Public Release: 

NSF puts priority on attracting and educating a skilled, diverse science and engineering workforce

National Science Foundation

ARLINGTON, Va.-National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Rita Colwell will kick off a two-day Forum for School Science at the AAAS Annual Meeting on Feb. 15, with remarks emphasizing the importance of collaborations between working scientists and engineers and schoolteachers and their students.

Terry Woodin, a program director in NSF's Division of Graduate Education, will discuss examples of such collaborations from NSF's Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education program (GK-12) in a separate Forum for School Science session that will include representatives from several university GK-12 programs.

In the meeting's "Higher Education and Science Careers" track, NSF staff members will discuss grant programs aimed at enhancing the strength and diversity of the nation's science and engineering workforce.

Alice Hogan, program director for NSF's ADVANCE program, leads off a session on the ADVANCE Institutional Transformation awards, where representatives of awardee institutions will describe policies and practices that academic institutions can employ to ensure the full participation of women in academic science and engineering careers.

In a session on the Ph.D. career marketplace, NSF's deputy assistant director for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, Wanda Ward, will discuss factors that increase or impede the attractiveness of, preparation for and participation in science and engineering careers by U.S. students. These include federal, state and institutional policies and programs designed to promote excellence and broadened participation in science and engineering fields. Robert Barnhill, Dean in Residence in the Division of Graduate Education, will discuss leadership and competitiveness as forces in changing the research environment.

To address the changing demographics of the U.S. population and of the national and international job markets, and to respond to dynamic workforce factors, NSF's fiscal 2005 budget request to Congress creates a Workforce for the 21st Century priority area. It calls for stepped-up investments in educating a skilled, agile workforce recruited from all segments of the U.S population. Priority area status will allow NSF to expand its workforce- related efforts and will help ensure that we have a skilled, technically literate domestic population capable of working in a knowledge-based economy.

NSF plans to develop several new programs, building from and extending the impact of its current efforts to attract African- Americans, Alaska Natives and American Indians, Hispanics and people with disabilities to science and engineering (S&E) careers. Despite recent gains, these groups remain under-represented both among S&E degree recipients and in the S&E workforce.

The National Science Board report, "The Science And Engineering Workforce: Realizing America's Potential," points out the long- term prosperity and well-being of the nation depends on an ample and well-educated science and engineering workforce. The explosion of knowledge from research in emerging fields; society's reliance on increasingly sophisticated infrastructure for computing, communication, safety and security; and continued globalization of the economy place a growing strain on the educational system's ability to meet this demand.

New workforce programs, NSF officials say, will continue to remove barriers to minority participation while seeking to reverse the decline in the percentage of white, non-Hispanic students studying for S&E degrees. Programs under the new priority area will also seek to ensure that international students continue to have outstanding opportunities for higher education in the United States and will promote continued progress toward gender equality in education and in career opportunities across all fields of science and engineering.


Information on speakers' presentations:

Rita Colwell: "Dynamic Partnerships - Universities and Schools Making a Difference in K-12 Education," Keynote, Forum for School Science. Sunday, Feb. 15, 8:30 a.m.

Terry Woodin: Science Professionals in the Service of K-12 Education, Forum for School Science. Sunday, Feb. 15, 10:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Robert Barnhill: "Leadership, Sustainability and Competitiveness," in Leading the Changing University Research Environment. Friday, Feb. 13, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Alice Hogan: Overview of Advance Institutional Transformation Awards, in Systemic Transformations in the Role of Women in Science and Engineering. Friday, Feb. 13, 2:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Wanda Ward: "Broadening Participation and Interest for All S/E Students," in The Market for Ph.D. Scientists: Discouraging the Best and Brightest? Discouraging All? Monday, Feb. 16, 12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m.

Additional information on Workforce issues at NSF:

NSF PR04-19

NSF Contacts: Robert Barnhill, 703-292-7468,
Alice Hogan, 703-292-7238,
Wanda Ward, 703-292-8700,
Terry Woodin, 703-292-8697,

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.58 billion. National Science Foundation funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. The National Science Foundation also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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