Subject: Merit Review Criteria
Merit review is a critical component of the National Science Foundation’s decision-making process for funding research and education projects. Two years ago, NSF announced changes in its merit review criteria (Important Notice No. 121, New Criteria for NSF Proposals, July 10, 1997). The changes reflected extensive analysis and discussion, with community input. Recommendations were considered to simplify the merit review criteria and harmonize them with the NSF strategic plan, in order to weigh a proposal’s technical merit, creativity, educational impact and its potential benefits to society. This process resulted in the two criteria now in effect, which address the intellectual merit of the proposed activity and its broader impacts.
We want to ensure that the criterion relating to broader impacts is considered and addressed in the preparation and review of proposals submitted to NSF. We encourage you to emphasize within your organization the importance of both criteria -- to principal investigators who are developing and submitting proposals as well as to those who may serve as proposal reviewers. At the same time, we will continue to strengthen NSF’s internal processes to ensure that both criteria are appropriately addressed when making funding decisions.
Through use of rigorous, competitive merit review, NSF maintains high standards of excellence and accountability. It enables investments in projects that couple the best ideas from the most capable researchers and educators, with the advancement of discovery and learning and the enrichment of science and engineering resources. The full text of the two merit review criteria and supporting explanations, from the upcoming revision to the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (NSF 00-2), are provided in the attachment. We appreciate your assistance in conveying the importance of both intellectual merit and broader impacts of research and education activities.
Rita R. Colwell