National Science Foundation

Congress should direct NSF to establish stronger university entrepreneurship metrics and use them to provide stronger incentives for universities to commercialize research.

Congress should direct the National Science Foundation, working in partnership with National Institute of Standards and Technology, to develop a metric by which universities report entrepreneurship and commercialization information annually. The reports should include data on faculty new business starts, spin-offs of new companies from universities, license agreements and patenting, and industrial funding of research. Congress should further direct all major federal research funding agencies to factor these performance metrics into their decisions to award research funds to a university or university researcher. Applicants from universities that successfully promote entrepreneurial spin-offs/start-ups or that receive more in industry research funding would be more likely to have their principal investigator grants funded.

Congress and NSF can work together to eliminate the requirement that new proposals for Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) include an international partner.

Current regulations perversely require that proposals for new ERCs include an international partner. This is in part a reflection of the NSF culture which views its mission as advocacy of science—because science is internationalized, NSF wants to fund international collaborations. While certainly policy should not prohibit ERCs from including international partners, NSF should eliminate the requirement that an international partner must be involved, since the ERCs’ main goal should be to strengthen U.S. engineering and manufacturing.

Expand funding for the Engineering Research Center (ERC) and Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) programs at NSF to spur research commercialization.

Congress should double the National Science Foundation’s funding for ERCs from the current base of $55 million up to $110 million over a three year period and increase funding for the IUCRC program from $7.1 million to $50 million over that time-frame. This would support the creation of additional I/UCRC centers and expand NSF engineering support provided to each center. Further, to ensure that ERCs represent a true joint university-industry research partnership, funding for all ERCs should have at least a 40 percent industry match by 2017.

Federal research grants should routinely require “token cost sharing” from the sector identified as the ultimate customer for the research.

One way to expand academic linkages with industry is to require more industry or other organization funding of research. Doing this would broaden the range of inputs during the framing of research projects. Contributions should be small and could be cash or in-kind; the purpose is merely to force up-front communication outside the academic sector. Research projects designed to ultimately yield consumer product or service innovations should have a $5K-$30K cost-sharing requirement with industry; those designed to produce education innovations should have a $1K-$30K cost-sharing requirement from the public or from educational institutions not receiving funds under the grant. Evidence of the origin of the donations would be required.

Federal Departments and Organizations should work together in developing a “Your Ph.D. is Free” awareness campaign.

Ph.D. support mechanisms will have little effect on students’ career decisions if students are not aware of these mechanisms. NSF, NASA, DOD, DHS and other agencies that provide Ph.D. fellowships, scholarships and/or assistantships to STEM students should conduct a joint market survey of currently enrolled B.S. students to determine whether students are even aware of these opportunities. If the awareness is low, a marketing plan should be developed to increase awareness (to at least 70 percent of the B.S. STEM student population) of the near-universality of financial support for Ph.D. study.

The NIH and NSF should spur more interdisciplinary STEM teaching and research.

More undergraduate and graduate interdisciplinary research and teaching would increase both the quality and quantity of STEM graduates. Toward that end, federal agencies should eliminate bias against interdisciplinary work in their grant award criteria. Among other steps, they should include industry representation on review panels at more than a token level.

The NIH and NSF should cooperate in creating new kinds of STEM colleges and universities.

Moving STEM undergraduate and graduate education towards a more interdisciplinary model would not only attract more students to STEM, but also improve the quality of STEM education. For truly transformative change to a more interactive, interdisciplinary model of STEM education, NSF and NIH should allocate grants of up to $10M/year for institutional transformation.

The National Science Foundation should create a national videogame-based STEM talent recruiting system.

To ensure the widest possible reach of this STEM talent identification program, the federal government, foundations and/or corporations should sponsor the creation of national science videogames, much as the military sponsored the creation of “America’s Army” videogame for recruiting purposes. The “high scorers” in these videogames and those who comment intelligently on associated forums could be added to the “America’s High School STEM Talent” database. The videogame would serve as both a national teaching tool and a recruiting tool. This can build upon current efforts to use prizes to spur developers to create STEM-based video games, such as the National STEM Video Game Challenge Developer Prize, Prize which challenges emerging and experienced game developers to design mobile games, including games for the mobile web, for young children (grades pre-K through 4) that teach key STEM concepts and foster an interest in STEM subject areas.

The Department of Education and National Science Foundation should create an in-person national STEM talent recruiting system.

The United States should move from a weak, potentially expensive, and socially inequitable system of STEM talent self-identification, to a thorough, effective, and more equitable system of directed STEM talent recruiting. Identifying, recruiting, and promoting STEM talent from our nation’s high schools should become a systematic national endeavor, similar to NCAA basketball recruiting. A key way to develop this system is to ensure that the hundreds of outreach coordinators managing the hundreds of federal agency high school outreach program sites begin to take on this role. Federal agencies should incentivize such a system by instituting annual reporting requirements on their outreach grants that require grantees to list every high school they have contacted and the names of students they have identified as “promising.” This list then serves as the recruiting resource/mailing list for all scholarship programs, enrichment opportunities, college degrees, and other opportunities offered by any philanthropy, educational institution, nonprofit or company working in STEM.

NSF should fund a Center of Excellence for Accessible Design in IT-enabled self service to promote self-service technology.

Accessibility, much like security or privacy, must be engineered early on in the development of products and services. For example, a self-service kiosk may not always be accessible to an individual in a wheelchair or an online application may not be compliant with accessible web standards. To ensure that as more self-service technology becomes available it does not come at the expense of any particular population, NSF should fund the creation of a Center of Excellence (COE) for Accessible Design in IT at a major U.S. university. The COE would support the development of best practices for accessible design for kiosks, online services, interactive voice response systems, and mobile applications and devices.
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