The National Science Foundation (NSF) intends to make funding decisions “in the context of broader research portfolio objectives” and to better communicate how such investment decisions align with the agency’s mission, according to a recent memo.

On 19 November 2013, Dr. Cora Marrett, acting director of NSF, sent a memorandum to staff about “a portfolio framework we are adopting to ensure and enhance transparency and accountability at NSF.” The changes are the result of months of internal planning and are not in response to congressional actions, according to a senior agency official.

Through funding decisions, employees will cultivate a portfolio of awards. This means that staff will consider the balance of the portfolio in regards to the types of research being funded and its relative risk when making award decisions. Portfolios of grants will not necessarily align with existing programs, and some will cross disciplinary divisions within NSF.

Program officers will also be expected to more clearly explain to the public a project’s significance and funding justification. NSF employees currently prepare grant abstracts to post online. Some of those abstracts, especially for social science research grants, have been subject to congressional scrutiny. NSF will hold training for program staff on writing effective abstracts and titles beginning in January.

 


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