It's Acting School at NSF

Jeff tries to explain how government works to readers of Science.

Friday's departure of nuclear engineer Arden Bement after 6 years as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), to head a new science policy institute at Purdue University, has left the $7 billion foundation in the hands of acting director Cora Marrett. Marrett, a University of Wisconsin sociologist, has been a jack-of-all-trades at NSF, having served an earlier stint as head of the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate before coming back from Wisconsin to NSF in 2006 to lead the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate. For the past 16 months she's been acting deputy NSF director, a post vacated by Bush-appointee Kathie Olsen at the start of the Obama Administration.

Marrett's temporary status adds to the long list of acting senior administrators at the Arlington, Virginia–based agency. That's especially true for the education directorate, which is being run for the time being by Joan Ferrini-Mundy. The Michigan State University math educator was promoted from division director earlier this year to fill the gap created when Marrett moved into the front office. Ferrini-Mundy's second in command is also serving on an acting basis, as are all four division directors within EHR.

Joanne Roskowski is acting head of the biology directorate, and until last week so was Ed Seidel as chief of the mathematics and physical sciences directorate. Their executive officers are likewise serving on an acting basis. Last week NSF's chief financial officer and budget/management guru, Martha Rubenstein, was switched from acting to permanent.

The White House remains mum on whom it plans to nominate as the next NSF director, although rumors continue to swirl around Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineering Dean Subra Suresh.

*This article has been corrected. The original stated that Ed Seidel and Martha Rubenstein were acting heads. Last week both of them were permanently named to those positions.