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Policy Statement 336 - National Science Foundation

 

Approved by the Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee on March 16, 2017
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on June 5, 2017 
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 29, 2017

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the mission of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its research across all disciplines of basic scientific research to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure national defense. ASCE supports making the research and education activities of NSF a national priority for funding. Additionally, ASCE urges that the current system of support for basic research based upon excellence, competitive scientific merit and peer review be preserved.

ASCE will promote programs and funding initiatives that support the research and education needs of the civil engineering profession by:

  • Highlighting research and education needs regarding civil infrastructure by regular, direct communications with government leadership; Identifying, encouraging, and promoting its members to participate in NSF advisory committees, review panels, rotating leadership positions, and the National Science Board; 
  • Establishing appropriate mechanisms to collaborate with NSF, its Engineering Directorate, and other civil engineering research and education programs in NSF; and
  • Encouraging an increase in funding for NSF with a specific focus on engineering research needs, particularly with respect to civil infrastructure and natural hazards mitigation, and community resilience and sustainability.

Issue

NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" NSF is vital because of its support for basic research and the researchers who create knowledge that transforms the future. Independent basic research is a:

  • Primary driver of the U.S. economy;
  • Enhances the nation's security; and 
  • Advances knowledge to sustain global leadership.

The U.S. research enterprise has been tremendously successful over the decades because unlike in many other countries, it has remained insulated from political pressures and interference. This success has been guided by the scientific and engineering communities through a strong system of merit review and advisory committees, trust and respect.

ASCE's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave the nation's infrastructure an overall grade of D+. Among the recommendations from the report card is research and development into innovative new materials, technologies, and processes to modernize and extend the life of infrastructure, expedite repairs or replacement and promote cost savings.  Given the importance of revitalizing the nation's infrastructure, this issue is of immediate and significant importance for programs such as the Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) division's Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure research program.  

Rationale

ASCE and NSF share common important interests and objectives. Broadly speaking, both promote progress in engineering and recognize the importance of engineering research and education for advancing national prosperity, welfare and quality of life.  Maintaining a strong and steadily increasing support for research and education in civil engineering is critical to train an innovative and creative workforce capable of serving the increasingly complex needs of society. 

The federal budget-setting process always presents critical choices among competing national priorities, one of which is the maintenance, preservation, protection and modernization of the nation's infrastructure. These choices become even more critical in a revenue restricted environment. Furthermore, NSF is charged with the responsibility to support basic research and education in science and engineering and faces its own critical choices among competing priorities in the various branches of science and engineering.  To assist the Federal Administration, Congress, and NSF in making well-informed choices, ASCE shares its intellectual resources with these authorities and continually encourages a proper balance between funding for science and engineering.

A strong Engineering Directorate within NSF with healthy programs that support civil engineering research and education is important in view of the significant amount that the Nation needs to invest in preserving, maintaining, protecting, and rebuilding its infrastructure and developing resilient and sustainable communities. Civil engineering, one of the oldest engineering disciplines, constantly stimulates new research areas to address ever evolving societal, environmental, and economic issues. Research in civil engineering continues to evolve to directly confront the ever-changing challenges of national economy, health and safety. Research in civil engineering is interdisciplinary, transformative and at the cutting edge of basic engineering research. To understand the importance of civil engineering requires active and continuing support from a broad constituency base. ASCE is critical to communicating with that constituency and is strategically positioned to promote the role of civil engineering research and education within the mission of NSF. 

ASCE Policy Statement 336
First Approved in 1988


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