The National Science Foundation (NSF) was created by Congress in 1950 as an independent federal agency “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” Hence, the mission of NSF is to support basic research to produce knowledge that can transform the future. This type of support:
- Is a primary driver of the U.S. economy
- Enhances the nation’s security
- Advances knowledge to sustain global leadership
National Science Foundation has an annual budget of $7.8 billion as of 2018, which represents approximately 27 percent of the total federal budget dedicated to the promotion of basic research conducted at colleges and universities in the United States. As such, NSF is the main source of funding in many fields such as mathematics, computer science, and the social sciences.
National Science Foundation normally awards grants for a limited term. These grants amount to approximately 12,000 per year as of 2018 for a period of three years. – These are very competitive research proposals that go through a very rigorous review process and deemed. The majority of these awards typically go to individuals scientists doing collaborative work or working alone. The NSF also provides funding for research centers, instrumentation, and facilities allowing scientists and students to produce cutting-edge knowledge.
NSF aims to promote discovery, learning, research infrastructure and stewardship. NSF seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge through the support of science and engineering and expand the scientific literacy of all citizens.
The fact that NSF-funded researchers have won some 223 Nobel Prizes as well as numerous honors is a testament to the commitment of the National Science Foundation and its exceptional impact. NSF also supports education in science and engineering, from pre-K through graduate school.
- Watch a two-minute video overview of NSF’s mission and focus.
- NSF Director France Córdova. Credit:
NSF is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, excluding medical sciences as this is the main mission of the NIH. To keep the United States at the leading edge of discovery in a wide range of scientific areas, National Science Foundation 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, NSF ensures that research is entirely integrated with teaching so that today’s revolutionary work will also be training tomorrow’s top scientists and engineers. Unlike many other federal agencies, NSF does not hire researchers or directly operate its own laboratories or similar facilities. Instead, NSF provides extramural funding directly to scientists, engineers, and educators through their own home institutions (universities and colleges). Similarly, NSF funds facilities and equipment such as telescopes, through cooperative agreements with research consortia that have competed successfully for limited-term management contracts.