National Science Board

The National Science Board (NSB) of the United States 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 NSB also serves as an independent policy advisory body to the President and Congress on science and engineering research and education issues. The Board 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 Congress or the President determines the need for such reports,"[1] (e.g. Science and Engineering Indicators; Report to Congress on Mid-scale Instrumentation at the National Science Foundation). All Board members are presidential appointees. NSF's director serves as an ex officio 25th member and is appointed by the President and confirmed by the US Senate.

The Board's mission statement states: "Supporting education and research across all fields of science and technology and America's investment in the future."

The National Science Board was created through the National Science Foundation Act of 1950: [2]

"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."

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.

The President appoints 24 Members of the National Science Board[3] for six year terms. The NSF director serves as an ex officio 25th member. 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 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.

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),[4] 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.[5]

One of the ways in which the National Science Board contributes to the U.S. science and engineering enterprise is with its biennial Science & Engineering Indicators report.[9] Mandated by Congress, this report is produced in collaboration with NSF's statistical center and provides comprehensive federal data on a wide range of measurements that show us how the U.S. is doing. These reports include information about K-12, international comparisons of investments in R&D, workforce trends and public attitudes and understanding about science. Indicators serves as a resource for a wide range of users that can include policymakers at all levels, educators, analysts, reporters, the broad scientific community, and the general public. NSB highlights particular themes it sees emerging from Indicators—such as the increasing global role that China and other Asian nations play in the S&T landscape—and talks with a wide range of stakeholders about these.

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:

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

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.

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.

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).

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:

Each year, the Board honors achievement and public service in science, engineering, and technology through its two honorary awards, the Vannevar Bush Award and the NSB Public Service Award.

Awards are presented during a ceremony held in Washington, DC. Several hundred members of the science and education communities—including White House, congressional, scientific society, higher education, and industry officials gather to celebrate the achievements of those awarded during this event.

The Vannevar Bush Award recognizes life-time contributions to science and public service.

The NSB Public Service Award recognizes those who foster public understanding of science and engineering.

The Board opens nominations for its honorary awards from June to early October.