Broadening Participation at the National Science Foundation: A Framework for Action

The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports the best ideas from the most capable researchers and educators in all fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Creating opportunities and developing innovative strategies to broaden participation among diverse individuals, institutions, and geographic areas are critical to the NSF mission of identifying and funding work at the leading edge of discovery. The creative engagement of diverse ideas and perspectives is essential to enabling the transformative research that invigorates our nation’s scientific and engineering enterprise. Broadening participation infuses science and engineering excellence into varied individual, institutional, and geographic networks and provides for the discovery and nurturing of talent wherever it may be found.

As stated in its FY 2006-2011 Strategic Plan, Investing in America’s Future, one of NSF’s core values is to be “Broadly Inclusive: seeking and accommodating contributions from all sources while reaching out especially to groups that have been underrepresented; serving scientists, engineers, educators, students and the public across the nation; and exploring every opportunity for partnerships, both nationally and internationally.” Broadening participation is one of NSF’s Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) performance areas: “Expand efforts to increase participation from underrepresented groups and diverse institutions throughout the United States in all NSF activities and programs.” This emphasis is consistent with the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and the America COMPETES Act, Federal responses to the widespread concern that the U.S. is in danger of losing its position of world leadership in science and technology. In a time of rapidly changing demographics, broadening participation is an important factor in NSF’s merit review process and program and award portfolios.