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National Science Board

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National Science Board

National Science Board, NSF
Motto: Supporting Education and Research across all fields of Science and Technology

America's Investment in the Future

Where Discoveries Begin
Agency overview
Formed 10 May 1950
Headquarters Arlington, VA
Agency executives Dan E. Arvizu, Chairman
Kelvin K. Droegemeier, Vice-Chairman
Michael L. Van Woert, Executive Officer

The National Science Board (NSB) of the United States is composed of 25 members appointed by the President. Until October 2012, the members had to be confirmed by the United States Senate, representing the broad U.S. science and engineering community. The Board establishes the policies of the National Science Foundation (NSF) within the framework of applicable national policies set forth by the President and the Congress. The Board also serves as an independent policy advisory body to the President and Congress on science and engineering research and education issues and has a statutory obligation to "...render to the President and to the Congress reports on specific, individual policy matters related to science and engineering and education in science engineering, as the Board, the President, or the Congress determines the need for such reports,"[1] and to "...render to the President and the Congress no later than January 15 of each even numbered year, a report on indicators of the state of science and engineering in the United States."[2]


NSB Logo

The National Science Board was created through the National Science Foundation Act of 1950: "There is established in the executive branch of the Government an independent agency to be known as the National Science Foundation (hereinafter referred to as the “Foundation”). The Foundation shall consist of a National Science Board (hereinafter referred to as the “Board”) and a Director."[3]

As an independent Federal agency, NSF does not fall within a cabinet department; rather NSF's activities are guided by the National Science Board (NSB or Board). The Board was established by the Congress to serve as a national science policy body, and to oversee and guide the activities of NSF. It has dual responsibilities to: a) provide independent national science policy advice to the President and the Congress; and b) establish policies for NSF.

The Board meets five times per year to review and approve major NSF awards and new programs, provide policy direction to NSF, and address significant science and engineering related national policy issues. It initiates and conducts studies and reports on a broad range of policy topics, and publishes policy papers or statements on issues of importance to U.S. science and engineering research and education enterprises. The Board identifies issues that are critical to NSF's future, and approves NSF's strategic plan and the annual budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Specifically, the Board analyzes NSF's budget to ensure progress and consistency in keeping with the strategic direction set for NSF and to ensure balance between new investments and core programs.


National Science Board Members 2013. Missing from the photo: Bonnie Bassler, Esin Gulari, G.P. "Bud" Peterson, Claude Steel, Robert Zimmer, and Maria Zuber. Photo Credit: Sandy Schaeffer Photography

The Board has 24 members appointed by the President, plus the NSF Director who serves as an ex officio member (for a total of 25 members). Every two years, one-third (eight) of the members rotate off of the Board and eight new members are appointed (or occasionally re-appointed) to serve for six-year terms. Board member nominations are based on distinguished service and eminence in research, education and/or public service. Members are drawn from academia and industry, and represent a diverse range of science, technology, engineering, and education disciplines and geographic areas.

Members of the National Science Board[4]

Terms expire May 10, 2014
Terms expire May 10, 2016
Terms expire May 10, 2018

None as of May 2013

Ex-Officio Member
Executive Officer and NSB Office Director

Activities/Work of the National Science Board

The Board has two overarching roles: 1) Provide oversight and policy guidance to the National Science Foundation; and 2) Serve as an advisor to Congress and the President on matters concerning science and engineering in the U.S.


Much of the background work of the National Science Board is done through its committees. By statute, the Board has an Executive Committee (EC),[5] which exercises such functions as are delegated to it by the Board, and such other committees as the Board deems necessary. As of January 2009, the Board has five other standing committees.[6]

Statutory Committees
Front Cover, NSB Merit Review Criteria: Review and Revisions, 2011
  • Executive Committee
Standing Committees
  • Audit and Oversight (A&O)
  • Education and Human Resources (CEH)
  • Programs and Plans (CPP)
  • Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI)
  • Strategy and Budget (CSB)
Subcommittees, Task Forces and ad hoc Committees
  • CSB Subcommittee on Facilities (SCF)
  • Task Force on Administrative Burdens (AB)

Current Activities

Task Force on Administrative Burdens: From the AB charge -- "The National Science Board (Board) will examine the administrative burden imposed on federally supported researchers at U.S. colleges, universities, and non-profit institutions and offer recommendations where appropriate on relieving the administrative workload."[7]

Recent Activities

In 2009-10, the Board authorized three new activities. As of May 4, 2012, these three activities have been completed:

Front Cover, Digital Research Data Sharing and Management, 2011
  • Task Force on Merit Review (MR). On January 9, 2012, the NSB released its report, National Science Foundation's Merit Review Criteria: Review and Revisions. The NSB concluded that the two current Merit Review Criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts remain appropriate for evaluating NSF proposals. In the report, the NSB did not recommend changing the two criteria, but it did recommend that NSF better define the two criteria for the benefit of the science community. In addition, the report contains three principles governing NSF's approach to utilizing these criteria and guidance addressing several issues associated with their implementation.
  • Task Force on Data Policies (DP). How data collected with National Science Foundation funding are shared and managed to ensure broad, timely, and long-term availability and accessibility to the entire research community is an important issue. The NSB Task Force on Data Policies was charged with determining what, if any, NSF policies related to data sharing and management would be in the best interests of the Nation’s scientific and engineering enterprise. The NSB approved the its report, Digital Research Data Sharing and Management on December 14, 2011 subject to final edits made in response to public comments.
  • Task Force on Unsolicited Mid-Scale Research (MS). This NSB task force was charged with determining whether NSF effectively supports unsolicited mid-scale research—that is, research not responding to a specific NSF solicitation and with an annual budget falling between an amount substantially higher than a typical single investigator grant and an NSF center in a given field. The NSB approved its report on this topic on May 4, 2012.The NSB approved the its report, Digital Research Data Sharing and Management on December 14, 2011 subject to final edits made in response to public comments.

Activities Relating to Policy Guidance for NSF

Over the past several years, the Board completed several items responsive to its mission to provide policy direction to the NSF. For example, Enhancing Support of Transformative Research at the National Science Foundation, provided guidance on the creation of a new NSF Transformative Research Initiative. In 2009, the Board released, Investing in the Future: NSF Cost Sharing Policies for a Robust Federal Research Enterprise. The recommendations in this report were intended to "improve consistency and clarity of NSF cost sharing practices and policy and to maximize the effectiveness of institutional dollars invested in research." [8]

Activities as Policy Advisers to Congress and the President

Science & Engineering Indicators
Front Cover, Science & Engineering Indicators 2012

Science & Engineering Indicators (SEI)[9] is prepared by the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) on behalf of the National Science Board as required by law.[10] It is subject to extensive review by outside experts, interested federal agencies, NSB members, and NCSES internal reviewers for accuracy, coverage, and balance.

SEI comprise quantitative data on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise. It objectively reviews science and engineering progress in US and international arena. Though the report does not offer policy options and recommendations, it is used by different governmental and non-governmental entities to formulate their own policies and recommendations. SEI employs a variety of presentational styles—tables, figures, narrative text, bulleted text, web-based links, highlights, introductions, conclusions, reference lists—to make the data accessible to readers with different information needs and different information processing preferences.

Chapters: SEI includes seven chapters that follow a generally consistent pattern; an eighth chapter, on state indicators, presented in a unique format; and an overview that precedes these eight chapters. The chapter titles are:

  1. Elementary and Secondary Education
  2. Higher Education in Science and Engineering
  3. Science and Engineering Labor Force
  4. Research and Development: National Trends and International Linkages
  5. Academic Research and Development
  6. Industry, Technology, and the Global Marketplace
  7. Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding
  8. State Indicators

An appendix volume, available online contains detailed data tables keyed to each of the eight chapters listed.

Digest of Key Science and Engineering Indicators: In 2006, the Board produced a pilot "digest" or condensed version of SEI comprising a small selection of important indicators. The Digest serves two purposes: (1) to draw attention to important trends and data points from across the chapters and volumes of SEI and (2) to introduce readers to the data resources available in the main volumes of SEI.

While the 2012 version of "Science and Engineering Indicators" notes this survey data and the survey problem, the NSB continues to minimize this data and does not draw attention to the unfavorable comparison to European and Japanese public understanding of these scientific issues.

Companion to SEI: A National Science Board policy statement, or "companion," authored by the Board, draws upon the data in SEI and offers recommendations on issues of concern for national science and engineering research or education policy, in keeping with the Board's statutory responsibility to bring attention to such issues.

Recent SEI Companions

  • 2004: An Emerging and Critical Problem of the Science and Engineering Labor Force
  • 2006: America's Pressing Challenge — Building a Stronger Foundation
  • 2008: Research and Development: Essential Foundation for U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Economy
  • 2010: Globalization of Science and Engineering Research
  • 2012a: Research & Development, Innovation, and the Science & Engineering Workforce
  • 2012b: Diminishing Funding and Rising Expectations: Trends and Challenges for Public Research Universities
STEM Education
The NSB has produced policy guidance in the area of STEM education for several decades. In 2007/2008 the NSB developed a national action plan for addressing the critical STEM education needs of our Nation while providing specific guidance for the role of NSF in the national STEM education enterprise (STEM Action Plan).
Front Cover, STEM Innovators Report 2010

In January 2009, the NSB approved and transmitted a set of six recommendations to the Barack Obama Administration. These recommendations outline a series of steps to improve STEM education and foster innovation to ensure both scientific literacy among the public and ensure global competitiveness in the 21st century. From the STEM education recommendations:

The National Science Board (Board) recommends a set of actions for the new Administration to implement starting in early 2009 to advance STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education for all American students, to nurture innovation, and to ensure the long-term economic prosperity of the Nation. The urgency of this task is underscored by the need to ensure that the United States continues to excel in science and technology in the 21st century. It must develop the ideas that could transform and strengthen the economy, ensure a skilled workforce for American industry, and guarantee that all American students are provided the educational resources and tools needed to participate fully in the science and technology based economy of the 21st century. The solutions we offer here are derived from studies by the Board over the past decade and reflect our continued commitment to a high quality STEM education system for America.[11]

On August 24–25, 2009, the Board held a two-day expert panel discussion on, Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators. The discussion featured a number of experts from around the U.S. including, Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Nicholas Colangelo, Stephanie Pace Marshall, Dean Kamen, Joshua Wyner and U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. The goal of the expert panel discussion was to inform the Board's thinking on recommendations to NSF and perhaps the federal government on how to identify and develop U.S. children and young adults who are talented and motivated and have the potential to become future leaders in STEM fields. The STEM Innovators report was approved by the full Board on May 5, 2010 and released on September 15, 2010.[12]

Sustainable Energy
Front Cover, Sustainable Energy Report 2009

In August, 2009, the Board released a report on sustainability, Building a Sustainable Energy Future: U.S. Actions for an Effective Energy Economy Transformation.


In 2007, the Board published, HURRICANE WARNING: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative. This report provides broad recommendations regarding the United States' hurricane research enterprise, as well as specific guidance for the role that NSF should play in these efforts.

Approval of Major NSF Awards

Depending on the size of the proposed award, the Board will review funding of major facilities and projects. The following is a non-comprehensive list of the types of large-scale projects the Board has reviewed and approved:


The NSB sponsors national honorary awards:

Vannevar Bush Award - established by the board in 1980, awarded to senior scientists for public service in science and technology;

NSB Public Service Award - established by the board in 1996, presented to one or more individuals, or to a company, corporation or organization, in recognition of their contributions to increasing public understanding of science or engineering.

See also


  1. ^ (42 U.S.C. Section 1863) SEC. 4.(j)(2)
  2. ^ (42 U.S.C. Section 1863) SEC. 4.(j)(1)
  3. ^ 42 USC § 1861 - Establishment; composition | Title 42 - The Public Health and Welfare | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  4. ^ National Science Board - Members. Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  5. ^ 42 USC § 1865 - Executive Committee | Title 42 - The Public Health and Welfare | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  6. ^ National Science Board - Committees. Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  7. ^ Charge to the Task Force on Administrative Burdens
  8. ^ Cost Sharing Full Report (PDF)
  9. ^ Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 - US National Science Foundation (NSF). Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  10. ^ 42 USC § 1863 - National Science Board | Title 42 - The Public Health and Welfare | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  11. ^ National Science Board STEM Education Recommendations to the new Administration
  12. ^ National Science Board - Meetings - 2009/08/24 - Expert Panel Discussion on Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators. Retrieved on 2013-07-15.

External links

  • Official Website
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