Learning and Intelligent Systems at the National Science Foundation

By the time you read this, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is likely to have announced an initiative on Learning and Intelligent Systems. Based on a workshop held last year, this research initiative will foster novel, ground-breaking collaborations across disciplines that have not traditionally collaborated with one another. Examples might include engineers teaming up with biologists and cognitive scientists to investigate information acquisition, organization, and use; biologists, psychologists, and educators teaming up to examine spatial representation; or computer scientists, biologists, educators, and psychologists working together to study distributed intelligence.

According to the coordinator of the initiative, Nora Sabelli, PhD (who also directs the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate's Applications of Advanced Technologies program and the EHR/Computer Information Sciences Engineering (CISE) Directorates' Networking Infrastructure for Education programs), the purpose of the initiative is to fund high-risk, innovative projects that will ■create capacity■ in human learning, intelligence, and creativity. The idea is for researchers from different disciplines to use each other's concepts, tools, and expertise to arrive at newer, richer, or better models of functioning, especially of learning. The systems studied may be biological, machine, or virtual, but the work must be genuinely interdisciplinary and collaborative in the questions, approaches, methodologies, and personnel. In addition to research projects, it is anticipated that proposals for small conferences, enabling academicians across disciplines to meet, talk, and collaborate, or for study sabbaticals, providing researchers the time to learn the substance of other disciplines, may be possible.

The Long Birth of an Initiative

The Learning and Intelligent Systems initiative began its official life in the late 1980s when an NSF-sponsored planning workshop released the report, 'To Strengthen American Cognitive Science for the Twenty-First Centur.' In the intervening years, the initiative's name changed several times and evolved as new information became available.

APA was active in encouraging NSF to support this initiative and included language promoting the initiative in its FY 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 VA-HUD Appropriations testimony before Congress. APA also featured cognitive psychology research at its March research exhibit on Capitol Hill. APA Public Policy staff will continue to monitor the progress of the initiative at NSF to ensure psychology's inclusion.

The details of this initiative and examples of the types of projects it will support will be articulated in a program announcement that is expected to be released late in the fall. It is anticipated that preliminary proposals will be due early in the new year, and full proposals in the spring. To learn more about the initiative, contact: Fernanda Ferreira, PhD, NSF Program Officer for Linguistics (703-306-1731, e-mail fferreir@nsf.gov) or Steven Breckler, PhD, NSF Program Officer for Social Psychology (703-306-1732; e-mail sbreckle@nsf.gov).

You can also receive electronic notification of this (and other NSF news and documents) by using the NSF STIS system. To learn how to use the STIS system, send an e-mail message to stisinfo@nsf.gov. You will receive a copy of the STIS flyer via e-mail.

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