Robert E. Gropp
It is common for a federal agency to periodically review its mission and put forth new "strategic roadmaps" to guide priorities and champion new initiatives. This often happens at the start of a new presidential administration, in response to a congressional directive, or on the heels of a catastrophic organizational failure. This year, however, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) has employed a somewhat less common tactic--preemptively identifying and publicly announcing the priorities it intends to use to engage the new administration and to build future organizational budgets. Earlier this year, the NSF released documents that identified 10 "big ideas."
For years, reports from various sectors have drawn attention to the fact that some of the most significant problems facing society, and therefore the most timely challenges for science, require inter- or transdisciplinary responses. Signs that the research community recognizes the need for greater collaboration--and the development of the tools needed to facilitate this collaboration--are now more common. Indeed, boundaries between fields are increasingly fuzzy.
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