Fay Cook to Lead National Science Foundation Directorate

Fay Cook to Lead National Science Foundation Directorate

Fay Cook

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected SESP professor Fay Lomax Cook, Institute for Policy Research social policy expert and former director, as an NSF assistant director to head its Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE). Cook will become a key member of NSF’s senior management and policy team, while leading staff of 119 and managing a budget of approximately $250 million.

“Dr. Cook will lead a directorate that enriches all parts of our society, including government, academia, education, and business and industry,” said NSF acting director Cora B. Marrett. “Her deep experience and expertise in these areas will be of great value to NSF and to the research community.”

Cook will remain a faculty member at Northwestern during her four-year appointment at NSF, serving as an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) “rotator” on leave from the University to work in a position of government leadership. Cook’s NSF appointment is effective in September.

The NSF is an independent agency of the U.S. government that seeks, among other goals, to support research to establish the nation as a leader in transformational science, to build the nation’s research capacity, and to cultivate a science and engineering workforce and scientifically literate citizenry. SBE is one of seven directorates and seeks to support core research in the behavioral and social sciences. Such research, SBE points out, can have vast practical applications, including using understanding of how the brain processes information to improve behavior, informing disaster response and disease prevention, and predicting how investments shape the U.S. economy. According to the directorate, it provides 56 percent of the federal funding for basic research at academic institutions in the SBE sciences.

“Fay demonstrated extraordinary leadership in building IPR into one of the finest institutions of nonpartisan, interdisciplinary, policy-relevant research anywhere,” said current IPR director David Figlio, who took over from Cook in September 2012. “I am certain that with her vision and leadership, the National Science Foundation's scientific and social influence will only move ‘onward and upward,’ as she often reminded us while directing IPR.” Figlio is Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy and of Economics at Northwestern.

In addition to bringing her social policy leadership and know-how to the position, Cook will also bring her expertise as a leading social science researcher. Her research focuses on the interrelationships between public opinion and social policy, the politics of public policy, public deliberation, energy policy, and the dynamics of public and elite support for programs for older Americans, particularly Social Security. She has written numerous articles and five books, including her most recent Talking Together: Public Deliberation and Political Participation in America (2009, University of Chicago Press), with University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs and University of Pennsylvania communications dean Michael Delli Carpini.

A professor at Northwestern University in its School of Education and Social Policy since 1979, Cook piloted IPR from January 1996 until August 2012. While at IPR some of her key accomplishments included expanding IPR’s research capacity; helping to launch new research programs, in particular on social disparities and health and quantitative research methods; increasing research dissemination; and establishing an undergraduate research assistants program. She has also been involved with many different academic, policy, nonprofit and governmental bodies both nationally and internationally. She has lectured widely and received many awards and honors, such as being elected president of the Gerontological Society of America and a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and receiving visiting fellow appointments at the Russell Sage Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. She received her PhD in social policy from the University of Chicago in 1977. 

By Institute for Policy Research
Last Modified: 3/12/14