Strategic Plan

U.S. National Science Foundation Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2018-2022: BUILDING THE FUTURE INVESTING IN DISCOVERY AND INNOVATION

Strategic Business Unit

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency that supports fundamental research across virtually all fields of science, engineering, and education.

Plan Details

Plan period: from 01/10/2018  to 30/09/2022

Plan submitted by:

Owen Ambur


Competitive Environment


National Science Foundation (NSF)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency that supports fundamental research across virtually all fields of science, engineering, and education.



A Nation that is the global leader in research and innovation.


To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes.



We operate with transparency and openness.


We take advantage of opportunities to improve our skills and we provide all staff members with opportunities to develop. We question our assumptions; we evaluate our activities; we learn what is effective and what can be improved.


We work in a collaborative enterprise in which teamwork is essential. We value the perspectives and values of our fellow team members and recognize that combining our knowledge enables us to find more robust solutions; we acknowledge the contributions that we each make to our shared success; we are committed to listening, communicating effectively, and working collegially.


We maintain the highest standards in merit review, financial management, and award administration. We use rigorous review by experts to ensure that only the best ideas are funded and that our investments further the national interest.


We strive to maintain a staff that is representative of the broader national community. We endeavor to support outstanding researchers and innovative thinkers from across our Nation's diversity of regions, types of organizations, and demographic groups.


We hold each other and our awardees to the highest standards of ethical behavior. We strive to ensure the trustworthiness of the results of NSF-funded research by promoting the responsible conduct of research.

Public Service

We proudly value our role as public servants, enabling the research community to blaze new paths for expanding knowledge and addressing societal challenges.


Science, Engineering & Learning

Goal Statement: Expand knowledge in science, engineering, and learning.

The first part of NSF's mission is "to promote the progress of science." By expanding human knowledge, NSF-funded researchers provide the Nation with the capability to maintain scientific, technological, and economic leadership in a competitive world.


  • Practice
  • Knowledge


Goal Statement: Expand public and private partnerships to enhance the impact of NSF's investments and contribute to American economic competitiveness and security.

AGENCY PRIORITY GOAL A Performance Plan for FY 2019 has been developed in concert with this Strategic Plan. It includes the following Agency Priority Goal.

By September 30, 2019, NSF's number of partnerships and/or award actions with other federal agencies, private industry, and foundations/philanthropies will grow by 5 percent, relative to the FY 2017 baseline, to make available infrastructure, expertise, and financial resources to the US scientific and engineering research and education enterprise. Partnerships with private industry, foundations, international organizations, and other federal agencies are an increasingly important means for NSF to maximize the scientific, economic, and societal impacts of its investments. In meeting this goal, NSF will improve the effectiveness of its investments by joining forces with industry and private foundations, and with other agencies with common goals, to optimize the development of scientific and engineering knowledge and its delivery to the economy. The benefits of expanded partnerships include leveraging expertise and resources in pursuit of innovations; enhancing research, education, and workforce capacity; and improving translation from discovery to products and services that benefit society. Partnerships among federal agencies enable synergies in areas where agency missions intersect. Engagements with private industry and foundations have the potential to accelerate areas of mutual interest and enhance the preparation of the next-generation workforce.


  • unnamed objective

Performance Goals

Goal Statement: Monitor progress on strategic goals

EXAMPLES OF LONG-TERM PERFORMANCE GOALS -- The foundation of NSF's Performance Plan rests on a set of performance goals. Each of the performance goals in the Performance Plan is associated with one or more strategic objectives in the Strategic Plan and will be reviewed annually in the strategic reviews as well as in quarterly performance reviews. These performance goals were created to provide a means by which NSF leadership can provide strategic monitoring and oversight of progress being made on the Foundation's most important activities: our priority program investments, research infrastructure investments, the satisfaction of proposers and reviewers, and key management initiatives. In addition to the Agency Priority Goal described above, brief descriptions of three examples of long-term performance goals from NSF's FY 2019 Performance Plan are included here.


  • Proposals
  • Facilities & Infrastructure
  • Program Investments


Goal Statement: Advance the capability of the Nation to meet current and future challenges.

This goal flows from the latter part of the NSF mission statement -- "to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes." Through workshops, targeted solicitations, and core programs, NSF helps focus the attention of the research community on fundamental aspects of high-priority national challenges. We support researchers in identifying particularly urgent questions and opening up new avenues to address these priorities. We provide funding to pursue better understanding of specific challenges that confront society. We enable collaborative teams to apply the methods of convergence research. These approaches promote impact-driven, use-inspired research.


  • Societal Impacts
  • STEM Workforce


Goal Statement: Enhance NSF's performance of its mission.

The first two strategic goals are associated with quickly evolving challenges. Meeting these and effectively fulfilling NSF’s mission requires blending strong scientific leadership with robust organizational leadership. Both are characterized by vision and flexibility. NSF will provide its staff with the resources that are essential to carry out the agency’s activities. NSF’s management objectives have the goal of achieving organizational excellence through a continuous emphasis on efficiency and efficacy. NSF’s employees strive to ensure that NSF’s programs are effective and accountable, that the merit review process is of high quality and integrity, and that financial management and award oversight are rigorous without undue administrative burden.


  • Processes & Operations
  • IT
  • Partnerships
  • Adaptation
  • Human Capital
  • Streamlining, Standardization & Simplification
  • Risk

You can create, execute and optionally publish your own strategy plan for free at