how to set the terms and conditions under which prize contestants are recognized, establishing an effective time frame for award of a prize, whether and how to partner with or outsource prize administration to nongovernmental entities, and a number of other issues discussed in this report. To reduce these uncertainties as well as to contribute to innovation, NSF should proceed with care in implementing an inducement prize program, beginning relatively modestly and learning as experience in designing and implementing prizes is analyzed and accumulated. Proceeding in this way need not delay program implementation. In fact, we recommend that NSF initiate a few somewhat specialized prize contests relatively quickly while preparing for more ambitious prizes to follow.

The notion of a prize program as a learning opportunity carries with it the obvious corollary suggestion that NSF offer several prizes—on the order of 5 to 10—under its initial program. Multiple prizes offer an opportunity to try various contest designs and administrative approaches.2 They also afford an opportunity to build public interest in the program by making relatively modest awards for successful shorter-term efforts while allowing enough time for more significant, longer-term contest objectives to be reached. Within an experimental program early progress can be made on relatively straightforward approaches to contest administration, leaving time for later development of more complex contests and mechanisms.

In the following sections the committee outlines an approach to the design of an inducement prize program that emphasizes learning and program improvement in the formative years, leading to more ambitious contest goals with greater visibility and higher stakes for participants and NSF. The program would fund prizes in several fields of endeavor that differ with respect to the scale and scope of the prize, the timing of its


The committee suggests a program of this scope based largely on three considerations. First, the number of prizes should be large enough to allow for some variation in the parameters of the various contests to facilitate learning from the program’s experience. Second, we expect that mounting each prize contest will be a substantial intellectual and administrative challenge that will draw heavily on NSF staff and advisory resources, which suggests keeping the number of prizes manageably small. Third, we have some concern that a large number of prizes might detract from the prize program’s goal of focusing on high-priority national need. To the extent that financing activities to compete for a prize will depend on corporate sponsorships, philanthropy, and volunteer efforts, it will be important to understand whether the pool of such resources for supporting contestants is limited. The interest of the general public in such contests may also be limited. Thus, during program evaluation, NSF should assess the degree to which each subsequent contest attracts contestants and sponsors.

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