the National Science Foundation
NSF AT A GLANCE
The National Science Foundation (NSF)
is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health,
prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), we are the
funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's
colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is
the major source of federal backing. MORE
2-minute video overview of
NSF's mission and focus.
Visit NSF's new Open Government Initiative Web site.
WHO WE ARE
NSF leadership has two major components: a director who oversees NSF
staff and management responsible for program creation and administration, merit review, planning, budget and day-to-day operations; and a 24-member National Science Board (NSB) of eminent individuals that meets six times a year to establish the overall policies of the foundation. The director and all Board members serve six year terms.
Each of them, as well as the NSF deputy director, is appointed by the
President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. At present,
NSF has a total workforce of about 2,100 at its Arlington, Va., headquarters,
including approximately 1,400 career employees, 200 scientists from research
institutions on temporary duty, 450 contract workers and the staff of the
NSB office and the Office of the Inspector General. MORE
WHAT WE DO
As described in our strategic plan, NSF is
the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences.
We are tasked with keeping the United States at the leading edge of
discovery in areas from astronomy to geology to zoology. So, in addition to
funding research in the traditional academic areas, the agency also supports
"high-risk, high pay-off" ideas, novel collaborations and numerous projects
that may seem like science fiction today, but which the public will take for granted
tomorrow. And in every case, we ensure that research is fully integrated
with education so that today's revolutionary work will also be training
tomorrow's top scientists and engineers. MORE
HOW WE WORK
NSF's task of identifying and funding work at the frontiers of science and
engineering is not a "top-down" process. NSF operates from the "bottom up,"
keeping close track of research around the United States and the world,
maintaining constant contact with the research community to identify
ever-moving horizons of inquiry, monitoring which areas are most likely to
result in spectacular progress and choosing the most promising people to
conduct the research. MORE