The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent, U.S. government agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense. . . ." The NSF is the funding source for approximately 20% of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing. The NSF does not provide funding for research in clinical medicine, commerce, social work, or the arts and humanities.
The NSF became involved in wide area networking in the mid-1980s and founded NSFNET, network connecting academic and research institutions. NSFNET was later connected to the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), and eventually developed into the Internet.
NSF was responsible for the registration of nonmilitary domain names, and in 1992 put out a solicitation for managing network services, including domain name registration. In 1993, NSF signed a five-year cooperative agreement with a consortium of companies called InterNIC. Under this agreement, Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), a Herndon, Virginia engineering and management consulting firm, became the sole Internet domain name registration service for registering the .com, .net, and .org gTLDs. The NSF withdrew from its responsibility with the Internet in 1993.
Today, the NSF supports basic research in all NITRD areas, incorporates IT advances in science and engineering applications, supports computing and networking infrastructure for research, and educates world-class scientists, engineers, and the IT workforce.
The agency has supported many significant programs in connection with digital preservation. An example is the Digital Archiving and Long-Term Preservation program, a 2004 partnership with the Library of Congress that supported ten novel research projects designed to produce practical tools, services, and practices for digital preservation. NSF sponsored a research committee that issued Long-Lived Digital Data Collections Enabling Research and Education in the 21st Century, a report that outlines the need for effective preservation practices for data sets generated through scientific research.
A major current program known as Sustainable Digital Data Preservation and Access Network Partners (DataNet) provides for multi-million dollar funding for projects that have promise for developing new methods, management structures and technologies to manage the diversity, size, and complexity of current and future data sets.