CRITERIA FOR THE SELECTION OF RESEARCH AND EDUCATION PROJECTS
To provide for the fair and equitable selection of the most meritorious research and education
projects for support, the National Science Foundation has established criteria for their review
and evaluation. These criteria are meant to be applied to all proposals in a balanced and
judicious manner, according to the objectives and content of each proposal. Four criteria for
the selection of projects by the National Science Foundation are listed below, together with the
elements that constitute each criterion.
Criteria (1), (2), and (3) constitute an integral set that is applied in a balanced way to all
proposals according to the objectives and content of each proposal. Criterion (1), competent
performance, is essential to the evaluation of the quality of every proposal. The relative weight
given criteria (2) and (3) depends on the nature of the proposed research. Criterion (2),
intrinsic merit, is emphasized in evaluating basic research proposals, while Criterion (3),
utility or relevance, is stressed in evaluating applied research proposals. Criterion (3) also
relates to major goal-oriented activities that the Foundation carries out, such as those directed
at improving the knowledge base underlying science and technology policy, furthering
international cooperation in science and engineering, and addressing areas of national need.
- Competent performance of the research--This criterion relates to the capability of the
investigator(s), the technical soundness of the proposed approach, and the adequacy of the
institutional resources available.
- Intrinsic merit of the research--This criterion is used to assess the likelihood that the
research will lead to new discoveries or fundamental advances within its field of science or
engineering or have substantial impact on progress in that field or in other scientific and
- Utility or relevance of the research--This criterion is used to assess the likelihood that the
research can contribute to the achievement of a goal that is extrinsic or in addition to that of
the research field itself and thereby serve as the basis for new or improved technology or assist
in the solution of societal problems.
- Effect of the research on the infrastructure of science and engineering--This criterion
relates to the potential of the proposed research to contribute to better understanding or
improvement of the quality, distribution, or effectiveness of the Nation's scientific and
engineering research, education, and workforce base.
Criterion (4), effect on the infrastructure of science and engineering, permits the evaluation
of proposals in terms of their potential for improving the scientific and engineering enterprise
and its educational activities in ways other than those encompassed by the first three criteria.
Included under this criterion are questions relating to scientific and engineering personnel,
including participation of women and minorities; the distribution of resources with respect to
institutions and geographical area; stimulation of quality activities in important but
underdeveloped fields; and the use of interdisciplinary approaches to research in appropriate
Any specific criteria that apply to individual programs, while falling within general criteria
presented in this section, are contained in relevant program announcements or solicitations.