will take a number of forms: goals for the use of merit review criteria, for budget themes, for facilities management, and for policy information. The performance goals for budget themes will address NSF's implementation of the investment strategies and action plans of the GPRA strategic plan as evidenced in areas of emphasis within the budget.

Performance goals for NSF's investment processes will be set annually. They will either be stated in quantifiable terms or stated so that the standard of performance is readily assessable from quantitative performance indicators. Examples might include:

Specific target levels will be determined based on the circumstances each year.

Performance goals for results of NSF's investments will appear as descriptive standards, developed under the GPRA option to set performance goals in alternative formats. Since the timing of outcomes from NSF's activities is unpredictable and annual change in the outputs does not provide an accurate indicator of progress toward outcome goals, performance goals for results are not specific to a fiscal year. The stream of data and information on the products of NSF's investments will be combined with expert judgment of external panels to assess NSF's performance over time and to provide a management tool for initiating changes in direction, where needed.

Because the performance goals for results of NSF's investments are based on descriptive standards that will be in force throughout the duration of the GPRA strategic plan, the successful performance standards for the outcome goals other than the one related to information are provided below.

Discoveries at and across the frontier of science and engineering

NSF is successful in making progress toward this outcome goal when, in the aggregate,

NSF grantees make important discoveries; uncover new knowledge and techniques, both expected and unexpected, within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries; and forge new high-potential links across those boundaries.

Connections between discoveries and their use in service to society

NSF is successful in making progress toward this outcome goal when, in the aggregate,

the results of NSF-supported work are rapidly and readily available through publication and other interaction among researchers, educators, and potential users; and when new applications are based on knowledge generated by NSF grantees.

Diverse, globally-oriented science and engineering workforce

NSF is successful in making progress toward this outcome goal when, in the aggregate,

NSF programs provide a wide range of opportunities to promising investigators; expose students and scientists and engineers to world-class professional practices and increase their international experiences; strengthen the skills of the instructional workforce in science and technology; ensure access to modern technologies; enhance flexibility in training to suit an increasingly broad set of roles for scientists, engineers, and technologists; when business and industry recognize the quality of students prepared for the technological workforce through NSF-sponsored programs; and when the participation of underrepresented groups in NSF-sponsored projects and programs increases.

Improved achievement in mathematics and science skills needed by all Americans

NSF is successful in making progress toward this outcome goal when, in the aggregate,

NSF programs lead to the development, adaptation, and adoption of successful models, products, and practices; train teachers in standards-based approaches that demonstrate capability to improve teaching and learning; stimulate faculty to develop expertise on effective learning environments and to pursue vigorous combinations of teaching and research; catalyze system-wide improvement; and facilitate improved student performance.

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The Foundation has drawn on a broad range of evaluative information about its programs in preparing this GPRA strategic plan. NSF advisory committees. including committees of visitors, and the National Science Board regularly review programs and provide evaluative advice to senior management. Directorates often request reports from external groups on program issues. GPRA pilot projects provided evaluative information as well as valuable guidance on appropriate phrasing of performance goals for effective assessment of progress. And the Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR) has a regular program of third-party evaluations of its programs.

Use of Evaluation in Developing the GPRA Strategic Plan

Information received from this variety of formal and informal evaluation processes influenced the development of the key investment strategies and action plans in the body of this GPRA strategic plan. For example:

NSF Experience with GPRA Pilot Projects

NSF established a number of GPRA pilot projects following passage of the GPRA legislation. The pilots were targeted toward:

The physical sciences facilities pilot gave us experience with setting performance goals for NSF's oversight of construction and operation of large facilities. It also permitted us to develop a baseline for current levels of performance. This experience has led us to develop an appropriate series of performance goals on facilities management applicable across NSF for NSF's GPRA performance plans.

The science and technology centers pilot benefited from the extensive evaluation this program was undergoing. The evaluation provided a wealth of information on the program that validated the variety of objectives it was designed to accomplish. As a result of the evaluation, implementation of a modified program aimed at competition for new centers is underway. It is an important component in NSF's investment strategies. This pilot also provided NSF's preliminary experience with writing performance goals in an alternative format. As a result of the pilot, we modified our approach to the alternative format.

The HPCC pilot was most notable for the information it provided on how difficult it was to generate reasonable performance goals for research-based programs. The performance goals were most effective and usable when they dealt with aspects of infrastructure over which NSF had most control. This pilot also provided information on how to integrate NSF plans with those of other agencies. This also proved to be a challenge.

Finally, the FastLane pilot has produced a baseline for burden on the research and education communities as a result of preparing and reviewing proposals. This has been incorporated into planned performance goals related to reducing the level of burden.

Future Plans for External Assessment

Many NSF processes of external assessment and evaluation are currently ad hoc in character. The committees of visitors provide a mechanism for evaluating the operation of the merit review process in each program every three years. These groups have frequently gone beyond consideration of the merit review process, but they have not had a common format for doing so that extends across NSF. EHR has a regular plan of third-party evaluations of all its programs on approximately a 5-year cycle. In order to fully comply with GPRA, NSF is planning to develop a more formal process of assessment that includes periodic external assessment of progress toward outcome goals. Beginning in FY 1998, the Foundation will structure its internal and external assessment processes using this strategic plan and the derivative performance plans.

Annually, the NSF director will request performance reports from all NSF units, selecting appropriate performance goals for each unit from among those in the performance plan. These reports will be based on a range of data and information, with sources including grantee reports, program officer observations, the output of workshops or conferences in the field, and external assessments done during the year.

Organization of external examinations of the results of collected investments will follow the structure of NSF's advisory committees, and the Director's Office will organize external examinations of Foundation-wide activities. In the education and training key function, this external examination will largely follow the practices established by EHR. NSF expects to decrease the length of the evaluation cycle in response to GPRA.

For the Research Projects and Facilities key functions, external assessments will take place through a modification to NSF's existing system of committees of visitors (COVs). COVs are conducted by specially appointed subcommittees of standing advisory committees. The advisory committees will synthesize the reports of the COVs to obtain an appropriate contextual assessment of performance.

The Foundation is drafting new guidelines for COVs to assure appropriate examination of the results of program activity as well as assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of the project selection process. It will also be important to assure appropriate levels of objectivity in the members. NSF is already conducting experiments to be sure that it is possible to modify the COV process effectively in order to use it in GPRA assessment processes. An explicit schedule of COV assessments covering the entire Foundation over a period of three years, will be made public as the modifications to the process are completed. The COVs will provide an external assessment to validate, where appropriate, the internal assessments done annually.

At least every three years, advisory committees will use the combined COV reports for the organizations they advise as the basis for a strategic planning discussion. These COV reports and advisory committee discussions, with appropriate integration by NSF management and the National Science Board, will form the base for GPRA performance reports, performance plans, and strategic plans.

Plans for adapting current practices for assessing NSF's Administration and Management function to the requirements of GPRA and related management reform activities are currently underway. The Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer and Inspector General are involved in this effort.

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NSF's distinctive combination of mission functions is a result of its charge to promote the progress of science and engineering. However, none of the individual functions is unique to the agency. NSF provides leadership for the science and engineering enterprise in the context of the overall federal program of support for research and education, with particular attention to providing information for use in decision making and to serving as a resource for the nation in interactions with the research and education arms of other countries.

Decision-making for science and engineering is distributed among many agencies, each with distinct missions. This is true both for decisions affecting establishment of priorities and budget allocations and for decisions on specific projects to be undertaken. In order to be most effective in promoting the progress of science and engineering, NSF planning of all kinds must take into account the activities of other agencies, partnering where there are shared interests and taking complementary approaches where appropriate. NSF empowers those closest to the field to determine through interaction with peers in other agencies how they will proceed to manage their programs so that the federal investment is synergistic. Senior managers in all agencies maintain the close connections that provide a productive framework for program-level coordination and that permit formal cooperation among agencies when working toward similar objectives.

Fundamental Research

NSF's budget in support of research is less than five percent of total federal research and development investment. However, NSF is second only to the National Institutes of Health in the support of basic research in academic institutions, providing about twenty-five percent of the total. Other significant contributors to basic research in academic institutions include the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. These agencies are among NSF's most significant partners in support of fundamental research. The Departments of Commerce, Interior, and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency also have important components of science and engineering and work with NSF in areas of common interest.

Each of these agencies addresses fundamental research in somewhat different ways, with an interdependent mix of intramural research, funding for extramural research, and construction and operation of facilities. For example, in some areas, NSF's support of extramural research is critically dependent on an investigator's access to user facilities provided by other agencies. Likewise, results of NSF-supported research may be used in intramural research activities of other agencies.

Science in the National Interest

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) provides a forum for these agencies to interact in support of research and development in areas national interest. In 1994, the NSTC's Committee on Fundamental Science (CFS) provided the broad underpinnings for a strategic plan for US science and engineering in Science in the National Interest. This science policy statement identifies the central goal for fundamental research as leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Enhancing the connections between fundamental research and national goals, stimulating partnerships that promote investments in fundamental science and engineering and effective use of resources, producing the finest scientists and engineers for the twenty-first century, and raising the scientific and technological literacy of all Americans are also cited as important goals. NSF's 1995 strategic plan, NSF in a Changing World, was prepared at approximately the same time as Science in the National Interest. The goals and strategies of the two documents are well-aligned, not surprisingly, given NSF's role in support of fundamental research.

Assessing Fundamental Science

In light of passage of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), the CFS undertook to provide a broad framework for GPRA implementation in assessment of fundamental science programs. The resulting document, Assessing Fundamental Science, argues that the central issue in such assessment is defining the goal against which progress is measured. It cites leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge as that goal for the federal fundamental science effort, calling attention to the other goals of Science in the National Interest as well. Each of the agencies involved in the conduct or support of fundamental science and engineering should be expected to develop goals and strategies related to this. The document goes on to note that program-specific activities and goals are needed to flesh out the context within which agencies conducting or supporting fundamental research assess that work.

NSF's role in the fabric of federal funding of science and engineering is defined by the fundamental nature of the problems its grantees explore, the innovative nature of the research and education it supports, and its integrative approach to making research and education investments. The outcome goals, key investment strategies, and action plans of the GPRA strategic plan reflect this role and the contributions that NSF makes toward the goal of leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge.

Interagency Partnership

As is evident in the body of the plan, NSF organizes its contributions to national leadership in consultation with other agencies whose missions lead them to emphasize particular aspects of science and engineering. The agency's portfolio is broad, in that it is open to ideas of all kinds. This enables NSF to capture investment opportunities across the spectrum of science, mathematics and engineering and influence the nation's capabilities in all aspects of the enterprise. This openness in principle is balanced with appropriate attention to the interests and strengths of other agencies. Through joint programs, cooperative ventures, and constant interaction, the agencies weave the fabric of the federal research and development enterprise. These joint efforts may be bilateral or multilateral, formal or informal, but all are designed to permit federal resources for research and development to produce maximal benefits for the nation.

Perhaps the most visible evidence of interagency cooperation is the set of NSTC-coordinated interagency research programs. The two most significant in terms of longevity and federal investment are the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the High Performance Computing and Communications Program (HPCC). Each of these programs has been in place for several years, with emphases shifting somewhat over time. The HPCC effort is now being complemented by the development of the Next Generation Internet (NGI). Both sit under the NSTC's Committee on Computing, Information and Communications. The USGCRP is one of several activities coordinated by the NSTC Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

Other activities in which the NSTC has done budget crosscuts in order to facilitate coordinated planning for research and development include: advanced materials and processing, building and construction, electronics manufacturing, next generation vehicles, education and training technology, manufacturing infrastructure, environment and natural resources, and emerging infectious diseases. The recently developed plan of action for research on children grew out of a joint project of the NSTC and the Domestic Policy Council (DPC). NSF has participated in most of these efforts. In many cases, NSF staff chair or co-chair the interagency committees developing these efforts.

The interagency process allows the agencies to identify: areas of particular national interest in which several agencies can play a role, a base of federally-supported research and development activity, gaps in knowledge and other barriers that prevent progress, and methods of addressing gaps and barriers. Once this identification has taken place, the agencies can establish goals and coordinate their activities so that a comprehensive program of complementary activities is put in place.

In this interagency framework, NSF's role is characterized by broad, basic activities that feed into more specialized, mission-oriented activities. In this sense, NSF's role is catalytic. Within each of these areas, NSF's activities are consistent with those of the agency as a whole: fundamental research, appropriate infrastructure development, and education and training. NSF-supported researchers are charting new paths in difficult areas of science and engineering. Sometimes, the results of their research help answer questions no one had previously thought to ask. NSF works to assure that fundamental research is accorded its appropriate place as goals for the areas are developed in the interagency context.

NSF also has a number of partnerships with individual agencies or small groups of agencies. Some grow out of formal interagency processes (for example, NSF's partnership with four other agencies in development of the Next Generation Internet). Others reflect the particular interests of the partnering agencies (for example, NSF's partnership with EPA in areas such as water and watersheds, environmental technologies, and risk assessment and valuation, and the interagency program of research on Origins involving NSF, the Department of Energy, and NASA). These partnerships are designed to make efficient, effective use of federal resources in support of research. They combine deep, exciting research, shared infrastructure, and the potential for both short-term benefit to the public and long-lasting contributions to the progress of science.

Technology in the National Interest

In February, 1993, the Administration provided a context for strategic thinking about coupling technology development to the many fundamental discoveries uncovered through federal investment in basic research. NSF's role in the federal interagency partnership toward this goal is to ensure that robust connections are made between its grantees' discoveries and their development toward technology by other agencies and the private sector.

International Science and Technology

Cooperation NSF works with the NSTC to coordinate its international priorities with key countries and to coordinate U.S. Government participation in multinational organizations and activities. For example, NSF is participating in science and technology activities involving OECD, APEC, and Summit of the Americas. Through the interagency processes, NSF also works with other agencies and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to make strategic choices about participation in multinational activities, such as the Large Hadron Collider and the Human Frontier Science Program. NSF also participates in regular interagency meetings to discuss and coordinate U.S. Government science and technology interactions with the European Union and countries such as China, Russia, and Japan.

Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education

Federal support for education is small in comparison to state and local government expenditures, providing less than 10 percent of the national total. NSF provides only two percent of the federal education funding total, but accounts for about twenty-five percent of the federal investment in science, mathematics, engineering and technology (SMET) education. Thus, NSF has a small, but influential, presence. Its major role is as a catalyst for change, providing models of effective education in its areas of interest. Other major federal contributors include the Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Service (HHS), and Defense (DOD).

The NSTC's Committees on Fundamental Science (CFS) and Education and Training (CET) provide an opportunity for interagency discussion on SMET education issues. ED participates in CFS and co-chairs CET.

At the K-12 level, the most significant federal programs in terms of impact in the nation's schools are at ED and NSF. The programs of the two agencies have different approaches and strengths. The Department of Education generally provides large-scale, flexible support directly (by formula) to state and/or local education agencies for improving teaching and learning to high standards. It couples this support with technical assistance. The National Science Foundation's portfolio is much smaller in scale and is targeted at improving mathematics, science, and technology education. It is established through competitive processes.

Staff at the two agencies regularly interact. In response to a Presidential directive on improving mathematics and science education, an interagency working group is developing an action strategy designed to combine the agencies' strengths, permitting those involved with upgrading professional development and instruction through major Department of Education programs to draw on NSF's competitive programs to initiate change. This approach is intended to increase the impact of Federal resources by creating synergy among these programs. The developing strategy is focused on improving mathematics achievement in grades 5-8, but the participants recognize the potential for broadening the cooperation to all areas of K-12 mathematics and science education in the future.

Many other departments and agencies sponsor activities that relate to, and could promote, standards-based education that improves students' mathematics and science learning and overall academic performance. For example, the DOD Schools have a vital interest in high quality mathematics and science education and are actively engaged in promoting standards-based approaches.

Executive Order 12821 of November 16, 1992, instructs those Federal departments and agencies with scientific missions, employees, or laboratories to "assist in the mathematics and science education of our Nation's students, teachers, parents, and the public by establishing programs at their agency to provide for training elementary and secondary school teachers to improve their knowledge of mathematics and science." Many agencies had such programs in place even before this Order was issued. The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse catalogues current programs in its "Guidebook of Federal Resources for K-12 Mathematics and Science" (see www.enc.org/reform/guidebk).

In higher education, federal funding is dominated by support for graduate student training in SMET fields, with HHS and DOD being the sources of the largest amounts of such support. NSF's graduate fellowship and traineeship programs make significant contributions as well, ensuring opportunities across science, mathematics, and engineering. NSF's undergraduate programs provide a significant fraction of all undergraduate SMET educational efforts in the federal enterprise.

Information on the Science and Engineering Enterprise

NSF is one of many public and private agencies with responsibilities for obtaining statistical information on areas of important national interest. NSF has many formal and informal linkages to assure complementarity and avoid duplication. NSF works with the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy to build a coordinated environment for effective data collection, analysis, and dissemination. NSF and other agencies share information on statistical, information technology, and other methods and resources through the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology and related groups. Examples of their efforts are the "One-Stop Shopping" web site for Federal statistics and cooperation among Federal statistical managers of computer assisted survey information collection.

NSF partners with public and private agencies in data collection, mutually participating in cross funding, cross planning, and information sharing. NSF funds a range of private firms, as well as the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and National Center for Education Statistics to collect data. Reciprocally, NSF receives funds from the National Center for Education Statistics, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and the National Endowment for the Humanities to help fund NSF surveys of the science and engineering enterprise.

NSF also participates in the meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other international organizations, as well as individual governments abroad, in order to share data and encourage development of data that are defined in comparable terms across international boundaries.

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Effective use of emerging information technologies is an important factor in support of NSF's mission. NSF must include information technology in its planning, both for the management of the agency and for the investments it makes in support of infrastructure for the conduct of research and education activities.

Use of Information Technology in NSF Management

NSF requires information technology that effectively supports its role as an investment agent in science and engineering. Strategies for addressing information technology needs are laid out in the Exemplary use of and broad access to new and emerging technologies portion of the section on Critical Factors for Success in the body of this plan. In accord with the Information Technology Management Reform Act, NSF has developed a strategic plan for managing information technology in support of the agency's activities and is positioned to implement the plan effectively, given the necessary resources.

The Year 2000 problem creates a challenging situation for NSF, as it does for many agencies. NSF has approached the problem systematically, following OMB guidance. There is a plan of action, and all aspects are on schedule.

Investing in Information Technology Infrastructure in Support of Research and Education Activities

As important as information technology is to the conduct of NSF's business, it is even more critical as a supporting element in the conduct of research and education activities. As such, strategies and actions for accommodating information technology needs run throughout the body of this plan. The following are key ways in which the agency invests to assure appropriate information technology for the science and engineering community:

Planning for these investments is done in the context of enhancing progress toward the outcome goals stated in the body of this plan. NSF draws heavily on the research and education communities with which we partner to assure that we are meeting information technology needs effectively.

NSF's networking activities have generated an unusual management problem. In the early stages of what has now become the Internet, NSF played a significant role in making connections to colleges, universities, and schools. As demand for connections grew, the agency entered into a five-year cooperative agreement with a private firm to provide Internet registration services for the research and education community. As the Internet has progressed from a tool used primarily by the research and education community to an integral part of the lives of people in virtually every sector of society, the terms of the cooperative agreement have been changed to permit the entity to charge for registrations in certain Internet registration domains intended for the use of the private sector. Part of the charge is being held in reserve to support the development of a stronger Internet infrastructure.

Now that the Internet is moving to a fully privatized entity, the issue of domain name registration, how it will be done and how the registrars will be compensated, remains open. The question of how to use the infrastructure fund is also at issue. NSF is working with an interagency group headed by OMB in order to resolve these issues. We expect resolution prior to the expiration of the NSF cooperative agreement in March, 1998, and will not renew or recompete this activity beyond the current expected time frame.

The Year 2000 situation creates a problem for the use of information technology in research and education, as well as for agency management. NSF has sent an Important Notice to all grantees describing this potential problem and making clear that grantees bear the responsibility of addressing any difficulties it might create for the conduct of the research and education awards they hold.

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