The National Science Foundation has a broad mission: contribute to the prosperity, health, and security of the nation through fundamental research and education in science and engineering. NSF's chief partners in this mission are the universities and colleges of the United States -- partners that, without question, constitute the world's leaders in basic scientific research. NSF is responsible for enabling the pursuit of excellence by U.S. universities and colleges, for expanding their capacity to benefit the nation through research and education, and for helping to maintain our nation's position of world leadership in science and engineering.

One critical part of this stewardship role is ensuring that the nation's research and education communities have state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation. Scientific instruments are the tools used to discover new knowledge. Throughout the history of science, bold ideas would have faded and disappeared if someone hadn't created an instrument that could collect the critical facts or observations that fueled a revolutionary breakthrough. Without a telescope, Galileo could only guess at the nature of the solar system. Without a microscope, van Leeuwenhoek could only speculate on the nature of microbial life. U.S. scientists and engineers need access to instruments that will allow them to maintain world leadership and continue to make bold progress along the broad frontier of knowledge -- as well as in strategic areas: high performance computing and communication (including the "information superhighway"), the environment, manufacturing, global change, biotechnology, advanced materials and processing, civil infrastructure, and human resource development in science and engineering.

NSF is responsive to the need among U.S. researchers and educators for scientific instruments. NSF will invest approximately $250 million in instrumentation in fiscal year 1994, including more than $50 million from the interdisciplinary Academic Research Infrastructure Program. Many of these instruments are currently available from manufacturers, but many more must be specially developed by teams of scientists and engineers from academia and industry. By supporting these development efforts, NSF is helping to create the tools on which 21st century science will depend -- science that will sustain our environment, improve our health care, develop our individual potential, and challenge our imagination. At the same time, NSF is helping to build university-industry research partnerships that can lead to new products, new industries, and new jobs for America's economic future.

Stewardship for Excellence, Leadership for the Nation's Benefit

NSF has been the federal steward for fundamental research and education in science and engineering since 1950. It has supported science education and research training and has fostered excellence in research that has led to discoveries all along the frontier of knowledge. The Foundation has provided leadership by focusing research support on areas of strategic importance to the nation. By supporting the discovery process in these areas, new knowledge becomes available for applications that can lead to tangible benefits for society and the economy. During the past four decades, the United States has become the world's leader in science and engineering research, and has enjoyed an extraordinary rise in its standard of living. Academic research and education can continue to contribute to the long-term success of the American enterprise if:

NSF will continue to invest in science and engineering in ways that will pay tangible dividends to the nation. One essential investment is in the basic equipment needed to make new discoveries -- the tools of science and engineering.

Scientific Instrumentation: Tools for the Discovery Process

The research and education community depends on sophisticated scientific instruments in the search for new knowledge. Providing researchers, teachers, and students with access to these instruments is integral to addressing the four issues alluded to above: