NSF Reviews | Glassdoor

NSF Reviews

Updated September 8, 2017
67 reviews

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4.0
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NSF Director France A. Córdova
France A. Córdova
4 Ratings

67 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • I also enjoy the flexibility to have a work-life balance, employees have the opportunity to telework which can be highly convenient (in 6 reviews)

  • My colleagues care about me and are willing to help and assist with anything I may need (in 5 reviews)

Cons
  • administrative staff often being incompetent (in 4 reviews)

  • No cons this is a great company (in 3 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Internship for STEM college students"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I worked at NSF full-time

    Pros

    Learned a lot. Gain needed experience. Fun outdoor activities.

    Cons

    Pay for food. Required meetings.

    Advice to Management

    Keep up the great work.


  2. "Research"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at NSF part-time

    Pros

    I think it was really Awesome

    Cons

    There were many Long Nights

  3. "Undergraduat Research Assistant for the Astrophysics Department"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Undergraduate Research Assistant in River Falls, WI
    Former Employee - Undergraduate Research Assistant in River Falls, WI
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook

    I worked at NSF full-time

    Pros

    Although research opportunity's duration was only for 10 weeks, the pay is great for an undergraduate student saving up for classes for the next fall semester. The staff and mentors of the program were accessible and helpful in assisting students with their different research projects. I not only gained a lot more programming experience, but also have gotten great references from my mentors through the program.

    Cons

    Location is isolated from major cities (ie. Minneapolis-St. Paul)


  4. "Program Analyst"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Program Analyst
    Former Employee - Program Analyst
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at NSF full-time

    Pros

    Although this is not the place to stay, there are lots of work experiences to enhance job skills and extensive training opportunities.

    Cons

    Very little promotion opportunities for millennials. Very easy to be labeled if someone decides they don't like you for what ever reason. You can be blackballed. You will work long hours and paid very little if you are support staff.

    Advice to Management

    Create opportunities for your junior staff members with the idea to retain them. Allow the opportunities for growth and development. Judge employees by the quality of their work and not personal preference or bias views.


  5. Helpful (3)

    "This Review is for Non-academics"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Program Specialist in Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Program Specialist in Arlington, VA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at NSF full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Put simply, NSF is an agency that receives grant proposals and brings in panels of experts to evaluate the merit of those proposals for funding. There are 7 scientific directorates, a few offices of the director, and offices that deal with HR, Budget etc. Note that no science is actually done there (other than data science).
    There are frequent, good lectures by grantees that are visiting the agency. You get exposure to the world of scientific research and what's being done, science funding, and to a large extent, academia.

    Cons

    Staff at NSF are highly stratified, and the culture is something of a socio-educational caste system. There is an upper class - the scientists, and a lower class - the "administrative" or "support" class. Few in the agency occupy the space between these two poles, with some exceptions for budget and accounting staff. All program directors (PDs) hired at the Foundation are PhDs, and most are tenured research professors. In the past there were some non-PhD PDs, but this is no more. Even assistant PDs, of which there are very few positions, are now PhD requiring positions. Because PDs are evaluating and discussing scientific research, it makes sense that they are PhD researchers themselves. What I found troubling though, was a pervasive sense that not only were PhDs the only ones that could understand science and research, but the only ones capable of making any decisions of any import or allowed to take ownership of anything meaningful.
    Administrative staff for the most part deal with the highly repetitive tasks related to processing the massive numbers of proposals NSF receives each year, and a ton of travel. There is travel to bring to NSF the numerous panelists who discuss and evaluate grant proposals. Additionally, NSF staff scientists travel frequently to conferences, and there are many visiting scientists who work at NSF for 1-2 years and travel back and forth frequently to their home institutions. Travelers pay their own costs and get reimbursed by NSF. Processing travel is a punishing task on several levels, from people's frequent fussiness about their travel plans, to applying for financial reimbursements for travelers and being scrutinized by the budget office as though you are trying to embezzle from the agency. When reimbursing panelists, we had to get their email confirmation that the amount was correct. If you later discovered that a rounding error would cause the reimbursement to be one cent more, you had to ask their approval again. Quite humiliating. Another major task for administrative staff is ordering refreshments for the panelists, tidying them up throughout the panel, etc.
    The highest tiered administrative staff get to do work of a more analytical nature - querying databases built from grant proposals and awards. Much of this analysis is based on the demographics of who is applying and who is getting funded, which can become repetitive, but there is some challenging work in this area that at least requires some cognitive activity.
    It is worth noting that though there are many female scientists at NSF, the majority are men, and especially in the traditionally male dominated fields of science. Most of the administrative staff, the servant class, are women.
    Scientists at the agency are constantly talking about how to increase participation in the sciences by women, minorities and underrepresented groups generally. I found this profoundly ironic, because NSF seemed to me an almost perfect model of the kind of organizational system that keeps people out/down based on their pedigree. This black or white thinking paradoxically permeated the culture created by the learned leaders there.
    Most of the scientists at NSF are fantastic; they are teachers who are awake and alive, but the ones that are jerks can be incredibly condescending, inconsiderate, and entitled. For them, micro-aggressions (and macro) are behavioral norms. Something about NSF’s caste system also seems to increase unhealthy competition among the administrative staff. I think this is especially true for the males who find themselves in the lower, female caste. I found several of the male analysts particularly aggressive and overbearing, sometimes combative.
    So bottom line – if you are a science-interested person attracted to the science part of NSF, but not planning to go into research, I encourage you to go to a place that applies science. If you are not particularly interested in science but want to be seen and treated as an equal, I encourage you to go elsewhere too. For me, the constant reminders of being of the lower caste (like being asked if I was the helper, hearing a scientist describe the scientists as the “A” team and the administrative staff as the “B” team, etc.) were challenging to my sense of worth as an employee. I saw this in others too, and I think it can discourage people from trying to reach farther. I have gone to another agency and it has been wonderful. The staff come together as a team to do great things and sure, we are on different levels, but it’s a pace where I can grow based on my own initiative and skill. I think we all deserve that. I wish I would have started in my new agency sooner, because in addition to feeling better, my experience would mean something. Agencies are complex and you often need time to understand the whole and how all of the pieces fit together to perform optimally. If you go to NSF, learn and enjoy as much as possible, it may help you get into the federal workplace, but have a plan for getting out, and don’t wait too long.


  6. "Science Analyst"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Science Analyst in Arlington, VA
    Current Employee - Science Analyst in Arlington, VA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at NSF full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Flexible work schedules/teleworking, public trust, great learning environment, good networking opportunities, experts in science/engineering fields

    Cons

    Limited opportunities for upward movement in certain positions

    Advice to Management

    Continue to increase efforts regarding diversity and professional development


  7. Helpful (1)

    "NSF fellow"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Great pay and benefits to improve research

    Cons

    More counselling and networking would help

  8. "Volunteer"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at NSF part-time

    Pros

    Great environment and team camaraderie

    Cons

    lots of technical analysis and dry work


  9. "Varies greatly from directorate to directorate, glass ceilings for non-science staff"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Great work environment, highly dependent on which directorate and division you're in. Flexibility with telework and schedules. Great people for the most part.

    Cons

    Traditional, non-scientific staff is limited to a GS-13 in divisions. Front office and non-science directorates have better opportunities. Hard to identify a career path unless you jump around.

    Advice to Management

    To the upper-upper management, create a promotion path up to 12, then be honest with opportunities beyond that.


  10. Helpful (1)

    "Great short term opportunity"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Science Assistant in Arlington, VA
    Current Employee - Science Assistant in Arlington, VA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at NSF full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    The work environment is really collaborative and supportive. My colleagues care about me and are willing to help and assist with anything I may need. People are flexible and understanding and the job responsibilities are relatively flexible (if you have enough time to branch out). Because of the nature of the agency, you are able to meet many interesting people and engage with the scientific community in a variety of ways.

    Cons

    There is little room for growth or pay increase with this position. The work schedule ebbs and flows depending on the time of year; sometimes you can work 70 hour weeks, sometimes you only need to be there for 25 hours a week. I guess the change in workflow can also be a pro, depending on who you are.


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