NSF Review of Merit Criteria – Missed Opportunity for Public Engagement

A bit of a fuss was made over the (apparently abandoned) crowdsourced review of the National Science Foundation (NSF) organized by then-House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.  As I noted at the time, it was one part of a multi-pronged political operation that struck me as very unserious about gathering meaningful public feedback on NSF programs.

I think it quite reasonable for the public to make some comment on how taxpayer funds are being used in government.  The focus of Cantor’s hunt was on individual grants, but there are other aspects of NSF activity that could benefit from public input.

One of them is the ongoing review of the NSF Merit Review criteria.  The National Science Board (NSB) has a Task Force focused on it, and it is seeking input from stakeholders.  NSB Chair Ray Bowen solicited feedback from NSF-funded researchers in late January.  The Task Force is scheduled to provide a report to the Board in May.  The work plan (scroll down) indicates an effort to reach out to several different kinds of stakeholders: grant proposers, institutional research staff (university staff that help administer the grants), policymakers, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Congress.

A notable absence here is the public.  Continue reading