The National Science Board has announced the formation of a Special Commission on the Future of the National Science Foundation. This announcement provides the latest evidence that the mission of the 40-year-old agency will undergo substantial change.
NSF's reexamination of its mission is not unexpected. It was widely predicted that Walter Massey, the foundation's director since early last year, would put his own stamp on the agency. The external environment has also changed, notably with the transformation of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Budget restraints have forced the foundation to contemplate a future which no longer includes a doubling of its budget. And finally, Congress has urged the agency to reexamine its role, a recent example being Senate Appropriations Committee report language stating, “the Committee believes that the new world order requires the Foundation to take a more activist role in transferring the results of basic research from the academic community into the market place.”