Publication Date

February 1, 1997

New Funding Review Process Proposed for Education and Science Projects

A task force at the National Science Foundation (NSF) has proposed new criteria for evaluating projects in science and education. In crafting the criteria, the task force set out to meet the goals of a strategic plan developed in 1994 and to simplify the rules for reviewing grant requests. The new criteria ask reviewers to consider two broad questions: (1) the intellectual merit and quality of the proposed activity and (2) the broader implications of the proposed activity. This second criterion was designed specifically to encourage projects that integrate research and education, promote partnerships, increase scientific literacy, and, perhaps most important, serve societal needs. The leadership of the NSF, which anticipates no growth or very small growth in its budgets, believes that the foundation's adherence to the second criterion will win favor with appropriations committees and other key decision makers.

The old funding rules asked reviewers to evaluate proposals based on research performance and competence, the merit and relevance of proposed research, and the potential effect of the research on the infrastructure of science and engineering. The NSF has said that the old criteria did not support the goal of the 1994 strategic plan to use knowledge to serve society and did not take into account nonresearch areas such as education. Moreover, the old criteria were not applied uniformly, and reviewers found it difficult to evaluate the effects of proposed projects on the infrastructure of science and engineering.

The NSF will meet in the spring to discuss comments received from the scientific community about the proposed new criteria. Final implementation of the criteria will most likely occur in fall 1997. For additional details, visit the National Science Foundation home page at

Report on Undergraduate Education Released

The NSF has released a first draft of a report about improving undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. The report describes actions that could or should be undertaken by 11 different bodies, including the president and Congress; business, industry, and other employers; national and regional media; state governments; college' and. university governing boards; accrediting agencies; and professional societies.

The report focuses solely on science, math, engineering, arid technology, but it nonetheless provides an authoritative opinion about the role of professional societies in improving undergraduate education. According to the report, professional societies should promote education as well as research and attempt to lift up student learning. They should ensure that their journals and meeting programs reflect concern for education for all students. Meeting programs should include topics of interest to undergraduates, and both regional and national meetings should provide opportunities for the presentation of undergraduate research.

For the full text of the NSF report, go to

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