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Other developments of the seventies included increased Foundation
support for the social sciences and a recognition of the importance of these fields. Congressional amendments to the NSF Act in 1968 made
explicit the Foundation's mandate to support the social sciences.
NSF carries a major responsibility for basic research in the social sciences. The importance of this support is demonstrated by the work of Nobel
laureates in economics whose work was supported by NSF grants.
Growth in international cooperation in science also marked the
decade just ended. Bilateral scientific agreements were signed with many countries. The increased exchange of scientific information laid the groundwork for many other types of exchange and communication. The
recent agreements with the People's Republic of China contributed to
improved relations with that country. The National Science Foundation
has been responsible for implementing over twenty of these agreements on
behalf of the U.S. Government.
Science has always been international in nature, for basic knowledge
transcends national boundaries. But major cooperative undertakings with other nations became much more important in the seventies, and many of them have been managed by NSF. This has been due in part to the global
nature of many scientific problems, such as studies of the world's oceans
and atmosphere, and in part to the cost and scale of the requisite instrumentation needed to study these phenomena. The International
Biological Program, the International Decade of Ocean Exploration, the
Deep Sea Drilling Project, and the Global Atmospheric Research Program are examples of some of NSF's larger-scale international undertakings of the seventies. In the 1970's NSF also assumed full responsibility for managing the U.S. Antarctic program, which encompasses a broad range
of scientific research and involves cooperation with other signatory nations of the Antarctic Treaty.
During this decade, increased attention was directed at research in science education to improve its effectiveness, and at education for non-scientists, to increase the public's understanding of science. There has been a special emphasis on the junior high school level, since this is a critical period in the development of scientific literacy. Special attention has also been given to increasing the participation of women and minorities in science in order to reduce the loss of talent to the Nation from their underrepresentation. The link between research and teaching in science and the effectiveness of NSF's science education
programs over the years played an important part in the decision not to
transfer the Foundation's education programs to the new Department of
The NSF budget request of $1,148 million for fiscal year 1981 is based on extensive analysis and evaluation. Included in the process
were the views and recommendations of the National Science Board, the
Foundation staff, advisory Committees, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, other federal agencies, and the Office of Management and Budget.
Planning for this budget began in earnest almost 20 months ago, at the
June meeting of the National Science Board, and the balancing of priorities has continued down to the last possible moment. We believe the budget is fiscally sound and responsive to scientific needs and opportunities. As part of the planning effort, NSF took special heed of past declines in
the support for the mathematical and physical sciences of the Administration's
initiatives for industrial innovation, and of other opportunities of
national significance such as Ocean Margin Drilling.
Mathematical and Physical Sciences
The goal of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) activity is to develop a fundamental understanding of the physical laws that govern the world and the universe in which we live. To further this goal, basic research initiatives are supported in the disciplines of mathematics,
computer science, physics, chemistry, and materials.
The needs and opportunities in the physical sciences and mathematics are especially great, and these areas have received special emphasis in this budget. Budget highlights include:
-- A 28% increase for computer science, aimed specifically at
rebuilding a university-based capability in experimental computer
science. The combination of new mathematical theories and modern
integrated circuit technologies promises exciting advances in this
-- Increases of almost 19% in selected areas of materials research,
the largest subactivity in the MPS Directorate, which promise
important advances in the scientific understanding of materials.
Because of the increasing importance of materials to our society,
materials research is entering an era of unusual opportunity and
-- Substantial increases in mathematics, with emphasis on special
projects involving mathematicians in differing subfields.
A strong emphasis on theoretical and gravitational physics, which
are subareas of exceptional scientific and practical promise.
Continued emphasis on a broad range of problems in chemistry,
including especially such areas as catalysis, the use of lasers,
Astronomical, Atmospheric, Earth and Ocean Sciences
The Astronomical, Atmospheric, Earth and Ocean Sciences activity supports basic research in selected disciplines that provide new knowledge of the environment on earth and in space. The phenomena studied are large scale storm systems, ocean currents, geologic processes and star clusters -- and they must be studied where they are rather than isolated
in a laboratory. As a result research projects in this area tend to be observational rather than experimental, broadly interdisciplinary rather than confined to a narrow subfield, and often of very large scale. They require ships, aircraft, expensive logistics, and instrumentation which obsolesces rapidly.
This Directorate is responsible for most of the large scale scientific undertakings of the Foundation, including the major research centers such as the Kitt Peak National Observatory and the National Center for Atmospheric
Research, the oceanography research fleet and associated shore support
facilities, and such special activities as the U.S. Antarctic Program and the proposed Ocean Margin Drilling Program. Noteworthy highlights for
FY 1981 include:
Detailed design and specification for a new 25-meter millimeter-
Continued strong support of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and for a balanced program of university-based investigations in aeronomy, atmospheric chemistry, climate dynamics, experimental meteorology, and solar-terrestrial