National Science Board Convenes for February Meeting

The National Science Board (NSB) met in person on February 15th and 16th at the National Science Foundation (NSF) headquarters in Alexandria, VA. FABBS appreciated the opportunity to be in the room alongside NSF leadership.

NSB Chair, Dr. Dan Reed, opened the meeting by reviewing the agenda. The NSB swore in their eight new members. (Read FABBS’ previous article announcing new members to the board here.)  NSF Director Dr. Panchanathan welcomed the new members and heard highlights from the assistant directors (AD) of six directorates across the agency. Dr. Sylvia Butterfield is the acting AD of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, while Dr. Kellina Craig-Henderson is on leave. Day one proceeded with working group and subcommittee updates from board members.

Chair of the Merit Review Re-examination working group, Stephen Willard, proposed the creation of the NSB-NSF Commission on Merit Review. The NSB voted unanimously to form the commission with the charge to assess the efficacy of the current merit review policy and associated criteria. It has been over a decade since the NSF has done a review of their merit review process. The commission will report back by May 2024 with any recommendations.

NSB subcommittees gave brief updates, including one from the Committee on Oversight, who had met to cover a recent Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) report on the future of the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) – a program that funds national areas that historically receives less support through research and development (R&D) dollars. The goal of EPSCoR is to increase science and engineering capabilities in these jurisdictions. The NSF is working to implement these CEOSE recommendations

The Socioeconomic Status (SES) working group, which grew out of the Science and Engineering Policy subcommittee, provided an update on their efforts to explore how data can shed light and increase participation levels of low SES participants in STEM. The group is identifying gaps in the data that could uncover further disparities presented by socioeconomic status. 

The agenda also included a panel of K-12 STEM teachers who discussed solutions for elementary teachers at the federal level and immersive culture-based opportunities to encourage children at a young age to stay interested in STEM programs. The panel discussed gaps in access and federal funding that teachers face. 

Day one concluded with an update from Explorations in K-12 STEM Education (ESKE) working group, which identified five topical areas where the NSB could improve K-12 STEM Education that were discussed among the board.

Dr. Karen Marrongelle, COO of the NSF, started day two with an update and an action plan for the Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention and Response (SAHPR) Task Force. This action plan was made in response to reports of sexual misconduct in the U.S. Antarctic program (USAP). Top priorities of the plan include providing resources for victims, Antarctic site presence and visits, enhanced security measures, increased vetting, accountability, and improved training. Next steps included launching a crisis hotline by April and the first USAP climate survey – supporting the research community through community engagement activities, prevention and training activities, and safety activities. 

Watch the recordings of the NSB meeting below:

Day one recording can be watched here.

Day two recording can be watched here

CEOSE, EPSCoR, National Science Board, National Science Foundation, NSB, NSF, R&D, SAHPR, SES, STEM, USAP