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Program Performance During FY1999

This discussion of the Foundation’s FY 1999 program performance provides an overview of NSF’s Annual Performance Report, which is being prepared in compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA).

Although FY 1999 was NSF’s first year of GPRA implementation, NSF staff have been involved with GPRA activities since 1997, when the Foundation’s first GPRA Strategic Plan was developed. The GPRA Strategic Plan was used as the guiding framework for the Foundation’s FY 1999 Annual Performance Plan, which was developed in conjunction with the development of NSF’s FY 1999 budget. The concurrent development of the performance plan and the budget creates a direct link between programmatic activities and the achievement of NSF’s strategic goals. NSF’s FY1999 Annual Performance Report will be available Spring 2000, and will provide a more complete and comprehensive discussion of NSF’s performance results and data verification and validation.

GPRA implementation has been a challenge for NSF and other agencies whose mission involves research activities. Implementation is a challenge for two reasons: (1) it is difficult to link research outcomes to annual investments and the agency’s annual budget; and (2) the results of the research outcome goals do not lend themselves to quantitative reporting. NSF developed an alternative format, approved by OMB, using external expert review panels to assess research results and reporting research outcome goals utilizing a qualitative scale.

GPRA Performance Goals
NSF’s FY 1999 Annual Performance Plan includes three sets of goals.

  • Outcome Goals focus on the results of NSF’s grants for research and education in science and engineering and relate directly to the mission of the agency. These Outcome Goals are also NSF’s long-term strategic goals from NSF’s Strategtic Plan, FY 1997-2003.
  • Investment Process Goals focus on the means and strategies NSF uses to achieve its outcome goals and sets performance targets for the investment processes by which NSF shapes its portfolio of awards.
  • Management Goals address the efficiency and effectiveness of administrative activities in support of the NSF mission.

These three sets of goals are mutually supportive. The longer term desired results of NSF awards are reflected in the Outcome Goals. Achieving the desired Outcome Goals depends in part on the quality of the investment process, which is related to the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency’s administration and management. The Investment Process Goals and Management Goals are necessary to ensure that the longer term Outcome Goals will be achieved.

NSF’s key strategy for success is through use of a rigorous merit review process in making awards for activities that will influence research and education in math, science, and engineering, both directly and indirectly. A more detailed discussion of merit review is included in the Agency Profile section.

Performance Goals in the Broader Context: The Integration of Goals, Programmatic Activities, and the Budget
The linkages among NSF’s two primary programmatic activities—Research and Education, the GPRA goals, and NSF’s budgetary resources are shown in the following table.

  NSF’s Primary Activities 1
GPRA Performance Goals Research Education
I. Outcome Goals (from NSF’s GPRA Strategic Plan)  
1. Discoveries at and across the frontier of science and engineering.
2. Connections between discoveries and their use in service to society.  
3. Diverse, globally-oriented science and engineering workforce.
4. Improved achievement in mathematics and science skills needed by all Americans.  
5. Timely and relevant information on the national and international science and engineering enterprise.
II. Investment Process Goals
III. Management Goals
NSF’s FY 1999 Congressional Appropriations ($3.7 billion)
1. Research and Related Activities
2. Major Research Equipment
3. Education and Human Resources
4. Salaries and Expenses
5. Office of Inspector General

1 Given the integrative nature of research and education, research activities are expected to include an education component.

  • The effectiveness of NSF-supported research activities is addressed in Outcome Goals 1 and 2.
  • The effectiveness of NSF-supported education activities is addressed in Outcome Goals 3 and 4.
  • Outcome Goal 5 and the Investment Process and Management Goals address both Research and Education activities.
  • The Research and Related Activities appropriation and Major Research Equipment appropriation primarily support research activities and therefore tie to the goals that focus on Discoveries (Outcome Goal 1) and Connections (Outcome Goal 2).
  • The Education and Human Resources appropriation primarily supports education activities and therefore ties to the goals that focus on a Diverse Workforce (Outcome Goal 3) and Improving Math and Science skills (Outcome Goal 4). Outcome Goal 5 is also supported by this appropriation.
  • The Salaries and Expenses appropriation and the appropriation for the Office of Inspector General enable the Management and Investment Process Goals, which support both Research and Education Activities.

A more detailed discussion of NSF support of research and education activities is provided in the Agency Profile section. Additional information about NSF’s budget is provided in the Discussion and Analysis of the Financial Statements section, "Budgetary Integrity: NSF Resources and How They Are Used." Finally, the Statement of Net Cost links programmatic activities—Research and Education—to program costs.

Confidence in the Data: NSF’s Verification and Validation Process
In FY 1999, data sources for each goal and the limitations of the data were identified. For many of the performance goals, the data sources are existing central systems while other goals have required creation of new data/information systems to track progress.

  • NSF established new reporting systems and procedures, reporting guidelines, and templates to enable the collection, analysis and evaluation of the information and data necessary for reporting performance achievement. It is important to note that NSF makes use of qualitative information as well as quantitative data in determining progress toward achieving its goals.
  • NSF put in place methods to ascertain data quality problems and to develop qualitative methods for correction of the causes of data quality problems. A Data Quality Project for the quantitative Investment and Management Goals was implemented to evaluate the quality of the data in the central databases. Steps to address the limitations of the data were also identified.

NSF is currently updating its data systems to include the new data that NSF will be reporting in its FY 2000 Performance Report. Of course, the Foundation will continue striving to improve its data quality and accuracy by improving processes, systems and data input.

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