Associates LLC – January 2012
January 9, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Science Board (NSB)
published a report titled NSF Merit Review Criteria: Review and Revisions.
After extensive review and stakeholder consultation, the NSB concluded that
Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts should be maintained as the two review
criteria used to assess NSF proposals. The report provides clarification
on the meaning of the two criteria and how they should be applied in the merit
previously reported by Lewis-Burke Associates, an NSB Task Force on Merit
Review was established in February 2010 to examine the effectiveness of the two
Merit Review Criteria. The Task Force sought extensive stakeholder
engagement including: interviews with senior NSF staff; a public consultation
resulting in over four thousand responses from reviewers and Principal
Investigators; data from two hundred Committee of Visitor Reports; and data
from over 100,000 research proposals submitted to NSF between 2006-09.
concluded that while the two criteria remain appropriate, there is a need to
provide greater clarity on each of the criteria and explain how they relate to
the NSF core principles. The updated review criteria definitions are:
- Intellectual Merit: The Intellectual Merit criterion
encompasses the potential to advance knowledge; and
- Broader Impacts: The Broader Impacts criterion encompasses
the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific,
desired societal outcomes.
also established a set of overarching principles for merit review:
highest quality projects.
of NSF projects to contribute to societal goal.
evaluation and assessment of projects.
addition to the new principles and definitions for the two criteria, NSB has
provided revised guidance on elements that should be considered in the review
process for both criteria. This guidance will replace the
individual guidance currently provided for each of the two criteria.
report notes that the Broader Impacts criterion is required as an element of
merit review under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. The COMPETES
Reauthorization states that the overall goals of the broader impact criterion
should be increased or improved to address issues including: economic competitiveness;
global science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce
competitiveness; participation of women and underrepresented
minorities; partnerships with industry; preK-12 STEM education;
undergraduate STEM education; public scientific literacy; and national
security. However, NSB recommended that NSF not include this list or
other examples of broader impacts in the criteria to avoid being too
prescriptive or restricting the creativity of NSF researchers.
will be implementing the enhanced merit review criteria in subsequent months.
full report is available at http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/publications/2011/meritreviewcriteria.pdf.
current criteria can be found at http://nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf11001/gpg_3.jsp#IIIA.