NSF Public Outcomes Report

Building on the earlier Faculty Media Impact Project (2013), the NSF Research Benefits Projects highlights the benefits of academic research to the broader public. As noted under Projects Updates, it follows from an earlier project involving the Community Action Project that helped foster compliance with an NSF regulation requiring grantees to submit Project Outcome Reports at the end of their funding. It parallels an earlier part of the NSF grant process which requires, as part of the application, a statement about “the broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity” as well as the “the intellectual merit of the proposed activity.” This Project Outcomes Report indicates what, if any benefits, derived from the NSF funded research at the grant’s completion.

The Project Outcomes Report derives from federal legislation, The America COMPETES Act (ACA) of 2007, Section 7010.  It requires that outcomes of NSF funded research be made available to the public.  The requirement went into effect on January 4, 2010 and the reports have been made available at Research.gov (see http://www.research.gov/research-portal/appmanager/base/desktop?_nfpb=true&_eventName=viewQuickSearchFormEvent_so_rsr).  The NSF, (see http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf10_1/aag_2.jsp ) indicates that report should “describe the project outcomes or findings that address the intellectual merit and broader impacts of the work as defined in the NSF merit review criteria [see above].  This description should be a brief (generally, two to three paragraphs) summary of the project’s results that is written for the lay reader. Principal Investigators are strongly encouraged to avoid use of jargon, terms of art, or acronyms.”  Reports are supposed to be submitted within 90 days of the grant’s expiration.

Intriguingly, relatively few NSF grantees have provided these reports to date.  Drawing on the data from Research.gov (see http://researchbenefits.publicanthropology.org/explain2.php ), in 2010, 6% submitted the report; in 2011, 11%; in 2012, 3%; and in 2013, 23% submitted the report.

The Project, encourages interested students, especially those excited by the Community Action Project, to write members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space regarding their views on the limited of compliance with the NSF regulation among NSF grantees.  Students review the information provided at  http://researchbenefits.publicanthropology.org/index.php  and, as might be expected, take a range of positions on the issue. The Center for a Public Anthropology facilitates the mailing of their statements by traditional “snail mail.”