It’s impossible to consider the legacy of World War II without acknowledging the tremendous leaps forward in technology that the war effort required. Radar, mass production of penicillin, and atomic weapons are just three areas where wartime scientists made breakthroughs that were out of reach just a few years before. At NSF, our history begins with the end of World War II, but our mission still reflects the role that scientific innovation continues to play in our national security.
One of the key elements of the post–war scientific enterprise was a commitment to an open and engaging research environment. Figures like Vannevar Bush, who coordinated scientific research during the war and was later a key proponent of federally supported research, understood that wartime secrecy was detrimental to scientific progress in peacetime. The ability to share results and collaborate, including with international partners, is a cornerstone of scientific advancement. So today, NSF is continuing to foster a collaborative research environment that enables stunning breakthroughs across scientific fields, including breakthroughs that protect communities, support veterans and warfighters, and enhance U.S. leadership from outer space to cyberspace.
Many of today’s biggest security challenges today are online–threats that require international efforts to solve. The internet has become central to how we work, learn, connect with friends, plan our days, and even control our homes. It’s also an important part of critical infrastructure like power grids, and it serves as a backbone for services likes banking and communications. NSF is supporting research that enables robust and resilient critical systems, makes it easier to identify threats and malicious actors, and protects infrastructure and personal data. And since not every threat to critical infrastructures comes from hostile actors, we’re enabling research on space weather phenomena and other natural disasters that could disrupt satellites, critical services, and global systems we rely on every day.
Geography has always been a critical factor in any country’s geopolitical security. Mountains, oceans, and other features have served as natural barriers and borders. So as the Arctic region changes–affecting everything from shipping routes to access to mineral resources–NSF is supporting the forefront of Arctic research. From numerous initiatives through the Office of Polar Programs to the agency–wide Big Idea “Navigating the New Arctic,” NSF is building the knowledge base that international stakeholders will need for a stable, cooperative approach to managing this critical region.
During World War II, thousands of scientists and engineers were part of the effort to give our troops and allies a technological edge. That work continues today. From innovative materials for better body armor to cutting–edge communications and medical equipment, from treating PTSD to understanding how conflicts begin and grow, NSF is supporting research that matters on and off the battlefield.
This month, as we recognize the service and sacrifice of veterans throughout our history, follow along to learn more about how science and engineering research that supports servicemembers, veterans, national security, and global cooperation is brought to you by NSF.