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Broadening Participation in STEM

A diverse and capable workforce is vital to maintaining the nation's standard of excellence in STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The U.S. National Science Foundation is committed to expanding the opportunities in STEM to people of all racial, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities and to persons with disabilities.

We value diversity and inclusion, demonstrate integrity and excellence in our devotion to public service and prioritize innovation and collaboration in our support of the work of the scientific community and of each other.

While broadening participation in STEM is included in NSF's merit review criteria, some programs go beyond the standard review criteria. These investments — which make up NSF's Broadening Participation in STEM Portfolio — use different approaches to build STEM education and research capacity, catalyze new areas of STEM research, and develop strategic partnerships and alliances.

Portrait of the Director

World-class science is shaped by a wide range of perspectives. Our nation needs every person who is interested in pursuing a STEM career to be able to do so.

Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan
Director of the U.S. National Science Foundation

Building a diverse, inclusive and capable STEM enterprise

NSF works to ensure the nation leads the world in research and innovation, to the benefit of all, without barriers to participation.

The agency makes strategic investments across four strategic goals, described below, that focus on improving accessibility and enhancing demographic, geographic and institutional diversity. Read more in NSF's strategic plan or explore the goals and featured broadening participation programs below.

1. Empower talent to participate in science & engineering

  • NSF ensures accessibility and inclusivity by increasing the involvement of communities underrepresented in STEM and enhancing capacity across the nation.
  • NSF unleashes STEM talent by growing a diverse STEM workforce to advance science and technology.

The Advanced Technological Education program funds the People with Disabilities Achieving Career Employment Center at the University of Pittsburgh. The center prepares individuals with disabilities to work in advanced manufacturing or to continue their STEM education.

2. Discover new knowledge about the world and ourselves

  • NSF advances research frontiers and nurtures innovative ideas by investing in inclusive communities, diverse leadership perspectives and infrastructure that uses the principles of universal design.
  • NSF enhances the nation's research capacity for all by advancing the state of the art in research and education practice, while expanding geographic diversity.

3. Impact society by translating knowledge into solutions

  • NSF delivers benefits from research by accelerating innovation that addresses societal challenges, including those relating to diversity, equity, inclusion and access.
  • NSF leads globally by cultivating inclusivity within the global STEM community through shared values and strategic cooperation.

Cultural Transformation in the Geoscience Community supports cohorts of individuals at specific career stages that focus on designing inclusive research programs, conducting community engagement to identify research needs, or participating in community-driven research projects.

4. Pursue excellence through policies and support structures

  • NSF broadens participation at speed and scale by pursuing policies, practices and activities that strengthen the agency's and the nation's ability to sustain excellence in the STEM enterprise.
  • NSF invests in people from all sectors of society by attracting, empowering and retaining a talented and diverse workforce, while reducing barriers to participation and advancement.

The latest Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Education report illuminates the dynamics of intersectionality in the STEM enterprise and how more information about intersectional identities is needed to remove barriers to participation in STEM. 

Funding opportunities for minority-serving institutions

Learn about NSF's targeted programs designed to support researchers at minority-serving institutions and support the enhancement of STEM education opportunities at MSIs.

Cora B. Marrett - NSF Acting Director (2013 to 2014)

Marrett oversaw two directorates before becoming the agency's first Black female acting director.

Expanding pathways to STEM careers for veterans

NSF offers several programs and initiatives to help veterans transition into a science and engineering career.

Contact us

For further information concerning NSF's Broadening Participation programs, please contact:

Dr. Alicia J. Knoedler
NSF Broadening Participation Liaison
U.S. National Science Foundation

Phone: 703-292-4717