National Science Board Holds Summer Meeting

August 2016

Maria Zuber, vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gaveled in her first National Science Board (NSB) meeting as chair on Tuesday, August 9. The two-day agenda included updates on the Education and Human Resources Directorate, Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, as well as on Science and Engineering Indicators.

Joan Ferrini-Mundy, assistant director of the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), provided an update on the directorate’s STEM education efforts. She stressed EHR’s mission to “develop a diverse workforce ready to advance the frontiers of science and engineering for society and grow and sustain a STEM-literate public,” while addressing three interconnected goals of EHR: to develop the careers of scientists and engineers, build knowledge through research, and transform institutions.

Ferrini-Mundy also described some of the impacts of NSF research by highlighting specific funded programs: SimCalc, a middle school math program that is being scaled up after initial promising results; Living Liquid, a partnership between the Exploratorium and the University of California, Davis, to engage the public with ocean biology; and Peg + Cat, a PBS show that teaches math concepts.

Amanda Hallberg Greenwell, director of the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (OLPA), updated the board on progress of a strategic communications plan. She noted that during the past year, NSF and NSB have significantly increased the profile of NSF on Capitol Hill and in the public eye. In addition to developing clear messaging for NSF, the director, board members, and OLPA staff have stepped up their efforts to educate and build relationships with congressional staff. These activities have focused on bringing positive attention to the social and behavioral sciences at NSF and responding to congressional concern about the value of the contributions of these sciences.

Other meeting topics included an update on NSF’s Big Ideas, the process for the development of the 2018 strategic plan, and the 2015 NSF merit review report. Steve Meacham, senior staff associate for NSF’s Office of Integrative Activities, summarized the key findings of that report. In 2015, the success rate for proposals was 22 percent. Meacham also noted that $3.99 billion requested for proposals rated “Very Good” or higher ultimately was declined in review.