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National Science Foundation
Merit Review
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Merit Review Home
Director's Statement
Phase I: Proposal Preparation and Submission
Phase II: Proposal Review and Processing
Phase III: Award Processing
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Merit Review Process

Click the square buttons to find out more information about the review process.

Download a printable version of the Merit Review Process Illustration. PDF (21K)

Phase II

  • Proposal Review and Processing
  • 6 Months

4 - Reviewers Selected

Reviewers are selected based on their specific and/or broad knowledge of the science and engineering fields; their broad knowledge of the infrastructure of the science and engineering enterprise, and its educational activities; and to the extent possible, diverse representation within the review group.

Sources of reviewers can come from the program officer's knowledge of the research area; references listed in the proposal; recent professional society programs; computer searches of S&E journal articles related to the proposal; reviewer recommendations included in proposal or sent by email. Proposers are invited to suggest persons they believe are especially well qualified to review the proposal, as well as identify persons they would prefer not review the proposal.

4 Reviewers Selected

5 - Peer Review

All NSF proposals are reviewed through use of the two NSB-approved merit review criteria: Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. Some solicitations may have additional review criteria.

External reviewers' analyses and evaluation of the proposal provide information to the NSF Program Officer in making a recommendation regarding the proposal.

5 Peer

6 - Program Officer Recommendation

After scientific, technical and programmatic review, the NSF Program Officer recommends to the cognizant Division Director whether the proposal should be recommended for an award or declined for funding.

Due to the large number of proposals received, the review and consideration process can take up to six months. Large or particularly complex proposals may require additional review and processing time.

6 Program Officer Recommendation

7 - Division Director Review

If the decision is made to decline the award, the organization is notified and review information is available in the FastLane System.

If the decision is to award, the recommendation is submitted to a Grants & Agreements Officer in the Division of Grants and Agreements(DGA).

7 Division Director


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