It’s a testament to the strength of the National Science Foundation. While it has many problems, it is a remarkably effective institution.
The “big science” aspect is troublesome — and yet it makes me wonder about areas that might require that approach. Just for instance: we do not have a map of skills learned in elementary reading or math. It’s been proposed at various times, going back to the 60s. However, it is the type of project that is just too big for any one research lab. It requires a lot of work and the scientific output is, well, fairly quotidian. It wouldn’t yield breakthroughs, only efficiencies. Yet, it would help make subsequent education research far more efficient and integrated. This is the kind of project that I think makes more sense for big funding.