National Science Foundation Management Review of Research Grant Award Recommendations

Gao ID: PAD-82-49 August 26, 1982

GAO presented the results of its study of the National Science Foundation (NSF) management review of research grant award recommendations. The objective was to determine if the checks NSF has on the proposal evaluation process provide adequate accountability over program officer recommendations to award or decline proposals.

There are no NSF guidelines which prescribe what information reviewing officials should examine before concurring with program officer recommendations to award or decline proposals. However, minimum requirements are necessary, because reviewing officials exercise wide latitude in the manner and degree to which they review information pertinent to the evaluation of and the recommendations made on proposals. GAO found that the information forwarded to reviewing officials sometimes lacks the evidence to show that: (1) all significant peer review comments adverse to the recommendation were adequately considered, even though NSF regulations require that such comments be discussed in the documentation; and (2) appropriate qualified peer reviewers were selected or that an acceptable number of the peer reviewers adequately addressed each of the most important criteria specified by the National Science Board. While some NSF programs maintain lists of potential peer reviewers indexed by expertise, others do not. GAO believes that, when program officers select peer reviewers, they should begin the selection process with the aid of lists of potential peer reviewers, indexed by expertise. NSF lacks the clear guidelines for implementing its policy that program officers should check to determine whether any proposal NSF is considering funding is receiving improper duplicate funding from another source.

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