In 2012, IOS and DEB (the Division of Environmental Biology) instituted major changes to the proposal submission process, piloting a program now well known as the preliminary proposal system. DEB and IOS switched to an annual submission deadline, capped the number of proposals a PI can submit at two, and required a four-page preliminary proposal be submitted and reviewed by a panel before PIs could be invited to submit a full 15-page proposal. The reasons for the switch were multifaceted, as outlined in a previous DEBrief post.
After three years, IOS and DEB contracted an outside group (Abt Associates) to evaluate the success of this pilot program. Abt analyzed NSF administrative data and submissions from three years before and three years after the creation of the preliminary proposal system. Abt also surveyed the PI community and NSF BIO staff to evaluate whether those changes were meeting the above stated goals of reducing the work load and to gauge the community’s satisfaction. You can find the full report here.
DEB and IOS are always striving to best serve their communities of scientists. We want to support the best basic research and we want the determination of what is “best” to be judged by a system of peer-review that is not onerous. We are actively discussing the results of this external review to determine whether to retain or alter the preliminary proposal process.