NSF Programs Letter

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February 1, 2007


The Honorable Bart Gordon
Chairman
House Committee on Science
2320 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Chairman Gordon:

As leaders of the computing community, we write to request your assistance in clarifying the role
of the National Science Foundation in supporting efforts that seek to encourage the participation
of women and underrepresented groups in computing, science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (CSTEM) disciplines.


As you are well aware, the science and engineering community - and U.S. industry, which relies
on the community - has expressed growing concern over the relative under-participation of U.S.
students in CSTEM disciplines. The problem is particularly acute in the computing/information
technology disciplines where interest among incoming freshman has dropped by nearly 60 percent
in the last four years, despite growing job demand in the professional IT workforce. Indeed,
in a discipline so critical to our Nation's continued leadership and future competitiveness in the
global economy, the Department of Commerce predicts that universities will graduate only half
of the needed degree recipients between 2004 and 2014.


The computing community is taking a number of steps to attempt to reverse this trend, including
revising introductory curricula in university programs, improving how computing and computer
science is taught in grades K-12, working to improve the "image" of computing, and attempting
to reach out to women and other groups traditionally underrepresented in the computing disciplines.
This last approach is particularly necessary: in 2004-2005, universities offering graduate
degrees in computer science and engineering (CS&E) awarded just 14 percent of their CS&E degrees
to women and just over 8 percent to underrepresented groups.


NSF, in fulfillment of its mission to "strengthen the U.S. scientific and engineering research potential,"
has been very supportive of efforts designed to reach out to women and underrepresented
groups in CSTEM. Recognizing the magnitude of the problem within computing, NSF has
funded efforts within its Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) directorate
to address it, including the current Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) initiative. These
programs have good track records of funding efforts within the community that have demonstrated
effectiveness - for example, programs and institutions like the National Center for
Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), the Computer Science Teachers Association, and
CRA's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing (CRA-W), which received the President's
Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2004.


Our concern is that NSF, while very willing to fund new programs to address these underrepresentation
issues, does not have a funding model to support successful efforts on anything
approaching a sustaining basis. Unfortunately, there are no other agencies that have shown a
willingness to adopt these successful programs once orphaned by NSF, and it has so far proven
difficult for industry to fund them on a sustaining level. So successful efforts - even those that
have been independently evaluated and demonstrated effective - must be restructured substan-

INCREASING THE PARTICIPATION OF UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS IN SCIENCE

tially to include new approaches in order to satisfy NSF's guidelines about new programs and
receive new funding when their original grants expire (typically in 3 to 5 years). As you can imagine,
this is incredibly counter-productive, especially as the need for these programs remains great.

We ask that the Science Committee please review this issue and reaffirm NSF's role in supporting
efforts that strengthen the Nation's reseach potential. We would like to see the Committee encourage
NSF, when evaluating programs for funding, to consider existing programs with demonstrated
success - especially while the need for the original program remains - rather than focus
solely on new approaches. We think this is consistent with NSF's mission and especially necessary
given the current problems reaching those under-represented populations, and the amount
of time systemic reform requires.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you in more detail at your convenience.
Our hope is that there will be opportunity to address the issue early in the new Congress as
your committee considers the reauthorization of the NSF and other related competitiveness legislation.
We are certainly pleased to offer our help to you and your committee in any way we can.

Thank you for your consideration and your continued leadership as a champion of science in the
House.

Sincerely,

INCREASING THE PARTICIPATION OF UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS IN SCIENCE

Daniel A. Reed,
Chair
Computing Research Association

Lucinda Sanders
CEO, National Center for Women & Information
Technology
Executive in Residence, ATLAS Institute

Karen Peterson
Principal Investigator, National Girls Collaborative
Project
CEO, Puget Sound Center for Teaching,
Learning and Technology


Harriet S. Mosatche, PhD.
Vice-President, Program Collaborations
and Initatives
Girl Scouts of the USA

John White
Executive Director
Association for Computing Machinery


Betty Shanahan
Executive Director & CEO
Society of Women Engineers

Bryant W. York, Chair

Nina Berry, Chair-elect

Valerie Taylor, Past-Chair

Coalition to Diversify Computing

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director
Computer Science Teachers Association

Lori Clarke, University of Massachusetts
Amherst

Lori Pollock, University of Delaware
Co-Chairs
CRA Committee on the Status of Women in
Computing Research

Cleve Moler
President
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

Donna J. Dean, Ph.D.
President
Association for Women in Science

Don Knezek, PhD
CEO
International Society for Technology in
Education

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