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FYI Number 4: January 9, 2005

NSF Seeks Comments on Strategic Plan

The National Science Foundation seeks input from the science and engineering community as it starts work on a new strategic plan that will guide its efforts through FY 2011. Comments are due by January 20.

The public is asked to use the current strategic plan to answer two questions that will be used in the writing of the next plan: "Does NSF's current Strategic Plan effectively communicate NSF's roles and responsibilities as part of the science and engineering (S&E) community? If not, what is lacking and how can it be improved?" and "What broad characteristics of the near- and long-term environment for S&E research and education should NSF consider and address in its next Strategic Plan?"

The foundation's current strategic report is based on its vision statement:"Enabling the Nation's Future through discovery, learning, and innovation," and its legislative mission statement: "To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes." Four resulting "People, Ideas, and Tools"goals characterize the foundation's programs.

The current strategic report gives a brief "Situation Analysis" of each of the following areas: "changing S&E frontier," "S&E workforce," "science and math skills," "S&E infrastructure," "internationalization," "security," and "environment."

As is to be expected, the current document, "National Science Foundation Strategic Plan, FY 2003-2008" describes the process by which NSF operates and how it will do so in the immediate future. Factors used in priority setting are explained. Readers will not find language regarding specific research, education, or instrumentation programs the foundation is likely to support in the future.

Of note is language in a section entitled, "Investment Strategies," describing how NSF decides which programs should receive priority. It states: "In implementing its goals, NSF also invests in selected areas of high priority that hold exceptional promise for accelerating S&E progress, advancing the frontiers of knowledge, and addressing national interests. In close collaboration with the NSB and the S&E community, NSF identifies priority areas in which to make a sustained level of investment – usually five years – to move research forward rapidly while training a new cadre of scientists and engineers who can transform fields and spur industrial innovation. Each priority area contributes to strengthening U.S. world leadership in areas of global economic and social significance, as is evidenced by their natural overlap with the R&D priorities established by the Administration." The current priority areas are: "Biocomplexity in the Environment," "Human and Social Dynamics," "Information Technology Research," "Mathematical Sciences," "Nanoscale Science and Engineering," and "Workforce for the 21st Century."

The current strategic plan and the website through which to provide public input can be accessed at: http://www.nsf.gov/about/performance/input.cfm

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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