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International Activities at NSF


Research and education in science and engineering benefit immensely from international cooperation. NSF enables and encourages U.S. scientists, engineers, and their institutions to avail themselves of opportunities to enhance their research and education programs through international cooperation. NSF also provides opportunities for future generations of U.S. scientists and engineers to gain the experience and outlook they will need to function productively in an international research and education environment. Click here for the information of current bilateral collaborations.

NSF Strategic Goals in a Global Context:
International activities are an integral part of the National Science Foundation's mission. They are guided by NSF's strategic goals and key strategies.

NSF's international role in science and engineering is guided by its key strategic goals of Discovery, Learning, and Research Infrastructure -- that is, investing in a diverse, internationally competitive and globally engaged workforce of scientists, engineers and well-prepared citizens; investments in discovery across the frontier of science and engineering, connected to learning, innovation, and service to society; and broadly accessible, state-of-the-art and shared research and education tools.

In today's world, NSF cannot achieve its goals in isolation. Increasingly in the future, US scientists and engineers must be able to operate in teams composed not only of people from many disciplines, but also from different nations and cultural backgrounds. New ideas emerge from the intellectual interactions of people from diverse backgrounds everywhere and in every country. Many scientific tools, both large facilities and large distributed and networked databases, will necessarily involve international partners. Therefore, NSF undertakes or participates in international activities whenever it contributes to accomplishing NSF's overall goals more effectively.

The National Science Board's reports: International Science and Engineering Partnerships: A Priority for U.S. Foreign Policy and Our Nation's Innovation Enterprise (NSB-08-4); Globalization of Science and Engineering Research: A Companion to Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 (NSB-10-3); The Science and Engineering Workforce - Realizing America's Potential (NSB-03-69); and Toward A More Effective NSF Role in International Science And Engineering (NSB-00-217), underscored the need for NSF's investments in international science and engineering to be strategic. International science and engineering should be a high priority for NSF, with a much stronger focus and a much higher level of visibility in the future. NSF should emphasize international considerations "more explicitly in its research and education programs, both in core disciplines and in NSF wide initiatives." NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE), established by the Director in January 2002, is spearheading the response to the Board's recommendations.

The NSF International Portfolio:
NSF's international portfolio has a long history that goes back at least to the International Geophysical Year (IGY 1958-59), an unprecedented global research effort in sixty-seven nations to make synoptic observations of the planet during a period of maximal solar activity and the subsequent establishment of multinational scientific programs in Antarctica.

Over the years, NSF has conducted numerous multilateral projects, from the International Biological Program (IBP) and Tropical Oceans-Global Atmoshpere (TOGA) Program to the more recent ones described in NSF News items. It has also fostered bilateral partnerships in all parts of the world -- many of these in tandem with major diplomatic initiatives such as initiating cooperation with the USSR in the 1970s and China in the early 1980s.

Today, NSF's international activities are extensive and encompass both the financial resources provided to the science and engineering community and the efforts of NSF management and staff who exercise leadership in international settings, fostering institutional frameworks that facilitate international cooperation in research and education. They support research programs distributed across the Foundation's directorates, the training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and, to a lesser extent, undergraduate and pre-college education programs.

These activities are widely distributed across the continents and oceans of the world and range from work in the world's most advanced science and engineering laboratories to observation of physical, biological, and human phenomena around the globe, including its polar regions.

The senior management of the Foundation plays a major role in international statesmanship. Besides interacting with the scientific leadership of other countries, senior NSF staff participate in such international bodies as the Global Science Forum (GSF) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), the International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research (IGFA), the activities of the Arctic Council, the consultative meetings of the Antarctic Treaty, and the scientific activities of such UN specialized agencies as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

NSF International activities fall into five general categories:

  • US participation in global-scale projects and research networks includes more than two dozen international-scale projects in which NSF plays a lead role as well as many others in which NSF participates.

  • Support for international facilities includes both Foundation-supported facilities overseas, such as the Gemini-South Astronomical facility in Chile, and those on US soil that represent international partnerships, such as Gemini-North in Hawaii.

  • Linkages to Research Programs of Other Countries includes intergovernmental agreements of S&T cooperation and joint programs designed to facilitate involvement of NSF-supported US scientists and engineers in international collaboration.

  • Support for New Scientists and Engineers involves many programs that provide US scientists and engineers with opportunities to gain international professional experience, including approaches for post doctorate & early career researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students.

  • International Science and Engineering Information includes tracking developments in research and education in other countries via participation in international meetings, surveys and assessments, and NSF offices in Tokyo and Europe.

Below are examples of current bilateral collaborations.  Please contact the corresponding country program manager(s) for information on other collaborations. 

- Israel (U.S. - Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) Collaboration)
- United Kingdom

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Please click here to access the OISE Regional & Country Contacts.

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