Relevant unit for agency comparison

MREFC account; annual budget about $150 million

Command structure

The director presides over seven program directorates spanning different fields of science and engineering. Additional offices provide administrative, financial, and management support. The director is advised by several NSF internal advisory councils of staff. As chartered, the National Science Board is the agency’s governing board that establishes policies, oversees strategic planning, approves new programs and major awards, and oversees the general operations of NSF.

Advisory structure

Each directorate is advised by an advisory committee of external experts. Committees of visitors are used on a periodic basis to review and improve program operations within each directorate.

Origin of projects

Nominally, all projects come from the community. Large facility project ideas can be identified at community meetings, NSF-sponsored workshops, or by NSF program managers.

Strategic planning

NSF does not operate as a mission agency; rather, it strives to act as a facilitator for innovation and creativity. As required by GPRA the agency produces a 5-year strategic plan, last written in 2003. NSF does not regularly engaged in roadmapping activities across directorates. New standards are now requiring MREFC projects to provide life-cycle cost and management schedules. However, NSF’s strategic plan does identify cross-cutting themes to attract attention and encourage fields of research. For instance, the “People, Ideas, Tools” theme of NSF plays a large role in directing its programs. Also, NSF identifies “cross-cutting investment areas,” which are selected for substantial investment over the next few years.

Project evaluation criteria

  • Need for such a facility.

  • Research that will be enabled.

  • Readiness of plans for construction and operation.

  • Construction budget estimates.

  • Operations budget estimates.

Community involvement

The NSF internal champion for a project is typically program staff for some sector of the scientific community. At the simplest level, MREFC projects arise from solicited proposals. Once a project has started to gain momentum, the channels for community input in project development are not standard, but typically involve workshops.

Prioritization process

Projects are recommended to the director by staff for consideration by the NSF internal MREFC review panel. The MREFC review panel evaluates the merit of a proposed project and then prioritizes it relative to other projects under consideration. The review panel and the director place particular emphases on the following criteria to determine the priority order of the projects:

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