NSB News Release

NSB passes resolutions to address Missing Millions & deliver research benefits across America

March 4, 2021

NSB’s Vision 2030 emphasizes the urgent need for greater participation of women and other underrepresented groups in the U.S. science and engineering enterprise and ensuring that research benefits reach all Americans. Last week, the National Science Board (NSB) passed two resolutions to advance both goals.  One resolution aims to address unconscious biases and improve the preparedness of proposal reviewers. The second seeks to increase the potential of proposals’ Broader Impacts (BI) to benefit society.

“The Board is committed to working with NSF to find new ways to advance our shared goals that are essential to building America’s workforce and ensuring its innovation leadership. These two resolutions are an important step,” said NSB Chair Ellen Ochoa. “We trust in Director Panchanathan and his creative staff to find the best way to implement the policies we outline in the resolutions and look forward to getting an update on their impact.”

Both resolutions require an evaluation and report back to the NSB within 12 months.

Training to improve peer reviewing in merit review process states that the NSF Director implement policies—such as mandatory training for reviewers—to maximize reviewers’ preparedness to fulfill their responsibilities. NSF’s merit review training video provides guidance on key elements of those responsibilities. These include that reviewers fairly and transparently consider all proposals, are aware of their own possible implicit biases, and give grant applicants useful written feedback. While over 90% of reviewers who watch the video deem it valuable, only 20% of reviewers have watched it.   

Broader impacts experts to serve on Committees of Visitors (COV) states that the Director develop a plan to ensure BI expertise is included on COV panels.  COVs provide external expert evaluations and recommendations that inform NSF and NSB evaluations of existing programs and processes and future directions for NSF. Recent COV reports call attention to disparities between how reviewers discuss BI and Intellectual Merit (IM) goals of proposals in written reviews, with BI analysis being more cursory and less rigorous than analyses of IM. Yet a significant number of proposals reviewed in this way are still recommended for funding.

“Surveys suggest that both proposers and reviewers lack clear understanding of BI requirements, jeopardizing the effectiveness of the merit review process,” said Anneila Sargent. Sargent chairs the NSB’s Committee on Oversight, which examined the issue and brought both resolutions before the Board. “Adding at least one member with in-depth BI expertise and experience on COVs would pave the way to improving the current review process.” 


About the National Science Board

The National Science Board (NSB) co-heads the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the agency’s director.  NSB also advises the President and Congress on policy related to science, engineering and education, publishing the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators on the state of U.S. S&E in a global context. Selected for their service and accomplishments in academia, government, and the private sector, the Board’s 24 presidentially-appointed members are leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research and education.


Media Contact

Nadine Lymn, National Science Board; 703-292-2490

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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