The Institute - March 2021 - TI-8

population might not work elsewhere. That is why Includes
is helping create education experiences that are tailored to
the communities they serve.
This is going to require an intense collaboration and intentional, strategic actions. It will not happen unless it is a priority. That is the kind of coalition I envision NSF helping to
build. Success takes a village, right?

TI: One way to increase the number of STEM students and
STEM workers is to recruit them from other countries. Many
U.S. universities and companies have criticized the increased
U.S. restrictions on immigration and visas-which have made
recruiting difficult. What, if anything, will you do as NSF head
to address the situation?
Panchanathan: International collaboration enhances U.S.
global leadership and ensures that the U.S. research community participates in the best science and has access to the best
resources around the world. NSF is committed to sustaining
the country's position as a global innovation leader as well as
contributing to its economic strength and national security
through basic research.
Openness, transparency, and collaboration are essential for
basic research. NSF and our fellow federal agencies are continuing to embrace and promote international collaboration.
For NSF, this collaboration entails establishing joint projects
between researchers at U.S. institutions and those at organizations in other countries. These collaborations will continue
because they enable the best science. I would encourage
anyone thinking about working or pursuing a career in the
United States to do so, as we provide great opportunities for
students to express their talents in unimaginable positive ways.
TI: How will you foster more partnerships between universities and industry? 
Panchanathan:  Partnerships between academia and
industry are critical to the rapid advancement of science
and engineering, ensuring national prosperity. I am deeply
committed to not only strengthening existing frameworks of
academia-industry partnerships but also, more importantly,
evolving new frameworks for robust collaboration. 
The frameworks get researchers from both university and
industry to share different perspectives that not only enrich
research outcomes but also inspire unparalleled talent, leading to an innovative workforce of the future. They also help
evolve new models of partnerships and frameworks. For
example, we need to design and build Bell Labs-like entities across the nation through public-private partnerships
where curiosity-driven research and translational research
are working synergistically to enrich each other, unleashing
transformative outcomes for the future. 


MAR 2021



TI: In your recent interview with Science, you talked about
your support for " use-inspired research. " How will the NSF
balance funding for use-inspired research and basic research?
Panchanathan: What we are talking about at NSF is useinspired basic research, which in some cases may lead to
applied research outcomes and commercialization.
Our focus should also be to identify the gaps in our knowledge that are holding us back from advancing in some of the
most competitive fields of science and engineering. When
you look at it from that perspective, you will find that NSF
and other supporters of basic research have already been
funding use-inspired research for several decades. 
NSF has the unique ability to be strategic in how we inspire
researchers to cultivate both curiosity-driven and use-inspired
mindsets. One example of how NSF will undertake this is our
support for convergent research. Scientific knowledge leads
to actionable progress, which in turn enriches the scientific
process. In other words, science and technology are intertwined. NSF advances technological progress because it is
already intrinsic to everything we do.
NSF is making this translation happen through several
programs. For example, NSF began funding the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory project decades
ago. Some doubted it would ever be possible for LIGO to
detect the minute distortions of gravitational waves. LIGO
was not a theoretical problem, they feared, but a technological limitation. Science drove the development of technological capabilities necessary to detect gravitational waves. Now
that technology will open up new ways to do science, and
we continue to see new discoveries from that technology.
TI: How has IEEE helped your career? 
Panchanathan:  Being a member and Fellow of IEEE
has been an important part of my career as an educator,
researcher, and leader. In my early career, I had the opportunity to publish several scientific papers in IEEE conference
proceedings and journals.
Attending the various conferences helped me to gain valuable insights and feedback from leaders in the research community that shaped my research trajectory. I also had the
opportunity of serving as a conference organizer, panelist,
and editorial board member, and as editor-in-chief of IEEE
MultiMedia magazine.
These experiences provided me with opportunities to further enrich my knowledge and to contribute to the engineering and scientific community.
This article originally appeared online as " Q&A: U.S. Science
Foundation Director on His Vision for the Agency. "

The Institute - March 2021

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