NSB-NSF Commission on Merit Review (MRX)

Committee Members

Chair: Wanda Ward
Vice Chair: Julia Phillips

Roger Beachy
Alicia Knoedler
Steven Leath*
Matt Malkan
Sarah-Kathryn McDonald
Scott Stanley
Keivan Stassun
Stephen Willard*

Executive Secretary: John Adamec
NSBO Staff: Portia Flowers
Ann Bushmiller
Alexandra Surcel
Mike Stewart
Andrew Zeidell



NSB hereby establishes a Commission to re-examine the current Merit Review policy, associated criteria, and process for reasons including:

  • The current criteria have been in effect since 1997, with the last NSB review occurring in 2011. In the past decade, three laws have expressed relevant Congressional intent and interest.
  • Committee of Visitors reports revealed discrepancies in balancing Broader Impacts (BI) with Intellectual Merit, and questions persist about the role of BI.
  • While the 2011 NSB policy stressed that "assessment and evaluation of NSF funded projects should be based on appropriate metrics," CO has identified challenges in measurement of outcomes.
  • In light of enduring funding disparities, it is critical that NSF’s merit review processes be fair and unbiased, particularly with respect to researchers of color and other underrepresented researchers.
  • The development of communities of expertise in critical areas such as BI and data analysis brings an opportunity to improve process and policy.

Finally, the newly passed CHIPS + Science Act, which reinforces NSF’s strategic focus on both delivering benefits from research and developing diverse domestic STEM talent, increases the importance of the broader impact review criterion. Ensuring that the Merit Review criteria, process, and reporting are delivering both new knowledge and societal benefits, is essential to our nation’s competitiveness and security.

A group, now named the NSB-NSF Commission on Merit Review, was established at the December 1-2, 2022 National Science Board meeting, to assess the efficacy of the current Merit Review policy and associated criteria and processes at supporting NSF’s mission to create new knowledge, fully empower diverse talent to participate in STEM, and benefit society by translating knowledge into solutions.

The Commission will solicit input widely from the research and stakeholder communities and may solicit special studies as appropriate. The Commission is presenting its workplan with the Board at its February 2023 meeting and expects to deliver a report with recommendations at the May 2024 meeting. This reexamination may lead to NSB recommendations regarding the current policy, process, and reporting mechanisms.

Membership on the NSB-NSF Commission on Merit Review are NSB members: Roger Beachy, Steve Leath, Julia Phillips, Scott Stanley, Keivan Stassun, Wanda Ward, and Steve Willard (Chair); and NSF members: Alicia Knoedler and one or more NSF staff to be named later.


*Members of the National Science Board whose terms have recently expired, temporarily serving as consultants to the Board.