The National Science Foundation

 

ANNCR: The National Science Foundation – On Today's Congressional Moment

The relationship between the Federal government and the scientific community has grown from the earliest days of the Republic, with the Founders recognizing in the Constitution the need "to promote the progress of science."

Yet it wasn't until after World War II that the federal government became heavily involved in scientific research. Many major discoveries were made, directly related to the war effort, such as the atomic bomb, radar, and penicillin. As a result, there was broad support for expanded government funding for science.

Senator Harley Kilgore of West Virginia and Senator Warren Magnuson of Washington introduced proposals for establishing a National Science Foundation. Several years of debate ensued, yet behind the differences was broad agreement within Congress about the fundamental importance of scientific research in the post-War era. And on May 10th, 1950, President Harry Truman signed legislation passed by Congress creating the National Science Foundation.

The NSF does not conduct research of its own, but makes grants to qualified educational and nonprofit institutions, and it now supports 20% of the federally funded basic research conducted at America's colleges and universities.

Yet over the years the NSF's civilian research has lost out to the much larger federal commitment to military research. The challenge of maintaining America's technological edge in a world far more economically competitive than the Founders ever imagined - still remains.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress Web site at congress.indiana.edu.