National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent agency in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government concerned with promoting a national science policy by supporting basic research and education in science. The National Science Board is the policy-making body of the NSF. It consists of 25 members appointed by the president with the consent of Congress. Founded in 1950, the NSF does not conduct research of its own but makes support grants to qualified educational and nonprofit institutions and awards fellowships to individual scientists, teachers, and students. The foundation supports projects in the mathematical, physical, medical, biological, social, and engineering sciences, including the U.S. Antarctic Program, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, and programs in global geoscience. It supports the development of improved science curriculum materials and fosters the interchange of scientific ideas nationally and internationally. Among the more important permanent NSF-supported facilities are: National Center for Atmospheric Research (Boulder, Colo.), National Radio Astronomy Observatory (Green Bank, W.Va.), Kitt Peak National Observatory (Tucson, Ariz.), National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (Arecibo, Puerto Rico; see Arecibo Observatory), and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (La Serena, Chile).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.