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NSF lets reviewed review reviewers.

NSF lets reviewed review reviewers

The national Science Foundation (NSF) has completed the first major poll of its research-grant applicants, soliciting their views of how well the grant-proposal review process works. The agency contacted all 1985 grant applicants. Nearly half of the two-thirds who responded were satisfied, and another 14 percent had no opinion -- even though two-thirds of the respondents had been rejected for funding.

What was really surprising, says James M. McCullough, NSF's director of program evaluation, was that most dissatisfaction was not over alleged cronyism, politics or bias. Instead, complainants usually charged that their reviews had been cursory, were conflicting, were conducted by persons who did not understand the subject well enough, or did not appear to reflect NSF's final funding decision.

But perhaps the biggest message for NSF, McCullough says, is the need for more feedback and encouragement to those who are turned down for funding -- especially women and first-time grant applicants. He says the survey indicates these groups "are inclined to take one unhappy response and not come back." Similarly, with only 1 in 3 submitted proposals winning NSF support, he says, the message to applicants has got to be that "persistence pays off."
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Title Annotation:National Science Foundation poll of research-grant applicants
Publication:Science News
Date:May 14, 1988
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