FY 1996 Report on the NSF Merit Review System
- This report responds to a long-standing NSB policy requesting
that the NSF Director submit an annual report on the NSF merit
- During FY 1996, NSF conducted external competitive reviews
of 29,953 proposals and funded 8,796 of them.
- The number of proposals reviewed annually by NSF has been
stable at about 30,000 since 1992. The number of awards has declined
by 13 percent during the same period.
- The NSF-wide funding rate was 29 percent in FY 1996, representing
a steady decline from 34 percent five years ago. Directorate
funding rates in FY 1996 ranged from 23 percent to 37 percent.
- Proposals from female and minority Principal Investigators
(PIs) in FY 1996 were funded at about the same rate as the NSF
- Proposals from PIs who had received an NSF award in a previous
fiscal year (prior PIs) were funded at a higher rate than proposals
from new PIs (36 percent and 21 percent, respectively in FY 1996).
- The median award amount in FY 1996 was $52 K; the average
was $85 K.
- The most frequent method of proposal review was a combination
of mail and panel methods. Nearly sixty percent of proposals
were reviewed in this manner in FY 1996, up from 42 percent in
- Proposals reviewed by a combination of mail and panel methods
were reviewed by an average of 10.5 persons. Proposals reviewed
by the panel-only method involved an average of 6.4 reviewers;
the mail-only method involved an average of 4.5 reviewers.
- There were 53 requests for formal reconsideration of declinations
during FY 1996; one program-level decision was reversed.
- NSB and NSF are developing new proposal review criteria to
complement more closely the NSF strategic plan.
- The merit review system continues to be examined by internal
staff and the external community for ways to improve its efficiency