The National Science Foundation (NSF) has decided that universities should pay 10% of the salaries of faculty members working temporarily at the agency. NSF hopes the new policy will demonstrate its commitment to saving taxpayer dollars without alienating the academic community that it relies upon to stay on the cutting edge of basic science. But the changes, which also curb travel and eliminate subsidies for lost consulting opportunities, could make it more difficult for the agency to attract talented academic help.
The rules, announced on Friday, apply to academic researchers who come to NSF for up to 4 years to help the agency manage its research portfolio. These rotators comprise 28% of the agency’s scientific workforce, and about 12% of its overall workforce (see graph, below).
NSF officials have long argued that rotators are important to the agency’s success, because they bring up-to-the-minute knowledge of their fields. And the agency has been willing to pay a premium for that know-how: The average rotator earns $36,500 more than a federal employee in the same position would receive.