NSB Holds Quarterly Meeting 

The National Science Board (NSB) held its quarterly meeting on February 21st and 22nd.  The NSB advises the President and Congress on policies that advance scientific research and education.  Panelists convened to discuss a wide range of topics, from groundbreaking research endeavors to pressing concerns about inclusivity and safety in scientific environments. 

[See the Agenda] | [Watch the Day 1 Meeting Live Stream] | [Watch the Day 2 Live Stream]

Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan gave heartfelt tributes to influential members of the scientific community who have made lasting contributions to their fields during his opening remarks. He recognized Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and former National Science Foundation Director John Brooks Slaughter, whose tireless advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion in science continues to inspire future generations. 

[See “Honoring Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson”] 

Dr. Michael Littman, Division Director for the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems and Tess DeBlanc-Knowles, M.A., NSF Staff Associate for Technology Policy & Strategy, Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP/OAD), delved into the future of artificial intelligence (AI) research, with panelists emphasizing the pivotal role of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in driving innovation. Panelists explored strategies to address the declining mathematical reasoning skills among high school students, undergraduates, and the national STEM talent crisis while underscoring the importance of attracting and retaining diverse talent. Panelists also noted how AI is created by people and trained on our data sets, which may be polluted, resulting in flawed AI products.  

Dr. Charles Barber, NSF Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, gave a report on NSF’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. He emphasized that DEI is “more than an acronym- it’s a gateway to psychological safety.” He impressed upon the panel that diversity, equity, and inclusion must be embedded in the culture of our institutions.   

Dr. Panchanathan unveiled the Growing Research Access for Nationally Transformative Equity and Diversity (GRANTED) initiative, signaling a commitment to address disparities in research support infrastructure. Backed by a $20 million investment, GRANTED aims to broaden participation in national research opportunities, particularly targeting emerging research and minority-serving institutions. NSF Director Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan emphasized the initiative’s transformative potential, stating, “These projects underscore our dedication to empowering institutions, fostering inclusivity, and propelling the entire research ecosystem towards greater heights of excellence.” GRANTED stands as a testament to NSF’s commitment to equity and diversity in research, laying the groundwork for a more inclusive and innovative scientific community. 

Rennee Feranti, M.A., Special Assistant to the Director for Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention and Response (SAHPR), gave an update on the program. The initiative takes an intersectional, programmatic approach that centers survivors/victims. NSF continues to refine and improve reporting, notification, and follow-up procedures in response to instances of sexual harassment and violence.  

Stephen Willard, J.D., chair of the NSB commission on merit review, provided an update on progress on the report due to the NSB at the May meeting, following an 18-month review of how NSF evaluates grant proposals. After examining how other agencies review proposals, Willard offered,  “…we think that what we do [at NSF] is truly exceptional.” 

The commission considered adding additional pillars to the two current “intellectual merit” and “broader impacts,” but ultimately decided to maintain two, with the recommendation of renaming “broader impacts” to “societal benefits.” The commission is also discussing how to get reviewers to be more transparent in how they evaluate the benefit to society.