Panel Summaries – What are they? 

If a proposal was reviewed by a panel at any point during the review process, the panel summary and recommendation, along with all individual reviews, will be provided to the PI once the merit review process concludes. Note that some proposals are not reviewed by a panel, but might for various reasons only be reviewed by ad hoc reviewers (see HERE in the PAPPG for more information on this). 

But what is a Panel Summary? 

A Panel Summary is the written record of the review panel’s discussion of a proposal.  

During the panel, panelists discuss the proposal’s strengths and weaknesses according to NSF’s Merit Review Principles and Criteria. As part of this process, panelists also discuss any individual reviews submitted.  

At the end of the discussion, one of the panelists (referred to as the scribe) will write a draft summary of the panel discussion and all the panelists assigned to review that proposal will edit the summary until they agree it comprehensively captures the discussion. They are also asked to support the panel’s evaluation by including specific examples in the Panel Summary. The Panel Summary is then read by NSF staff, to ensure that it clearly conveys the content of the panel discussion and the reason for the panel’s recommendation.  

To assist with writing the Panel Summary, panelists are provided a Panel Summary template with instructions. As part of this blog post, we include the Panel Summary template below so that all proposal submitters to IOS can have a better understanding of what is being asked of the panelists when drafting a Panel Summary. In the following template, the instructional prompts are written in brown, italicized text. Please note that this is the generic template and may vary slightly for other divisions, directorates, or programs. 

Panelists are asked to complete each section of the Panel Summary template that is relevant to the proposal being reviewed. To have effective communication of the panel discussion to the PI, panelists are asked to write in complete sentences, to identify what specific information needs clarification (rather than pose questions) and avoid using undefined abbreviations and bulleted lists.  

One final note for clarification, panels serve in an important advisory role to a Program by providing an evaluation of the proposal’s intellectual merit, broader impact activities and any additional solicitation specific review criteria that are listed in the Program Solicitation. The recommendation a panel gives to a proposal reflects their assessment according to the review criteria and does not convey funding award or declination. Program Directors may recommend proposals for funding from any recommendation category after they consider all reviews, along with portfolio balance considerations, to make recommendations for funding following the Merit Review Process.