National Science Foundation updates transparency and accountability practices
At the November National Science Board (NSB) meeting, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France A. Córdova outlined the agency's new approaches to enhancing transparency and accountability, including a revision to the agency's guidelines for program officers and providing regular updates on the agency's transparency and accountability web page.
"Good stewardship of public resources requires ongoing examination of our processes and continuous improvement," Córdova said. "We will continue to convey the significance of our science and engineering research in supporting the national interest. To do this we must clearly communicate our funding rationale publicly."
The guidelines for program officers in the Proposal and Award Manual now state that a nontechnical project description must explain the project's significance and importance and "serve as a public justification for NSF funding by articulating how the project serves the national interest, as stated by NSF's mission: to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; or to secure the national defense." The titles and abstracts of NSF's awards are made public on NSF.gov.
"NSF is committed to communicating to the American public how grants awarded for fundamental research are selected through external review based on their merit and their promise to fulfill NSF's mission," said NSB Chair Dan Arvizu. "It is important to clearly explain through award titles and abstracts how the research in which NSF invests results in new discoveries and innovations, enhanced prosperity, and the preparation of the next generation of scientists and engineers."
NSF also has provided to program staff new guidelines and training for writing award abstracts and titles. The agency, Córdova said, also has taken steps to reinforce roles and responsibilities of division directors and program officers related to the merit review process.
On Dec. 26, 2014, NSF's Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide for principal investigators (PIs) will be updated to include the following statement: "Should a proposal be recommended for award, the PI may be contacted by the NSF Program Officer for assistance in preparation of the public award abstract and its title. An NSF award abstract, with its title, is an NSF document that describes the project and justifies the expenditure of Federal funds."
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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