The National Science Foundation has been directed by its governing board to revise its criteria for evaluating the “broader impacts” of proposals. A report from the National Science Board explains it. It’s 310 pages, so feel free to download it and jump right in. But, first, here are a couple of shorter background pieces.
Science magazine from the AAAS: “The National Science Board has made two subtle but potentially important changes in how grant applications are reviewed at the National Science Foundation (NSF). And while those procedural changes may seem relevant only to those hoping to win NSF funding, they also add to the never-ending debate about how best to measure the results of federally funded research. ”
A report from the Principal Investigators Association (PDF, 14 pages): “In many respects, the new revisions will be helpful for PIs and institutions, particularly with better clarity and guidance. … The Board formed a Task Force on Merit Review, finding at its basis that the two Merit Review criteria — Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts — are truly on-target for meeting the NSF’s goals.
“The Task Force also found, however, that significant revisions were necessary to better define the meaning of the Merit Review criteria and clarify how you should apply them to your research projects. The NSB’s report also addresses many of the hot-button questions that institutions and PIs have had about Merit Review.”