1. Who can become a panel reviewer?

Reviewers must have some quantifiable expertise in the field for which they are examining proposals. In the CISE directorate, reviewers typically have an advanced degree or equivalent work experience in an area of the computer or computational sciences. Reviewers come from either academe or industry with the ability to understand advanced scientific subject matter and impartially describe the merits of the proposals submitted from the community.

2. How do I become a Reviewer for CISE?

Send an email with contact information, including a URL, and a brief description of your research to the program director, with a subject such as 'Panelist Volunteer.' One-word keywords describing your expertise are especially helpful in matching proposals to your areas of expertise.

3. Why should I become a Reviewer?

By participating as an NSF Panel Reviewer, you are providing an important service to the science and engineering community to which you belong. NSF has a commitment to making 100% of grants and awards based on a competitive process. In order to impartially review the merits of each proposal it receives, NSF must rely on the community of experts for each area of study. Without the widest participation of this community, the mission of the Foundation and the advances in research and education it creates would be unsustainable.

4. What is the role of a Reviewer?

The CISE Directorate handled approximately 6,000 proposals in FY2003. Proposals are typically reviewed by at least three experts. Mail review, panel review or a combination of both is used. After carefully examining a proposal, the Program Officer identifies experts and solicits their reviews electronically. Reviewers' advice is used in the Program Officer's decision to recommend funding or declination of a proposal. When the process is completed, proposers (the Principal Investigators (PIs)) receive electronic copies of the reviews from the Program Officer but the identities of the reviewers are not disclosed.

5. What do I do if I receive a review request, but am unable to review the proposal?

When you receive a review request, please respond as quickly as possible. If you cannot provide a timely review, if you have a conflict of interest, or if you do not feel qualified to review the proposal, please decline to review over FastLane or by emailing the Program Officer. Even if you are unable to review the proposal, we welcome your suggestions for other qualified reviewers.

6. How do I know if I have a conflict of interest?

When reviewing proposals, you are recommended to quickly check to see if there are subcontracts or collaborative proposals involved in the project. This will give you a better idea of all the organizations and individuals involved in the proposed work. Then review the conflict of interest guidelines at:

7. What factors should I consider in reviewing a proposal?

Please consider both the NSF merit review criteria as well as any program-specific review criteria. The PI will receive an anonymous copy of your review. Constructive criticisms and suggestions can be especially helpful for strengthening the project.

8. What are the NSF merit review criteria?

  • What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
    How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields? How well qualified is the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate, the reviewer will comment on the quality of prior work.) To what extent does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts? How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there sufficient access to resources?
  • What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
    How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?
  • Program-Specific Review Criteria:
    Some programs have additional review criteria. These will be included in the review request email.
  • NSF Strategies:
    • Integration of Research and Education
      One of the principal strategies in support of NSF's goals is to foster integration of research and education through the programs, projects and activities it supports at academic and research institutions. These institutions provide abundant opportunities where individuals may concurrently assume responsibilities as researchers, educators, and students, and where all can engage in joint efforts that infuse education with the excitement of discovery and enrich research through the diversity of learning perspectives.
    • Integrating Diversity into NSF Programs, Projects, and Activities
      Broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens - women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities - are essential to the health and vitality of science and engineering. NSF is committed to this principle of diversity and deems it central to the programs, projects, and activities it considers and supports.

9. Where do I access the proposal for an ad hoc review and where do I submit my review?

10. What do I do if I am a panelist involved in a panel review?

Panelists prepare and submit the reviews for the group of proposals assigned to their panel in the FastLane system. NSF will provide you with the panel ID and panelist password needed to access the system. Panelists may submit each review individually or may save the review (for later revision) and submit all reviews as a group. Go to Panel Review at

11. As a panelist, how do I submit my travel plans and electronic funds transfer (EFT/banking information)?

When travel information is submitted, it is forwarded to Sato (NSF's contracted travel agency) for handling. When the EFT information is submitted, it is transferred to the NSF financial management system for use in making payments to the panelists. NSF will provide the panelist with the panel ID and panelist password needed to access the system. Go to Panel Travel System/ETF at