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Encyclopedia > National Science Foundation
The logo of the National Science Foundation
The logo of the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. With an annual budget of about $5.6 billion (fiscal year 2006), NSF funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by the United States' colleges and universities. In some fields, such as mathematics, computer science, economics and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing. Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (602x602, 191 KB) NSF Logo, reproduction allowed. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (602x602, 191 KB) NSF Logo, reproduction allowed. ... Part of a scientific laboratory at the University of Cologne. ... Engineering is the application of scientific or mathematical principles with due reference to economics, society and environment to develop solutions to technical problems, creating products, facilities, and structures that are useful to people. ... Euclid, Greek mathematician, 3rd century BC, known today as the father of geometry; shown here in a detail of The School of Athens by Raphael. ... Computer science, or computing science, is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their implementation and application in computer systems. ... Face-to-face trading interactions among on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor Economics or oeconomics is the study of human choice behaviour. ... The social sciences are groups of academic disciplines that study the human aspects of the world. ...

NSF's director, its deputy director, and the 24 members of the National Science Board (NSB) [1] are appointed by the President of the United States, and confirmed by the United States Senate. The director and deputy director are responsible for administration, planning, budgeting and day-to-day operations of the foundation, while the NSB meets six times a year to establish its overall policies. The presidential seal was used by President Hayes in 1880 and last modified in 1959 by adding the 50th star for Hawaii. ... Seal of the U.S. Senate The United States Senate is one of the two chambers of the bicameral United States Congress, the other being the House of Representatives. ...

The current NSF director is Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., and the current deputy director is Dr. Kathie L. Olsen. Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr. ... Dr. Kathie L. Olsen is an American neuroscientist who is noted for her work in scientific policy. ...


Grants and the merit review process

Although many other federal research agencies operate their own laboratories—notable examples being the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—NSF does not. Instead, it seeks to fulfill its mission chiefly by issuing competitive, limited-term grants in response to specific proposals from the research community. (NSF also makes some contracts.) Some proposals are solicited, and some are not; NASA Logo Listen to this article · (info) This audio file was created from the revision dated 2005-09-01, and does not reflect subsequent edits to the article. ... The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for medical research. ...

 NSF funds both kinds. 

NSF receives about 40,000 such proposals each year, and funds about 10,000 of them. Those funded are typically the projects that are ranked highest in a merit review process. These reviews are carried out by panels of independent scientists, engineers and educators who are experts in the relevant fields of study, and who are selected by NSF with particular attention to avoiding conflicts of interest. (For example, the reviewers cannot work at NSF itself, nor for the institution that employs the proposing researchers.) All proposal evaluations are confidential.

Most NSF grants go to individuals or small groups of investigators who carry out research at their home campuses. Other grants provide funding for mid-scale research centers, instruments and facilities that serve researchers from many institutions. Still others fund national-scale facilities that are shared by the research community as a whole. Examples of national facilities include NSF’s national observatories, with their giant optical and radio telescopes; its Antarctic research sites; its high-end computer facilities and ultra-high-speed network connections; the ships and submersibles used for ocean research; and its gravitational wave observatories. For other uses, see Antarctica (disambiguation). ...

In addition to researchers and research facilities, NSF grants also support science, engineering and mathematics education from pre-K through graduate school and beyond.

Scope and organization

National Science Foundation Building
National Science Foundation Building

NSF’s workforce numbers about 1700, nearly all working at its Arlington, Virginia headquarters. That includes about 1200 career employees, 150 scientists from research institutions on temporary duty, 200 contract workers, and the staff of the National Science Board office and the Office of the Inspector General, which examines the foundation's work and reports to the NSB and Congress. This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... Arlington County is a county located in the U.S. state of Virginia (which calls itself a commonwealth), directly across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. By an act of Congress July 9, 1846, the area south of the Potomac was returned to Virginia effective in 1847 As of 2000...

Research directorates

NSF organizes its research and education support through seven directorates, each encompassing several disciplines:

Biology (from Greek βίος λόγος, see below) is the study of life. ... jecca is very beautiful!! Environmental science is the study of the interactions among the physical, chemical and biological components of the environment; with a focus on pollution and degradation of the environment related due to human activities; and the impact on biodiversity and sustainability from local and global development. ... Computer science, or computing science, is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their implementation and application in computer systems. ... Hondas humanoid robot AI redirects here. ... Euclid, Greek mathematician, 3rd century BC, known today as the father of geometry; shown here in a detail of The School of Athens by Raphael. ... A giant Hubble mosaic of the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant. ... The first few hydrogen atom electron orbitals shown as cross-sections with color-coded probability density. ... Chemistry (from Greek χημεία khemeia[1] meaning alchemy) is the science of matter at the atomic to molecular scale, dealing primarily with collections of atoms, such as molecules, crystals, and metals. ... The Materials Science Tetrahedron, which often also includes Characterization at the center Materials science is an interdisciplinary field involving the properties of matter and its applications to various areas of science and engineering. ... Drawing of the cells in the chicken cerebellum by S. Ramón y Cajal Neuroscience is a field that is devoted to the scientific study of the nervous system. ... Psychology is an academic and applied field involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. ... The social sciences are groups of academic disciplines that study the human aspects of the world. ... Initiation rite of the Yao people of Malawi Anthropology (from the Greek word , man or person) consists of the study of humanity (see genus Homo). ... Economics is the social science studying production and consumption through measurable variables. ... Science education is the field concerned with sharing science content and process with individuals not traditionally considered part of the scientific community. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Engineering education is the study of engineering systems and technology. ... Mathematics education is the study of practices and methods of both the teaching and learning of mathematics. ...

Other research offices

NSF also supports research through several offices within the Office of the Director:

Crosscutting programs

In addition to the research it funds in specific disciplines, NSF has launched a number of crosscutting projects that coordinate the efforts of experts in many disciplines. Examples include initiatives in:

  • Nanotechnology
  • The science of learning
  • Digital libraries
  • The ecology of infectious diseases

In many cases, these projects involve collaborations with other U.S. federal agencies.

History and mission

The NSF was established by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. Its stated mission: 1950 (MCML) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ...

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

Some historians of science have argued that the result was an unsatisfactory compromise between too many clashing visions of the purpose and scope of the federal government. [2] NSF was certainly not the primary government agency for the funding of basic science, as its supporters had originally envisioned in the aftermath of World War II. By 1950, support for major areas of research had already become dominated by specialized agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (medical research) and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (nuclear and particle physics). That pattern would continue after 1957, when U.S. anxiety over the launch of Sputnik led to the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (space science) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (defense-related research). Combatants Major Allied powers: United Kingdom Soviet Union United States Republic of China and others Major Axis powers: Nazi Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Harry Truman Chiang Kai-Shek Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tojo Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead... The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for medical research. ... Shield of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. ... Sputnik 1 The Sputnik program was a series of unmanned space missions launched by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s to demonstrate the viability of artificial satellites. ... NASA Logo Listen to this article · (info) This audio file was created from the revision dated 2005-09-01, and does not reflect subsequent edits to the article. ... The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military. ...

Nonetheless, NSF's scope has expanded over the years to include many areas that were not in its initial portfolio, including the social and behavioral sciences, engineering, and science and mathematics education. Today, as described in its 2003-2008 strategic plan, NSF is the only U. S. federal agency with a mandate to support all the non-medical fields of research.

In the process, moreover, the foundation has come to enjoy strong bipartisan support from Congress. Especially after the technology boom of the 1980s, both sides of the aisle have generally embraced the notion that government-funded basic research is essential for the nation's economic health and global competitiveness, as well as for the national defense. That support has manifested itself in an expanding budget—from $1 billion in 1983 to just over $5.6 billion by FY 2006. (fiscal year 2006).


Pre-World War II
Academic research in science and engineering is not considered a federal responsibility; almost all support comes from private contributions and charitable foundations.
World War II
There is a growing awareness that America's military capability owes a great deal to the nation's strength in science and engineering. Congress considers several proposals to provide federal support for research in these fields.
Vannevar Bush, head of the government's wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development, issues a report to President Harry S. Truman, entitled Science—The Endless Frontier. The report lays out a strong case for having the federal government fund scientific research, arguing that the nation would reap rich dividends in the form of better health care, a more vigorous economy, and a stronger national defense. The report also proposes creating a new federal agency, the "National Research Foundation," to administer this effort.
Although there is broad agreement in Washington with the principle of federal support for science, there is far less agreement on exactly how that effort should be organized and managed. Thrashing out a consensus requires five years of negotiation and compromise. [3]
On May 10, President Truman signs Public Law 507, creating the National Science Foundation. The act provides for a National Science Board of twenty-four part-time members and a director as chief executive officer, all appointed by the president.
In early March, Truman nominates Alan T. Waterman, the chief scientist at the Office of Naval Research, to become the first Director of the fledgling agency. With the Korean War underway, money is tight: the agency's initial budget is just $151,000.
After moving its administrative offices twice, NSF begins its first full year of operations with an appropriation from Congress of just $3.5 million, a figure far less the almost $33.5 million requested. Twenty-eight research grants are awarded.
On October 5, the Soviet Union orbits Sputnik 1, the first ever man-made satellite. The successful rocket launch forces a national self-appraisal that questions American education, scientific, technical and industrial strength. For 1959, Congress increases the NSF appropriation to $134 million, nearly $100 million higher than the year before. By 1968, the NSF budget will stand at nearly $500 million.
NSF selects Kitt Peak, near Tucson, Arizona, as the site of the first national observatory, a research center that would make state-of-the-art telescopes available to every astronomer in the nation. (Prior to this time, there was no equal access; major research telescopes were privately funded, and were available only to the astronomers who taught at the universities that ran them.) Today, that idea has expanded to encompass the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, the Gemini Observatory and the Arecibo Observatory, all of which are funded in whole or in part by NSF. Along the way, moreover, NSF's astronomy program has forged a close working relationship with that of NASA, which was also founded in 1958: just as NASA has responsibility for the U. S. effort in space-based astronomy, NSF provides virtually all the U. S. federal support for ground-based astronomy.
The United States and other nations operating in Antarctica conclude a treaty that reserves the continent for peaceful and scientific research. Shortly thereafter, a presidential directive based on the treaty gives NSF the responsibility for virtually all U.S. operations and research on the continent; the U.S. Antarctic Program continues to this day.
Emphasis on international scientific and technological competition further accelerates NSF growth. The Foundation starts the Institutional Support Program, a capital funding program designed to build a research infrastructure among American universities; it will be the single largest beneficiary of NSF budget growth in the 1960s. NSF's appropriation is $152.7 million; 2,000 grants are made.
The Deep Sea Drilling Project begins. Over the years, the project reveals much new evidence about the theories of continental drift, sea floor spreading and the general usefulness of the ocean basins. The program also becomes a model of international cooperation as several foreign countries join the operation.
NSF takes over management of twelve interdisciplinary materials research laboratories from the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). These university-based laboratories had taken a more integrated approach than did most academic departments at the time, encouraging physicists, chemists, engineers, and metallurgists to cross departmental boundaries and use systems approaches to attack complex problems of materials synthesis or processing. NSF begins to expand these laboratories into a nationwide network of Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers.
The first "Internet" is developed. This interconnection of unrelated networks is run by DARPA. Over the next decade, increasing NSF involvement leads to a three-tiered system of internetworks managed by a mix of universities, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. By the mid-1980s, primary financial support for the growing project is assumed by the NSF. [1]
The agency budget tops $1 billion for the first time. Major increases in the nation's research budget are proposed as the country recognizes the importance of research in science and technology, as well as education. A separate appropriation is established for the U.S. Antarctic Program. NSF receives more than 27,000 proposals and funds more than 12,000 of them.
In November NSF delivers ozone sensors, along with balloons and helium, to researchers at the South Pole so they can measure stratospheric ozone loss. The action is taken in response to findings made in May of that year, indicating a steep drop in ozone over a period of several years. The Internet project, now known as NSFNET, continues.
NSF's appropriation passes $2 billion for the first time.
NSF funds the development of several curricula based on the NCTM standards, devised by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. These standards are widely adopted by school districts during the subsequent decade. However, in what newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal later call the "math wars", organizations such as Mathematically Correct complain that some elementary texts based on the standards, including Mathland, have almost entirely abandoned any instruction of traditional arithmetic in favor of cutting, coloring, pasting, and writing. During that debate, NSF is both lauded and criticized for favoring the standards.
In March, the NSFNET acceptable use policy is altered to allow commercial traffic. By 1995, with the private, commercial market thriving, NSF decommissions the NSFNET, allowing for public use of the Internet.
Students and staff working at the NSF-supported National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, develop Mosaic, the first freely available browser to allow World Wide Web pages that include both graphics and text. Within 18 months, NCSA Mosaic becomes the Web browser of choice for more than a million users, and sets off an exponential growth in the number of Web users.
NSF, together with NASA and DARPA, launches the Digital Library Initiative. One of the first six grants goes to Stanford University, where two graduate students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, begin to develop a search engine that uses the links between Web pages as a ranking method. They will later commercialize their search engine under the name Google.
NSF-funded research establishes beyond doubt that the chemistry of the atmosphere above Antarctica is grossly abnormal and that levels of key chlorine compounds are greatly elevated. During two months of intense work, NSF researchers learn most of what we know today about the ozone hole.
Two independent teams of NSF-supported astronomers discover that the expansion of the universe is actually speeding up, as if some previously unknown force, now known as dark energy, is driving the galaxies apart at an ever increasing rate.
NSF joins with other federal agencies in the National Nanotechnology Initiative, dedicated to the understanding and control of matter at the atomic and molecular scale. Today, NSF's roughly $300 million annual investment in nanotechnology research is still one of the largest in the 23-agency initiative.
NSF's appropriation passes $4 billion.
The NSF's Survey of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology reveals that the public has a positive attitude toward science but a poor understanding of it.[2]
NSF sends "rapid response" research teams to investigate the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. An NSF-funded engineering team helps uncover why the levees failed in New Orleans.
NSF's budget stands at just over $5.6 billion.

Vannevar Bush (March 11, 1890 – June 30, 1974) was an American engineer and science administrator, known for his political role in the development of the atomic bomb, and the idea of the memex—seen as a pioneering concept for the World Wide Web. ... Harry S Truman (May 8, 1884–December 26, 1972) was the thirty-third President of the United States (1945–1953); as Vice President, he succeeded to the office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. ... Alan Tower Waterman (June 4, 1892 – 1967) was an American physicist. ... ONR Logo The Office of Naval Research (ONR), headquartered in Arlington, Virginia (Ballston), is an office of the U.S. Navy that carries out scientific research to support the Navy and Marine Corps in the interest of national security. ... Sputnik 1 (Russian: , Satellite 1) was the first artificial satellite to be put into orbit, on October 4, 1957. ... The Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) is located on a 6,875 ft peak of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono Oodham Nation, 55 miles southwest of Tucson. ... Nickname: The Old Pueblo Location in Pima County and the state of Arizona Coordinates: Country United States State Arizona Counties Pima Mayor Bob Walkup (R) Area    - City 505. ... The National Optical Astronomy Observatory consists of four observatories under one management structure: Kitt Peak National Observatory Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory Gemini Observatory National Solar Observatory See also: List of observatories External link http://www. ... The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is an institution set up by the United States government for the purpose of radio astronomy. ... The mission of the National Solar Observatory is to advance knowledge of the Sun, both as an astronomical object and as the dominant external influence on Earth, by providing forefront observational opportunities to the research community. ... The Gemini Observatory is an astronomical observatory consisting of two 8-metre telescopes at different sites. ... The Arecibo Observatory is located approximately 9 miles south-southwest from Arecibo, Puerto Rico (near the extreme southwestern corner of Arecibo pueblo). ... The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military. ... MRSEC is an acronym for Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers, funded by the United States National Science Foundation. ... National Science Foundation Network (NSFNet) was a major part of early 1990s Internet backbone. ... The Wall Street Journal is an influential international daily newspaper published in New York City, New York with an average daily circulation of 1,800,607 (2002). ... Mathematically Correct is a website created by educators, parents, citizens and mathematicians / scientists who are concerned about the direction of standards-based mathematics and education reform. ... MathLand is a mathematics curriculum that was designed around the 1989 NCTM standards. ... National Center for Supercomputing Applications NCSA Building, 1205 W. Clark St. ... Mosaic is considered by scholars to be the first important World Wide Web browser and Gopher client, and was the first browser which ran on Windows (rather than UNIX), which opened the web up to the general public [1]. It was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA... WWWs historical logo designed by Robert Cailliau The World Wide Web (WWW or simply the Web) is a system of interlinked, hypertext documents that runs over the Internet. ... Stanford redirects here. ... Google, Inc. ... In physical cosmology, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all of space and has strong negative pressure. ... New Orleans is the largest city in the state of Louisiana, United States of America. ...

Public Attitudes and Understanding

NSF surveys of public attitudes and knowledge have consistently shown that the public has a positive view of science but has little scientific understanding. The greatest deficit remains the public's understanding of the scientific method.[4] hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha ...

See also

President Harding and the National Academy of Sciences at the White House, Washington, DC, April 1921 The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine. ... The U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation (CRDF) is a ... nonprofit organization that promotes international scientific and technical collaboration . ... This article refers to an art institution in London. ... This is the list as was published in the Department of Education press release. ...

External links

  • NSF Official Website


  1. ^ National Science Board (NSB)
  2. ^ David M. Hart, The Forged Consensus: Science, Technology, and Economic Policy in the United States, 1921-1953 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).
  3. ^ George T. Mazuzan, "The National Science Foundation: A Brief History" (NSF Publication nsf8816).
  4. ^ S&E Indicators 2006 - Chapter 7: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding - Information Sources, Interest, and Perceived Knowledge



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