FASEB SUPPORTS PROPOSED CHANGES TO NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION MERIT REVIEW CRITERIA Created by on 08/02/2011
In a recent letter to National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Science Board (NSB) leaders, FASEB expressed support for the draft revised NSF merit review criteria, the guidelines by which agency grant applications are evaluated. The review criteria have two components—intellectual merit and broader impacts—and the major differences between the current and proposed criteria concern the latter. Currently, reviewers are directed to assess how well a particular project addresses five separate “broader impacts” goals including: advancing discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning; broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in science; enhancing the infrastructure for research and education; disseminating results broadly to enhance understanding; and overall benefits to society. In contrast, the draft revised criteria include a set of national objectives that NSF projects should collectively help to advance. These expand upon the current broader impacts by including goals such as increasing the economic competitiveness of the U.S. and developing a skilled scientific workforce.
The FASEB letter also noted that while the broader impacts goals serve important national needs, it is not realistic to expect that every research project will make a meaningful contribution in each of these areas. FASEB, therefore, favors the proposed revised approach, which explicitly allows investigators to focus their projects in the priority areas in which they can make the most impact.