Proposals to NSF are evaluated for merit on the basis of
two general criteria: intellectual merit and broader impacts. These criteria
are described in Chapter III, Section A, of the Grant Proposal
Guide. These criteria, as they relate to education, are
defined below. In addition to the suggestions listed in the “Advice
to Proposal Writers” section, special attention should be paid to
the criteria and questions specified below. Reviewers are asked to comment
on the quality of the proposal with respect to each of these two criteria.
Some programs include additional criteria. See the applicable Program
Solicitation for this information.
I. Intellectual Merit
What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity?
How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding
within its own field or across different fields? How well qualified is
the proposer (individual or team) to conduct the project? (If appropriate,
the reviewer will comment on the quality of the prior work.) To what extent
does the proposed activity suggest and explore creative and original concepts?
How well conceived and organized is the proposed activity? Is there sufficient
access to resources? Typical questions raised in the review process of
proposals submitted to DUE programs include:
Does the project address a major challenge facing STEM
Are the goals and objectives, and the plans and procedures
for achieving them, innovative, well-developed, worthwhile, and realistic?
Does the project have potential for improving student
learning of important principles of science, technology, engineering,
Is the project informed by research in teaching and
learning, current pedagogical issues, what others have done, and relevant
Does the project provide for effective assessment of
student learning, which reflects the proposed educational objectives
Does the project design consider the background, preparation,
and experience of the target audience?
Does the project have the potential to provide fundamental
improvements in teaching and learning through effective uses of technology?
Is the project led by and supported by the involvement
of capable faculty (and where appropriate, practicing scientists,
mathematicians, engineers, technicians, teachers, and student assistants),
who have recent and relevant experience in education, in research,
or in the workplace?
Is the project supported by adequate facilities and
resources, and by an institutional and departmental commitment?
II. Broader Impacts
What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?
How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting
teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity
broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity,
disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure
for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks,
and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance
scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of
the proposed activity to society? Typical questions raised in the review
process of proposals submitted to DUE programs include:
To what extent will the results of the project contribute
to the knowledge base of activities that enhance student learning?
Are the proposed course, curriculum, faculty or teacher
professional development, experiential learning, or laboratory activities
integrated into the institution’s academic program?
Are plans for evaluation of the project appropriate
and adequate for the project’s size and scope?
Are the results of the project likely to be useful
at similar institutions?
What is the potential for the project to produce widely
used products that can be disseminated through commercial or other
channels? Are plans for producing, marketing and distributing these
products and communication of results appropriate and adequate?
For Advanced Technological Education (ATE) projects,
does the project address the current and future needs of industry
for technicians? Does the project enhance the current status of technician
Will the project result in solid content and pedagogical
preparation of faculty and teachers of science, technology, engineering,
- Ensure the highest quality education for those
students planning to pursue STEM careers?
- Increase the participation of women, underrepresented
minorities, and persons with disabilities?
- Provide a foundation for scientific, technological,
- Develop multi- and interdisciplinary courses
and curricula that are aligned with national standards, as appropriate?