42 USC 1862 - Functions

(a) Initiation and support of studies and programs; scholarships; current register of scientific and engineering personnel 
The Foundation is authorized and directed
(1) to initiate and support basic scientific research and programs to strengthen scientific research potential and science education programs at all levels in the mathematical, physical, medical, biological, social, and other sciences, and to initiate and support research fundamental to the engineering process and programs to strengthen engineering research potential and engineering education programs at all levels in the various fields of engineering, by making contracts or other arrangements (including grants, loans, and other forms of assistance) to support such scientific, engineering, and educational activities and to appraise the impact of research upon industrial development and upon the general welfare;
(2) to award, as provided in section 1869 of this title, scholarships and graduate fellowships for study and research in the sciences or in engineering;
(3) to foster the interchange of scientific and engineering information among scientists and engineers in the United States and foreign countries;

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(4) to foster and support the development and use of computer and other scientific and engineering methods and technologies, primarily for research and education in the sciences and engineering;
(5) to evaluate the status and needs of the various sciences and fields of engineering as evidenced by programs, projects, and studies undertaken by agencies of the Federal Government, by individuals, and by public and private research groups, employing by grant or contract such consulting services as it may deem necessary for the purpose of such evaluations; and to take into consideration the results of such evaluations in correlating the research and educational programs undertaken or supported by the Foundation with programs, projects, and studies undertaken by agencies of the Federal Government, by individuals, and by public and private research groups;
(6) to provide a central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on scientific and engineering resources and to provide a source of information for policy formulation by other agencies of the Federal Government;
(7) to initiate and maintain a program for the determination of the total amount of money for scientific and engineering research, including money allocated for the construction of the facilities wherein such research is conducted, received by each educational institution and appropriate nonprofit organization in the United States, by grant, contract, or other arrangement from agencies of the Federal Government, and to report annually thereon to the President and the Congress; and
(8) to take a leading role in fostering and supporting research and education activities to improve the security of networked information systems.
(b) Contracts, grants, loans, etc., for scientific and engineering activities; financing of programs 
The Foundation is authorized to initiate and support specific scientific and engineering activities in connection with matters relating to international cooperation, national security, and the effects of scientific and engineering applications upon society by making contracts or other arrangements (including grants, loans, and other forms of assistance) for the conduct of such activities. When initiated or supported pursuant to requests made by any other Federal department or agency, including the Office of Technology Assessment, such activities shall be financed whenever feasible from funds transferred to the Foundation by the requesting official as provided in section 1873 (f) of this title, and any such activities shall be unclassified and shall be identified by the Foundation as being undertaken at the request of the appropriate official.
(c) Scientific and engineering research programs at academic and other nonprofit institutions; applied scientific and engineering research programs by Presidential directive; employment of consulting services; coordination of activities 
In addition to the authority contained in subsections (a) and (b) of this section, the Foundation is authorized to initiate and support scientific and engineering research, including applied research, at academic and other nonprofit institutions. When so directed by the President, the Foundation is further authorized to support, through other appropriate organizations, applied scientific research and engineering research relevant to national problems involving the public interest. In exercising the authority contained in this subsection, the Foundation may employ by grant or contract such consulting services as it deems necessary, and shall coordinate and correlate its activities with respect to any such problem with other agencies of the Federal Government undertaking similar programs in that field.
(d) Promotion of research and education in science and engineering 
The Board and the Director shall recommend and encourage the pursuit of national policies for the promotion of research and education in science and engineering.
(e) Balancing of research and educational activities in the sciences and engineering 
In exercising the authority and discharging the functions referred to in the foregoing subsections, it shall be an objective of the Foundation to strengthen research and education in the sciences and engineering, including independent research by individuals, throughout the United States, and to avoid undue concentration of such research and education.
(f) Annual report to the President and Congress 
The Foundation shall render an annual report to the President for submission on or before the 15th day of April of each year to the Congress summarizing the activities of the Foundation and making such recommendations as it may deem appropriate. Such report shall include information as to the acquisition and disposition by the Foundation of any patents and patent rights.

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(g) Support of access to computer networks 
In carrying out subsection (a)(4) of this section, the Foundation is authorized to foster and support access by the research and education communities to computer networks which may be used substantially for purposes in addition to research and education in the sciences and engineering, if the additional uses will tend to increase the overall capabilities of the networks to support such research and education activities.