I'm appalled by the new NSF policy, and I'm also concerned about the
choice of terms used by Mary Clutter in defending this policy.
The goals of the various funding agencies must be to support the
continuation of US Science, and, when there isn't enough money
to support all worthy science, to try to identify and support the
The new restriction of applications to only a single agency, in this
case NSF, manifestly makes the lives of biological scientists much
more difficult. All biologists who have been funded a number of
years have had the experience of having one agency rate a proposal
with excellents, and another place it below funding. This is the
result of the luck of the draw in panel and external reviewers.
The restriction policy forces biologists into a form of gamesmanship
whereby one is forced to not only prepare the best proposal possible,
but one is also forced to calculate application strategies in a new
and painful way.
Why would any agency implement a strategy that is clearly a disservice
to the community it is supposed to be supporting?
One possible answer is that this is purely inter-agency politics.
Support for this lies in Dr. Clutter's use of the winning image.
Scientists and science are not winning as a result of this new
policy. Proposal preparation and applications have suddenly become
much more difficult.
If NSF is somehow winning, it can only be doing so in the context
of winning something in an inter-agency political squabble, that
has lost sight of the overall goal of supporting the best research.
russell at dogwood.botany.uga.edu