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Agency Information Collection Activities: Comment Request

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AGENCY:

National Science Foundation.

ACTION:

Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request.

SUMMARY:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has submitted the following information collection requirement to OMB for review and clearance under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Pub. L. 104-13. Comments regarding (a) whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of burden including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information to be collected; (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology should be addressed to: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB, Attention: Desk Officer for National Science Foundation 725—17th Street, NW Room 10235, Washington, DC 20503, and to Suzanne H. Plimpton, Reports Clearance Officer, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 295, Arlington, Virginia 22230 or send email to splimpto@nsf.gov. Comments regarding these information collections are best assured of having their full effect if received within 30 days of this notification. Copies of the submission(s) may be obtained by calling 703-292-7556.

NSF may not conduct or sponsor a collection of information unless the collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control number and the agency informs potential persons who are to respond to the collection of information that such persons are not required to respond to the collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Title: National Science Foundation Proposal Evaluation Process.

OMB Control Number: 3145-0060.

Proposed Project Proposal Evaluation Process

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent Federal agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 U.S.C. 1861-75). The Act states the purpose of the NSF is “to promote the progress of science; (and) to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare” by supporting research and education in all fields of science and engineering.”

From those first days, NSF has had a unique place in the Federal Government: It is responsible for the overall health of science and engineering across all disciplines. In contrast, other Federal agencies support research focused on specific missions such as health or defense. The Foundation also is committed to ensuring the nation's supply of scientists, engineers, and science and engineering educators.

The Foundation fulfills this responsibility by initiating and supporting merit-selected research and education projects in all the scientific and engineering disciplines. It does this through grants and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research institutions throughout the U.S. The Foundation accounts for about one-fourth of Federal support to academic institutions for basic research.

The Foundation relies heavily on the advice and assistance of external advisory committees, ad-hoc proposal reviewers, and to other experts to ensure that the Foundation is able to reach fair and knowledgeable judgments. These scientists and educators come from colleges and universities, nonprofit research and education organizations, industry, and other Government agencies.

In making its decisions on proposals the counsel of these merit reviewers has proven invaluable to the Foundation both in the identification of meritorious projects and in providing sound basis for project restructuring.

Review of proposals may involve large panel sessions, small groups, or use of a mail-review system. Proposals are reviewed carefully by scientists or engineers who are expert in the particular field represented by the proposal. About 50% are reviewed exclusively by panels of reviewers who gather, usually in Arlington, VA, to discuss their advice as well as to deliver it. About 35% are reviewed first by mail reviewers expert in the particular field, then by panels, usually of persons with more diverse expertise, who help the NSF decide among proposals from multiple fields or sub-fields. Finally, about 15% are reviewed exclusively by mail.

Use of the Information

The information collected is used to support grant programs of the Foundation. The information collected on the proposal evaluation forms is used by the Foundation to determine the following criteria when awarding or declining proposals submitted to the Agency: (1) What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity? (2) What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?

The information collected on reviewer background questionnaires is used by managers to maintain an automated database of reviewers for the many disciplines represented by the proposals submitted to the Foundation. Information collected on gender, race, ethnicity is used in meeting NSF needs for data to permit response to Congressional and other queries into equity issues. These data are also used in the design, implementation, and monitoring of NSF efforts to increase the participation of various groups in science, engineering, and education.

Confidentiality

When a decision has been made (whether an award or a declination), verbatim copies of reviews, excluding the names of the reviewers, and summaries of review panel deliberations, if any, are provided to the PI. Proposers also may request and obtain any other releasable material in NSF's file on their proposal. Everything in the file except information that directly identifies either reviewers or other pending or declined proposals is usually releasable to the proposer.

While listings of panelists' names are released, the names of individual reviewers, associated with individual proposals, are not released to anyone.

Because the Foundation is committed to monitoring and identifying any real or apparent inequities based on gender, race, ethnicity, or disability of the proposed principal investigator(s)/project director(s) or the co-principal investigator(s)/co-project director(s), the Foundation also collects information regarding race, ethnicity, disability, and Start Printed Page 2250gender. This information is also protected by the Privacy Act.

Burden on the Public

The Foundation estimates that anywhere from one hour to twenty hours may be required to review a proposal. It is estimated that approximately five hours are required to review an average proposal. Each proposal receives an average of 8.5 reviews.

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Dated: January 10, 2002.

Suzanne H. Plimpton,

Reports Clearance Officer, National Science Foundation.

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[FR Doc. 02-1025 Filed 1-15-02; 8:45 am]

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