NSF News

National Science Foundation announces $8.6 million partnership with leading foundations to improve U.S. STEM education

Historic collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and Walton Family Foundation will support education research to assist historically marginalized groups.

Today, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and Walton Family Foundation announced a new partnership to help fund initiatives that will improve the quality of U.S. STEM education for all students, particularly those whose talents, intelligence, and entrepreneurship have been underutilized in the nation’s STEM enterprise. NSF will be matching the money from the foundations for each funded activity.

This historic collaboration brings together some of the largest public and private funders committed to equitable student outcomes and STEM education and is one of the first of its kind involving these organizations. The partnership will offer unique opportunities to establish new research infrastructure, provide training and research experiences, as well as accelerate the field in ways that have the potential to transform the frontiers of knowledge, technology, and educational practice.

The issue of STEM education is particularly pressing, given the rapid growth in STEM careers. For instance, math science occupations are expected to grow at 28 percent over the next ten years. But in many ways, student outcomes have not kept pace. According to federal statistics, only a third of 8th graders are proficient in math.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and Walton Family Foundation in this important work,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, “We know there are millions of talented people missing from our STEM enterprise, and we are excited to catalyze new thinking that will reach them and provide unique opportunities to shape STEM education and the STEM workforce of tomorrow.”

NSF recently released a Dear Colleague Letter that is seeking proposals from researchers, nonprofits, and other education organizations to develop concepts for research infrastructure — which could include any combination of equipment, cyberinfrastructure, large-scale datasets and personnel that will help the field answer important questions about how to achieve greater education equity particularly at the preK-12 level. Improving the speed and scale at which STEM education research advances requires national research infrastructures. Through the Mid-scale Research Infrastructure Incubator DCL, the partners aim to identify and organize viable infrastructure ideas to support STEM education research

Through this partnership, researchers will be better able to answer some of the most pressing issues in U.S. STEM education. These activities will have implications for all levels of education, with a particular emphasis for K-12 students and teachers.

Information on other funding opportunities will be made available on NSF’s Directorates for Education and Human Resources (EHR) and Technology Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) websites when they become available.


About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman, under the direction of co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of trustees.

About Schmidt Futures
Schmidt Futures bets early on exceptional people making the world better. Founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic initiative that brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. To learn more about our method and the diverse types of capital and tools that we deploy, visit https://www.schmidtfutures.com.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About the National Science Foundation
The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.