News FocusScience and the Stimulus

NSF Boosts Success Rates, But at What Price?

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Science  27 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5957, pp. 1181-1182
DOI: 10.1126/science.326.5957.1181

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The National Science Foundation's (NSF's) slice of the so-called stimulus bill added $3 billion to its regular $6.5 billion budget for 2009. That huge increase was based on the repeated complaint from NSF Director Arden Bement in congressional testimony that the agency received billions of dollars' worth of good research proposals each year that it couldn't fund. Bement decided to use the recovery funds to whittle down NSF's huge backlog of highly rated proposals and raise success rates. Bement also told program officers to give priority to young investigators and to "high-risk, high-reward research." But those higher success rates may not last for long, warn some science lobbyists, if Congress fails to deliver on a promised doubling of NSF's budget over 10 years.