May 10, 1950 – Creation of National Science Foundation Signed Into Law

On this day in history, after three more years of debate, Congress passed and President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law 81-507, creating the National Science Foundation. 24 part time members and a director as chief executive officer, all appointed by the president.

The stated mission of the NSF is “To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.”

NSF’s headquarters: 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia 22314. Credit: NSF

Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is still considered to be an independent agency of the United States government that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health. With an annual budget of about $8 billion (fiscal year 2020), the NSF funds approximately 25% of all federally supported basic research conducted by US colleges and universities. In some fields, such as mathematics, computer science, economics, and the social sciences, the NSF is the major source of federal backing.

The NSF’s director and deputy director are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate, whereas the 24 president-appointed members of the NSB do not require Senate confirmation.

As a Congressional Research Report on the NSF observes about the agency’s independent status:

However, the President and Congress retain authorities and powers over the agency. For example, NSF’s authorizing statute expressly references the President’s authority to remove the director. Further, both Congress and the President retain the power to govern the NSF through the budget, appropriations, and oversight processes.”

You can find the text of the enabling law here.

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