Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Core Research
In 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled a set of “Big Ideas,” 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering (seehttps://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/index.jsp). The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering leadership by bringing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to support convergence research. As such, when responding to this solicitation, even though proposals must be submitted to the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) Office of Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (ENG/EFMA),once received, the proposals will be managed by a cross-disciplinary team of NSF Program Directors. The overarching vision of this program is to support multi-disciplinary research to sustain economic competitiveness, to promote worker well-being, lifelong and pervasive learning, and quality of life, and to illuminate the emerging social and economic context and drivers of innovations that are shaping the future of jobs and work. For the purposes of this solicitation, work is defined as mental or physical activity to achieve tangible benefit such as income, profit, or community welfare. A proposal for a research grant in this program must focus on advancing fundamental understanding of future work and work outcomes for workers and society. The specific objectives of the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier program are to (1) facilitate multi-disciplinary or convergent research that employs the joint perspectives, methods, and knowledge of behavioral science, computer science, economics, engineering, learning sciences, research on adult learning and workforce training, and the social sciences; (2) develop deeper understandings of how human needs can be met and values respected in regard to how new technologies, conditions, and work experiences are changing; (3) support deeper understanding of the societal infrastructure that accompanies and leads to new work technologies and new approaches to work and jobs, and that prepares people for the future world of work; (4) encourage the development of a research community dedicated to designing intelligent technologies and work organization and modes inspired by their positive impact on individual workers, the work at hand, the way people learn and adapt to technological change, creative and inclusive workplaces (including remote locations, homes, classrooms, or virtual spaces), and benefits for social, economic, educational, and environmental systems at different scales; (5) promote deeper basic understanding of the interdependent human-technology partnership to advance societal needs by advancing design of intelligent technologies that operate in harmony with human workers, including consideration of how adults learn the new skills needed to interact with these technologies in the workplace, and by enabling broad and diverse workforce participation, including improving accessibility for those challenged by physical or cognitive impairment; and (6) understand, anticipate, and explore ways of mitigating potential risks including inequity arising from future work at the human-technology frontier. Proposals to this program should describe multi-disciplinary or convergent research that addresses technological, human, and societal dimensions of future work. Technological innovations should be integrated with advances in behavioral science, computer science, economic science, engineering, learning sciences, research on adult learning and workforce training, and the social sciences. Proposals that address the impact of large-scale disruptions such as the Covid-19 pandemic on the future of jobs and work are also of interest.