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Fact Sheet

Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability

February 14, 2011

We make decisions on a daily basis that affect the quality of our own lives as well as the lives of future generations. These decisions determine the sustainability of our future. A combination of forces--including unprecedented growth in population, urbanization, and energy use--are imposing new stresses on our planet's resources and society's ability to adequately sustain economic growth and environmental health.

Based on our understanding that sustainability issues rarely affect a single resource or geographic area, we must develop and implement integrated and systems-based approaches to ensure society's needs today, as well into the future. New paradigms for economic and environmental sustainability must meet both physical and economic constraints in addition to acknowledging societal concerns such as safety, health, and the environment.

Mobilizing scientists and engineers across scientific disciplines to work in close collaboration to address the complex issues surrounding sustainability is one of the National Science Foundation's strengths. Clean energy, water resources, infectious diseases, invasive species, and our ability to respond to extreme events epitomize the need to leverage NSF's all-encompassing, cross-cutting science and engineering portfolio.

To that end, Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) is a main focus in the agency's FY 2012 budget. Research in this portfolio focuses broadly on sustainability, including priorities in fundamental climate and energy science research. Clean Energy investments, which will lead to future clean energy and energy-efficiency technologies, are an integral part of the SEES portfolio. They are found throughout NSF's core research programs and other activities. In addition, NSF participates in the Climate Change Technology Program, an interagency activity with significant focus on clean energy research.

In addition to energy research, SEES investments will improve our ability to rapidly respond to extreme events, such as power grid disruption, floods, or extreme weather. Reducing modern society's vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters is essential to building a sustainable society and to promoting human well-being.


Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8070,

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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