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Economics: Frequently Asked Questions about the Economics Program

What belongs in the project summary?

The project summary should be a single page. Summarize your proposed project in the Overview section. Be sure to include a statement on the intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and a statement on the broader impacts of the proposed activity.

What is the maximum length for my project description?

15 single-spaced pages. This page limit is strictly enforced. Tables, figures and appendices are included in the 15 page limit.

What should I write in my project description?

The project description should be a detailed research design. It should clearly indicate the research question, the importance of the theoretical contribution of and motivation for the research, and the methodology that will be used to answer the question. The research design should be as specific as possible. The Project Description must contain, as a separate section within the narrative, a discussion of the broader impacts of the proposed activities.

How are proposals reviewed?

Each proposal is sent to about 6 outside reviewers and is also evaluated by the Economics Advisory Panel. The members of the Advisory Panel represent all fields in Economics. Each proposal normally receives at least 3 written reviews.

Dissertation Improvement Proposals are reviewed by the Advisory Panel but are not sent for outside review.

What are NSF’s Evaluation Criteria?

NSF uses two broad criteria of scientific merit in the selection of research projects for funding. These two criteria are the intellectual merit and the broader impacts of the proposed activities.

Intellectual Merit is interpreted by the program as having three components:

  • Importance of the project in advancing conceptual understanding within economics or allied fields of social science.
  • Research competence, or the qualifications of the investigator to conduct the project, as shown by the quality of prior work.
  • Research design and methodology, or the ability of the specific activities described to actually advance our knowledge.

The Broader Impacts criterion refers to the project’s ability to benefit society at large. For Economics projects, the major broader impact is often better understanding of important public policy issues, and guidance for future policy decisions. Other broader impacts include enhancing scientific understanding through broad dissemination; promoting teaching, training and learning; broadening the participation of underrepresented groups; and enhancing the infrastructure for research and education.

What percentage of proposals is funded?

This varies from year to year. Over the last five years, between 20% - 30% of the proposals submitted in a round were funded.

What is the average size and duration of a funded project?

The average size is about $75,000 per year (including indirect costs). The typical duration is 3 years. PIs should request the amount of funding necessary to complete the project successfully. It usually helps to discuss specific budget questions with one of the program directors.

What is a target date?

For NSF, it is the date by which we expect to receive proposals for the current funding cycle. Proposals received after the target date will be reviewed, but the review will be delayed until the next review cycle unless the PI has received permission for a late submission from a program director before the target date.

What about dissertation funding?

The Economics Program also makes dissertation improvement awards. You will find more information about applying for these awards in the Synopsis on the Economics Program Web Site.

I have a different question.

Please contact one of the Economics program directors via email or phone. We are happy to answer your questions.