In 2012, DEB and IOS (the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems) instituted major changes to the proposal submission process, piloting a program now 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. As you may remember from a previous DEBrief post, the reasons for the switch were multifaceted.
After three years, DEB and IOS 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. They also surveyed the PI community and NSF BIO staff to evaluate whether or not 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.