Executive Summary

In 1997 the National Science Foundation's Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (NSF/SBE) began an examination of its funding of research infrastructure. As part of that examination, the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (CBASSE) and other organizations were asked for advice about improving the investment for infrastructure. To help inform its work, CBASSE held a public workshop and invited experts from a wide range of scientific fields to discuss the funding of research infrastructure in the behavioral and social sciences and reviewed previous National Research Council (NRC) reports that have considered infrastructure issues.

The topic of research infrastructure deserves a much more in-depth investigation than can be done given NSF/SBE's time constraints. This report, therefore, is limited to recommendations about process, rather than the many other important issues about research infrastructure.

CBASSE's judgment is that the current process for the selection of infrastructure investment in the behavioral and social sciences at the National Science Foundation should be revised. At present, the selection process used by NSF for the evaluation and selection of infrastructure proposals in the behavioral and social sciences is the same as that for evaluating individual investigator proposals. Yet there are major differences between these two types of proposals in terms of purpose, effective duration, and outcomes. Accordingly, CBASSE recommends that NSF use a different process for the evaluation of infrastructure proposals:

  • Criteria used to evaluate behavioral and social science infrastructure proposals should be specific to the strategic and technical purposes of the infrastructure; the current process uses the same criteria for infrastructure proposals and investigator research.
  • The duration of infrastructure grants should allow sufficient time for a thorough evaluation of their effectiveness.
  • Proposals should include specific, suggested criteria for evaluation of the infrastructure investment at both intermediate and final stages of the grant.

In order to facilitate continual improvement in infrastructure, the investment in it should be systematically measured and managed. CBASSE recommends that NSF/SBE collect data on various kinds of scientific infrastructures so that the information can be aggregated into periodic reports on the overall infrastructure enterprise. CBASSE also recommends that NSF/SBE create an advisory process to focus specifically on changing



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
--> Executive Summary In 1997 the National Science Foundation's Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (NSF/SBE) began an examination of its funding of research infrastructure. As part of that examination, the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (CBASSE) and other organizations were asked for advice about improving the investment for infrastructure. To help inform its work, CBASSE held a public workshop and invited experts from a wide range of scientific fields to discuss the funding of research infrastructure in the behavioral and social sciences and reviewed previous National Research Council (NRC) reports that have considered infrastructure issues. The topic of research infrastructure deserves a much more in-depth investigation than can be done given NSF/SBE's time constraints. This report, therefore, is limited to recommendations about process, rather than the many other important issues about research infrastructure. CBASSE's judgment is that the current process for the selection of infrastructure investment in the behavioral and social sciences at the National Science Foundation should be revised. At present, the selection process used by NSF for the evaluation and selection of infrastructure proposals in the behavioral and social sciences is the same as that for evaluating individual investigator proposals. Yet there are major differences between these two types of proposals in terms of purpose, effective duration, and outcomes. Accordingly, CBASSE recommends that NSF use a different process for the evaluation of infrastructure proposals: Criteria used to evaluate behavioral and social science infrastructure proposals should be specific to the strategic and technical purposes of the infrastructure; the current process uses the same criteria for infrastructure proposals and investigator research. The duration of infrastructure grants should allow sufficient time for a thorough evaluation of their effectiveness. Proposals should include specific, suggested criteria for evaluation of the infrastructure investment at both intermediate and final stages of the grant. In order to facilitate continual improvement in infrastructure, the investment in it should be systematically measured and managed. CBASSE recommends that NSF/SBE collect data on various kinds of scientific infrastructures so that the information can be aggregated into periodic reports on the overall infrastructure enterprise. CBASSE also recommends that NSF/SBE create an advisory process to focus specifically on changing

OCR for page 1
--> research needs, the capacity of current infrastructure to address these needs, the kinds of new infrastructure needed to advance the behavioral and social sciences, and improvements in the infrastructure allocation process.