NSF Awards $9 Million under Human Capital Initiative
The National Science Foundation has made 138 awards totaling $9.6 million to advance fundamental scientific knowledge about human behavior under the new Human Capital Initiative (HCI). The agency received 280 proposals for the initiative, which was announced earlier this year.
HCI results from years of grassroots effort by the behavioral science community, joined more recently by social scientists. It aims to build research on the capacity for productive citizenship by examining factors such as education, the workplace, family processes, neighborhood influences, and economic forces. Chief among its goals is to create data bases that will give researchers more powerful tools to help advance knowledge.
"There is a critical need for data that allow us to track and understand what's going on in these areas," said Bill Butz, NSF's division director for social, behavioral and economic research. "There is applied research and policy-related research, but not enough fundamental research. We need this definitive research to expand our knowledge in such areas as welfare reform, immigration, and other human resource programs."
Among the awards toward that end is a grant to a social psychologist from the University of Texas-El Paso to study how basic human thought processes lead to over-generalized beliefs about entire racial and ethnic groups. This research will shed new light on problems of prejudice and discrimination. An award to sociologists from the University of North Carolina, University of Minnesota and Harvard University will study links between productivity and compensation and training in the workplace. Another to anthropologists from Florida International University will study immigrant groups in Dade County and establish a longitudinal data base which will help determine important factors in school performance. An award to an economist from the University of Pennsylvania will examine a large set of identical twins to more accurately estimate the influence of families on individual behavior.
A key grant to an economist from Northwestern University will examine the relationship between public assistance and the overall economy. "The assumption has been that we need a public assistance system as a safety net for the economy," said Butz. "But when the economy has turned up, public assistance has continued to rise. Why? We lack a fundamental understanding of the behavioral and economic processes that are driving this relationship. This research will help develop this understanding."
NSF expects to make up a similar number of awards under HCI during Fiscal Year 1996.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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