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an independent agency of the U.S. government that supports basic research and education in a wide range of sciences and in mathematics and engineering. It was inspired by advances in science and technology that occurred as a result of World War II; the NSF was established by the U.S. Congress in the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. From a budget of approximately $3 billion in the mid-1990s, it provided about 20,000 awards a year to scientists, students, and teachers. It provided about one quarter of total federal support of basic scientific research at academic institutions, making it a major source for funding in basic research in the United States.