About the National Science Foundation

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency, created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 USC 1861-75). The idea of such a Foundation was an outgrowth of the important contributions made by science and technology during World War II. Its aim is to promote and advance progress in science and engineering in the United States (US). From those first days, NSF has had a unique place in the Federal Government: it is responsible for the overall health of science and engineering across all disciplines. In contrast, other Federal agencies support research focused on specific missions such as health or defense. The Foundation is also committed to ensuring the nationís supply of scientists, engineers and science and engineering educators.

NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. It does this through grants and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research institutions throughout the US. The Foundation accounts for about one-fourth of Federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

NSF receives approximately 30,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, of which approximately 10,000 are funded. In addition, the Foundation receives several thousand applications for graduate and post-doctoral fellowships. NSF grants are typically awarded to universities, colleges, academic consortia, non-profit institutions and small businesses. The agency operates no laboratories itself but does support National Research Centers, user facilities, certain oceanographic vessels and Antarctic research stations. The Foundation also supports cooperative research between universities and industry, US participation in international scientific efforts, and educational activities at every academic level.

NSF is structured much like a university, with grants-funding divisions for the various disciplines and fields of science and engineering and for science, math, engineering and technology education. NSF also uses a variety of management mechanisms to coordinate research in areas that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Foundation is helped by advisors from the scientific community who serve on formal committees or as ad hoc reviewers of proposals. This advisory system, which focuses on both program directions and specific proposals, involves approximately 50,000 scientists and engineers each year. NSF staff members who are experts in a certain field or area make award recommendations; applicants get unattributed verbatim copies of peer reviews.

Grantees are wholly responsible for conducting their project activities and preparing the results for publication. Thus, the Foundation does not assume responsibility for such findings or their interpretation.

NSF welcomes proposals on behalf of all qualified scientists, engineers and educators. The Foundation strongly encourages women, minorities and persons with disabilities to participate fully in its programs. In accordance with Federal statutes, regulations and NSF policies, no person on grounds of race, color, age, sex, national origin or disability shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving financial assistance from NSF although some programs may have special requirements that limit eligibility.

Facilitation Awards for Scientists and Engineers with Disabilities provide funding for special assistance or equipment to enable persons with disabilities to work on NSF-supported projects. (For more information, see Section V.G.)

The National Science Foundation has Telephonic Device for the Deaf (TDD) and Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) capabilities that enable individuals with hearing impairments to communicate with the Foundation about NSF programs, employment or general information. TDD may be accessed at 703.306.0090, FIRS at 800.877.8339.

Copies of this Guide (NSF 00-2) or the Proposal Forms Kit (NSF 00-3) (which is contained as part of NSF 00-2) are available electronically on the NSF Web site at:<> in a variety of formats including: HTML, Microsoft Word, ASCII text, and Portable Document Format (PDF). Paper copies may be ordered from:

NSF Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 218
Jessup, MD 20794-0218

Telephone: 301.947.2722
e-mail: <>

All NSF publications should be clear and understandable. If you have suggestions on how NSF can improve this or other NSF publications, please email: <>.

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