Created by on 12/19/2011

On December 13th and 14th, the National Science Board (NSB) held its last meeting of the year to discuss issues relevant to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and approve finalized recommendations from its Task Forces on Merit Review and Data Policies. Later that week, the NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences Advisory Committee (BIO AC), met for the first time since the appointment of new Assistant Director John Wingfield, PhD in September. 

The NSB Task Force on Merit Review completed its report examining the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria. NSF’s Merit Review Criteria: Review and Revisions concludes that both review criteria together capture important elements that should guide the evaluation of NSF proposals, revisions to the descriptions of the broader impacts criterion and how it is implemented are needed, and the use of the review criteria should be informed by a guiding set of core principles established by NSF. The final version of the report includes recent revisions made following consideration of comments from approximately 280 individuals and groups, including input from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. NSF will draw on the suggestions of the Task Force as it begins developing an implementation plan for the broader impacts criterion. 

Recommendations from the Task Force on Data Policies regarding access to digital research data were also approved. The data policies report will be made available for public comment via the NSF website for two weeks before being transmitted to the Office of Science and Technology Policy in early January. In addition to the work of the Task Force, an NSF-wide working group is developing guiding principles regarding public access to research data and scholarly publications, and a subgroup associated with the NSF Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences is concurrently exploring ways to create an “enabling environment” for increased access to journal articles. 

Among the topics discussed at the BIO AC meeting was the implementation of a new grant proposal submission policy at the Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) and the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) within the Biological Sciences Directorate. Although a number of BIO AC members voiced support for a preliminary proposal submission mechanism, several expressed apprehension about other aspects of the new policy. Areas of concern included the timing of the extended application cycle, the composition of the pre- and full proposal review panels, and the potential impact on junior investigators. Committee members were also disappointed that DEB and IOS did not make a greater effort to consult the BIO AC or solicit input from the broader scientific community before approving the changes.