NSF Releases Two Important Comment Opportunities, NSB and SBE Advisory Committee Meet
December 16, 2020
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently released a Dear Colleague Letter on Interdisciplinary Frontiers of Understanding the Brain. The Request for Information (RFI) invites responses to the two prompts below. Responses to this RFI will inform future NSF investments that address the opportunities identified. Responses are due on March 31, 2021.
- Describe the interdisciplinary frontier to be explored.
- Describe the perspectives and interactions needed to pursue opportunities at this frontier most effectively.
NSF also released an RFI to inform their strategic plan for 2022-2026. Specifically, NSF is looking for input on relevant emerging science and policy topics, how the agency can undergird the nation’s global leadership in research and education, and how it can better articulate the impact of fundamental research on society. Comments are due by January 22, 2021.
NSF SBE Advisory Council
The Advisory Council (AC) for the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Sciences Director at NSF met on December 3 and 4 with a packed agenda. Dominique Brossard, University of Wisconsin, Madison chaired the meeting that started with an update from Assistant Director (AD), SBE, Arthur “Skip” Lupia and a presentation on Broadening Participation from Dr. Kellina Craig-Henderson, Deputy AD, SBE.
The AC members were joined by NSF Director, Dr. Panchanathan, who expressed deep gratitude for the work of the AC and promised to incorporate their deliberations and efforts seriously as he works to ‘strengthen NSF at a speed and scale’ to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare, and to secure national defense. Dr. Panchanathan reviewed the four pillars of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better policy agenda, recognizing the clear importance of the human element in all of these priorities. “Dr. Panch”, as he introduces himself, described this as a defining moment for the growth of NSF, pointing to the challenges of global competition, the “missing millions” in STEM, and strong bipartisan support, saying “We need to add mega tons of rocket fuel to NSF.”
FABBS board member, Sandra Graham, presented findings from the Committee of Visitors that she led, offering 10 recommendations in the areas of process, quality, broadening participation, and management of the SBE Office of Multidisciplinary Activities. Additional presentations included “Great New Things with Data!” and SBE Awards for COVID-19. NSF made 1,172 awards for COVID-19 research, totaling $197.5 million. SBE made 250 of those awards, over 20 percent of the COVID-19 awards, on topics including helping children learn and families adapt; understanding human behavior and decision making; and exploring and improving best practices for working remotely.
NSB Public Meeting
The National Science Board (NSB) met on December 9-10. The agenda included a panel on the impact of COVID-19 on women in STEM, covering topics such as tenure clocks, research productivity, work family balance, and differential impacts on women by institutional type and by race and ethnicity. Also on the agenda was a session on how the broader impacts of research are evaluated as part of the NSF’s merit review process, which the board oversees. The topic of broader issues had been raised at the SBE meeting the week prior, as well as in the NSB Vision 2030 strategic roadmap released this summer. NSF leaders briefed NSB members on efforts to improve research translation, expand partnerships, and address the “missing millions” from underrepresented groups in the STEM workforce.