News & CommentAssessing Research

Pilot Study Teaches NSF Costly Lesson

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Science  06 Sep 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5280, pp. 1331-1332
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5280.1331


A positive review of the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Science and Technology Centers has turned out to be a $727,000 lesson in how not to measure the value to society of basic research. The problem is that NSF's reach may have exceeded its grasp: Officials had hoped the outside review would serve both as a tool to help them decide whether to renew the program and as a model for how to assess the NSF's entire $3 billion research and education portfolio. But the result was a procedural nightmare, and NSF officials have promised not to repeat the effort.