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National Science Foundation (NSF)

An independent government agency, the National Science Foundation (NSF) was established by an Act of Congress in 1950. The NSF is guided by the 24-member National Science Board as well as a Director and Deputy Director, all of which are appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the United States Senate.

The NSF is the only federal agency dedicated to the support of education and research across all scientific and engineering fields. Its mission is to ensure the United States maintains its leadership position in scientific discovery and the development of new technologies; to promote the national health, prosperity and welfare; and, to secure the national defense. It has achieved this mission throughout its 50-year history.

  • For Fiscal Year 2000, the NSF budget is nearly $3.9 billion.
  • Researchers and educators in all 50 states and in all US territories receive NSF support in the form of competitively awarded grants, contracts and cooperative agreements. The NSF funds about one-third of the 30,000 proposals competitively reviewed each year.
  • NSF-supported research has led to countless scientific breakthroughs impacting every area of life in our society. The Internet, Doppler radar, the American Sign Language Dictionary, DNA fingerprinting, MRI (the noninvasive technology used to diagnose many illnesses) and even the sand-filled yellow safety barrels on highways are all the fruits of research and education funded by NSF.
  • Since 1959, NSF has conducted and supported research in Antarctica. This vast living laboratory has provided insights on the earth's past, present and future through research on the ozone layer, sea levels, marine life, weather patterns and other forces of nature.
  • NSF recommends and encourages the pursuit of national policies for the promotion of fundamental research and education in the sciences and engineering. It also strengthens research and education innovation in the sciences and engineering.
  • NSF-supported researchers have received more than 100 Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and economics. NSF researchers have also received dozens of other prestigious honors, including the Medal of Science, Medal of Technology, the Waterman, the Draper, the PECASE and the CAREER, among others.
  • Across the Foundation's programs, NSF provides support for almost 200,000 people, including teachers, students, researchers, post-doctorates, and trainees. Moreover, about 40% of the funding for research grants - an amount approaching $1 billion in fiscal year 2001 - provides support for researchers and students, including more than 61,000 post-doctorates, trainees, and graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Millions of people are indirectly involved in and impacted by NSF programs. These programs reach pre-K - 12th grade students and teachers, and researchers throughout the nation via workshops, museum programs, journals, television programming, videos and improved curriculum and teaching methods.
  • Over half of the nation's economic productivity in the last 50 years is attributable to technological innovation and the science that supported it. NSF-supported innovations have spawned new industries in communications, biotechnology, agriculture and other sectors. This has created greater employment opportunities, increased economic prospects, and resulted in a quality of life that surpasses what Americans may have imagined 50 years ago.
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