NSF To Fund Science and Technology Centers

The National Science Board has authorized the National Science Foundation (NSF) to open a competition in 1998 to fund new Science and Technology Centers (STCs). The STC program was established in 1987 and produced 25 centers from award competitions in 1989 and 1991. Currently, there are 24 centers; the average level of funding for 1995 was $2.6 million. Among these centers, only one involves psychologists--the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania, which is categorized as spanning the behavioral sciences and computer and information sciences. The others are in the biological sciences (5 centers), computer and information sciences (3 centers), geosciences (5 centers), and mathematical and physical sciences (10 centers). Because the new competition will be open to all science fields normally supported by NSF, this is an especially important opportunity for the behavioral sciences community to forge those collaborations necessary to compete successfully for STCs in the new round.

The initial STC program was designed to fund basic research and education activities, to encourage technology transfer and innovative approaches to interdisciplinary problems, to afford the basic research community a mechanism to take a longer term perspective on its activities, and to explore better and more effective ways to educate students. NSF lists four specific goals in its description of the program:

The new competition, expected in 1998, will be for approximately $25 million (at current rates, this would fund 8 to 10 new centers). The centers, which will be funded for a maximum of 10 years, are collaborative entities with NSF --each has a management team that includes the director of the NSF Office of Science and Technology Infrastructure, management and technical staff from the participating NSF directorates, and directors from the center.

New features of this competition are an increased focus on the integration of research and education (a focus that is part of NSF's current priorities), the provision of mechanisms for the institutionalization of the involvement of women and underrepresented minorities, and an increased emphasis on forging organizational links with other entities, including institutional cost-sharing.

It is expected that the actual solicitation for the new competition will be available only in the summer of 1998, with preproposals due in September of that year, which leaves little time to prepare. Because such centers require extensive collaborative and organizational efforts, we encourage you and your colleagues who may be interested in the competition to begin planning and talking to one another now.

The contact person for the centers in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate at NSF is Fernanda Ferreira, PhD [email: fferreir@nsf.gov; telephone: (703) 306-1731 (until August 1997)]. You may also obtain information about the present NSF STC programs from the NSF web page [http://www.nsf.gov/od/osti/start.htm#stc].