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MAKING JUDGMENTS ABOUT GRANT PROPOSALS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MERIT REVIEW CRITERIA AT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

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This is a brief study of the changes in the merit review criteria for proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation (NSF) over its 60-year history. Because far more worthy proposals are received than are fundable, it has been necessary for the NSF to develop review criteria to distinguish among meritorious proposals. For reasons of politics and policy, NSF has had to consider criteria other than simply good science—what are now known as “broader impacts.” This study shows that the general nature of the criteria has not changed over the years. Instead, the NSF has fought a continuing battle to clarify the criteria and persuade the peer communities to use the criteria as set down. The trend from the 1960s has been to reduce the number of criteria, but to broaden the definition of those that remain.
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Keywords: Merit review criteria; National Science Foundation; Peer review

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: , Arlington, VA,

Publication date: 2010-03-01

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