Extraordinary Engineering Impacts on Society: Over Seven Decades of Contributions from the National Science Foundation

Project Status
In Progress
October 27, 2021
Key Contacts
  • David Butler
    J. Herbert Hollomon Scholar and Director, Cultural, Ethical, Social, and Environmental Responsibility in Engineering (CESER) Program
    National Academy of Engineering

The National Science Foundation has requested that the National Academies provide it with help in its efforts to bring greater understanding of and attention to engineering’s role in fulfilling NSF’s mission “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; [and] to secure the national defense...”. To achieve this, an ad hoc committee will: 

  • Identify up to 10 extraordinary engineering impacts made possible by NSF investments in research from 1950 onward. These impacts might include expanded technological and social capabilities, scientific breakthroughs, and improvements in economic opportunity. They could have led to improvements in individual quality of life, national security, population health, manufacturing services, infrastructure resilience, and public policy, among others.
  • Organize a virtual public symposium that highlights how NSF investments in engineering education, research, careers, and institutions propels their mission to “advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense”; and produce a proceedings-in-brief that summarizes the event's presentations.
  • Develop clear, compelling narratives for public engagement in these engineering impacts, including specific contributions of NSF in fostering these developments.
  • Provide guidance on how to reach and engage diverse audiences with these narratives; promote better understanding of the vital role of engineering in government, business, and society; and engage young people from all segments of society to encourage pursuing a career in engineering.

The resulting consensus report, which will be designed for a wide readership, will expand on the proceedings-in-brief and offer conclusions and recommendations on how to best promote understanding of engineering’s place in society and how NSF contributes to it.