In DepthU.S. Research Management

NSF tries two-step review, drawing praise—and darts

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Science  05 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6299, pp. 528-529
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6299.528

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Thousands of conservation and environmental biologists must now survive two rounds of peer review before getting funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF says that the two-stage review process, which it launched 4 years ago as a pilot project in two divisions within its biology directorate, has resulted in a more manageable workload and fuller consideration of the highest-quality proposals. The change, part of an experiment aimed at easing the strain on agency staff and outside reviewers, includes a first step in which three-quarters of applications are rejected. But those making it to the second round face better odds of winning an award. Some scientists aren't happy about the new procedures, however. They warn that the changes, notably a dramatically shorter initial application and only one chance a year to file applications rather than the previous two deadlines, could result in NSF funding less innovative research.