Strategic Directions for the NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate

November 2012

The Advisory Committee for the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) met on November 7–8 to be briefed and examine strategic directions for EHR. The two-day briefing was held at the main office of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia. Assistant Director Joan Ferrini-Mundy provided an overview of the EHR Directorate’s operations and discussed some of its recent research initiatives. The Directorate currently has 160 staff members, including 33 “rotators,” and is responsible for 27 distinct funding programs. EHR reviews over 4,000 proposals a year; this work involves over 2,600 peer reviewers. Ferrini-Mundy emphasized two important areas on which the Advisory Committee advises the Directorate: (1) how to set priorities, and (2) how to partner with other agencies, including those within NSF. Much of the meeting was devoted to briefings and small-group discussions. New information was imparted as well.

The Committee was briefed on the Directorate’s efforts in concert with the Institute of Education Sciences to develop common standards for the conduct of research and development. EHR staff noted that the standards may be available by spring.

Farnam Jahanian, NSF Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), spoke on the significance of cross-directorate collaboration. Offering some stark statistics (145,000 computer technicians are needed, but only 4,500 are produced each year in the United States), he called attention to the importance of EHR's work in addressing the nation’s demand for qualified computer engineers. Among the reasons for growing demand for skilled computer workers are the growth of cloud computing and cybersecurity needs in an increasingly networked society. CISE, EHR, and the NSF Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences are collaborating in supporting research to address these problems.

Research drives the EHR Directorate, which is currently organized according to four research areas: (1) learning in formal and informal settings, (2) graduate education, (3) undergraduate education, and (4) human resource development. Last March, Executive Director Felice J. Levine provided testimony before the House science committee that called attention to EHR’s role in furthering research and development in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and supported the present plan to create a more robust R&D program that is integrated within the four divisions of EHR.