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NSBP and sister societies respond to National Science Board regarding broader impacts criteria July 20, 2011

Posted by admin in : History, Policy and Education (HPE) , trackback Bookmark and Share

Merit Review Task Force
National Science Board
Room: 1225N
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA

Dear Merit Review Task Force,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed revised text for the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts evaluation criteria.

Members of the National Technical Association and other minority professional organizations are very concerned about the potential negative impact of the proposed changes to the Merit Review Criteria. We are particularly, concerned about the reduced visibility to the importance of STEM diversification.

Firstly, the proposed changes to the broader impacts text can lead one to infer that diversity is an option and not required since one of the national goals addresses it explicitly. It appears to allow PIs to choose other goals and be evaluated without addressing diversity. Diversity appears to become an option rather than central to all programs and projects and activities, as stated in the existing criteria.

Secondly, utilizing the broad base national goals as the core principles makes it very difficult to develop a clear framework to benchmark or measure the creativity, educational impacts and potential benefits to society of the programs, projects, reviewed. Each national goal embodies a multiplicity of challenges that are interrelated and dependent on other goals. Several goals address education, while others address workforce which are essential to the development of global competitiveness, yet another goal. Measuring impact at the goal level can become problematic. It is easier to identify underlying issues/causes that should be addressed to advance national goal(s) rather than focus on the goals themselves.

We recommend that NSF make it clear that its commitment to diversity is unchanged and indicate how diversity will be factored into the evaluation of all programs, projects and activities regardless of which national goals are addressed.

To advance the frontier of knowledge and achieve global competitiveness, a well trained American born workforce is imperative. Given the projected population demographics, the eligible workforce will shift more to people of color who are underrepresented in STEM. It is more critical than ever that NSF support programs that address workforce development and STEM education improvements to ensure America realizes its STEM related national goals. Whereas, linking programs to national goals is important, it is crucial to first define the national problems that need to be resolved to realize national goals and support research/models that resolve these issues.

Based on these facts, we urge the Merit Review Task Force to focus on criteria changes that identify categories of problem/ issues it will support to advance national goals and at the same time support its commitment to diversity.

Sincerely,

National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers
National Society of Black Physicists
National Technical Association

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