Friday, 2 October 1992 Washington,DC

An Open Letter to the readers of WHAT'S NEW from the Director of the National Science Foundation:

I thank the American Physical Society for this opportunity to engage the physics community directly. I share your concern for the future health of physics research and for determining how physicists can contribute to the changing needs of the country. I understand the apprehensions being expressed by many members of our community. All of us need to work together and address the challenges that lie before us.

It is my hope that the physics community knows my wholehearted commitment to supporting the academic research and education enterprise. I am motivated by the belief that the directions I propose will strengthen research activities. With this letter, I am asking the community to engage the issue and express its thoughts on how the National Science Foundation should proceed.

Let me share with you the process that has brought us to this point. It has become clear to me, the National Science Board, and many others that the significant changes underway, both internal and external to the scientific community, require an open, thoughtful discussion of the future role and direction of the NSF. These changes--changes in the nature of research itself, new demands on academic institutions, the end of the cold war, the growing international economic competition--have profound public policy ramifications. They are reshaping both the environment for conducting research and what the public expects from investments in science and technology.

Because of the challenges posed by these changes, the Board has established the Commission on the Future of NSF. The Commission will make recommendations to the Board on what kind of vision and strategy can guide the Foundation and best meet the research and education needs of the country in the years ahead. Keeping NSF and the academic research and education enterprise strong and vital are its primary goals. I believe that, by exercising leadership and supporting a broader spectrum of research and education activities, we can strengthen the academic enterprise and improve future opportunities for research in all disciplines.

After I return from Europe next week, I will resume meeting with representatives of the community. Comments regarding the Commission should be sent via e-mail to NSBCOMM@NSF.GOV (Internet) or NSBCOMM@NSF (Bitnet). If you would like more information regarding the Commission, please contact NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs at (202) 357-9838.

Sincerely, Walter E. Massey

Bob Park can be reached via email at
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