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The National Science Board - A History in Highlights, 1950-2000
Table of Contents | Preface | Acknowledgements | Former Members | Exec Secretaries/Officers | Timeline

Peer Review Broadened

The advent of the Engineering Directorate prompted a rethinking of the Foundation's peer review process. Reviewers at the time used two main criteria: the intrinsic scientific merit of the proposal, and the qualifications and competence of the principal investigator. But now applied research projects were to be dispersed into other directorates, with the understanding that the distinction between "basic" and "applied" research should not be rigid. So in 1981, the Board oversaw a broadening of the criteria to include an additional two: the utility or relevance of the research, and the effect of the research on the infrastructure of science and engineering, including better public understanding and contributions to the Nation's education and workforce base. To signal the broader basis for judgment, the term "peer review" was changed in 1986 to "merit review" on Director Erich Bloch's recommendation. The Board also provided guidance on the emphasis to be given these criteria in various parts of the Foundation.

While other modifications have come under the Board's consideration since 1981, the spirit of these four criteria remains in effect today. In March 1997 the Board approved the restructuring of merit review to two mandatory criteria so that appropriate attention was given to integration of research and education and contributions to national goals.

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