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3. Merit Review Criteria

When drafting a CAREER proposal, you should consider what you want to do, why you want to do it, how you plan to do it, how you will know if you succeed, and what benefits will accrue if the project is successful. These issues apply both to the technical aspects of the proposal and the way in which the project may make broader contributions.

When drafting your proposal, remember that the reviewers are your main audience. To that end, keep in mind that reviewers are asked to evaluate all proposals against two criteria: Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. Concentrate on making your proposal relevant to your audience by telling your career story within the context of these criteria. 

Intellectual Merit:

  • How important is the proposed activity to advancing knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields?
  • How well qualified is the individual, team, or institution to conduct the proposed activities? 
  • To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  • Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on sound rationale?
  • Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
  • Are there adequate resources available to carry out the proposed activities?

Broader Impacts:

  • How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning?
  • How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? 
  • To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships?
  • Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

In addition to the general review criteria above, when NSF staff members are making final funding decisions they consider two CAREER Award special criteria: 1. Integration of Research and Education; and 2. Integrating Diversity.

Last Updated: 4/27/18