From the webcomic Cyanide & Happiness.
France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, unveiled 9 big, broad ideas that will guide the agency’s research agenda for the next few decades. For Dr. Córdova, this election year is a key moment for NSF to engage in the national dialogue on the critical issues, challenges and problems facing the U.S. “This comes at a time of transition,” Dr. Córdova stated while speaking to the National Science Board, NSF’s oversight body, on May 6, 2016. “So that makes it a great opportunity for NSF to present a menu of the things it can do.”
With election season in high gear and a new president and national leadership on the horizon, France Cordova, Director of NSF, has decided that now is a critical moment for NSF to mark its territory in the social landscape. On May 6, Dr. Cordova introduced the long-range plans for NSF to the National Science Board, the oversight body for NSF. These plans consisted of nine big ideas which demonstrate how NSF-funded research could help solve some of society’s most critical problems. The nine big ideas are:
- Harnessing data for 21st century science and engineering
- Shaping the human-technology frontier
- Understanding the rules of life (i.e. predicting phenotypes from genotypes)
- The next quantum revolution (physics)
- Navigating the new Arctic (including a fixed and mobile observing network)
- Windows on the universe: multimessenger astrophysics
- More convergent research
- Support for midscale infrastructure (costing tens of millions of dollars)
- NSF 2050 (i.e. a common fund to seed large, ambitious projects)
Dr. Cordova believes that this is an opportunity to engage the interest of the candidates so that the incoming president and congress will support additional funding in the years to come. In addition, NSF is hoping to garner the attention of private industry and foundations as well. “We either need to get that investment from new dollars appropriated by Congress, or hope to get on the agenda of one or more of the candidates during the campaign, or spark the imagination of groups in the private sector, including industry and foundations.” Regardless of the source of funding, Dr. Cordova hopes to get across the idea that NSF can help uncover solutions to far-reaching social issues, but additional funds are vital to accomplishing these outcomes. Click here to read one-page descriptions of each big idea.