Review Process

Below is an overview of the review process.

The application evaluation involves the review, rating, and ranking of applications by disciplinary and interdisciplinary scientists and engineers.

The primary responsibility of each reviewer is to evaluate eligible GRFP applications by applying the Merit Review Criteria, and to recommend applicants for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Reviewers are instructed to review the applications holistically, applying the Merit Review Criteria and noting GRFP’s emphasis on demonstrated potential for significant research achievements in STEM or in STEM education. From these recommendations, NSF selects applicants for Fellowships or Honorable Mention, in line with NSF’s mission and the goals of GRFP. After Fellowship offers are made, applicants are able to view verbatim reviewer comments, excluding the names of the reviewers, for a limited period of time through the NSF GRFP website.

The review process and panels will be conducted online, with no travel requirements. Reviewers will be granted access to an assigned pool of applications to read and review online for a period of several weeks, starting in December. In January (as specified in the formal invitation), your panel will convene online using Zoom for one day to discuss and evaluate the applicants and make selection recommendations to NSF.

In November and December, reviewers must attend an orientation session webinar, selecting one from several available sessions. This is required for both new and returning reviewers, as information about the competition is subject to change.

Reviewers are required to read the GRFP Reviewer Guide, view the reviewer training materials, and attend a virtual orientation session in late November or early December. They should also read the current GRF Program Solicitation. Additionally, all reviewers must complete and submit a Conflict of Interest form via the NSF GRFP Review Site before they may access applications. In January, reviewers attend a one day virtual panel to discuss and evaluate the applicants and make selection recommendations to NSF.

Each reviewer will initially be assigned 15-25 applications, and evaluate these applications by applying the National Science Board-approved Merit Review Criteria of Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. Using a holistic, comprehensive approach, reviewers assess applications giving qualitative ratings for Intellectual Merit and Broder Impacts, as well as provide written, evaluative comments addressing the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts of the application. Reviewers should consider an applicant’s accomplishments, interests, competencies, and talent, based on all materials in the application.

Most of the assigned applications will be assigned in early December, allowing several weeks to submit reviews. In order to ensure a fair review process for all applicants, the GRFP program requires that reviewers strictly adhere to the review deadlines, which will be specified in the formal invitation. Due to reassignments, reviewers should expect an additional set of 3-5 applications to be assigned at a later time with a shorter review window. As a GRFP Reviewer, you review applications, not proposals. Reviewers are evaluating individuals based on the evidence provided in applications, not research proposals.

General guidance for applying the two merit review criteria can be found here. Both Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts are to be given full consideration during the review and decision-making processes; each criterion is necessary, but neither by itself is sufficient.

Applicants are reviewed on their demonstrated potential to advance knowledge and to make significant research achievements and contributions to their fields throughout their careers. Reviewers are asked to assess applications using a holistic, comprehensive approach, giving balanced consideration to all components of the application, including the educational and research record, leadership, outreach, service activities, and future plans, as well as individual competencies, experiences, and other attributes. The aim is to recruit and retain a diverse cohort of early-career individuals with high potential for future achievements, contributions, and broader impacts in STEM and STEM education.

For the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts criteria, reviewers may consider:

Intellectual Merit: The potential of the applicant to advance knowledge based on a holistic review of the entire application.

Broader Impacts: The potential of the applicant or the research results to impact the field of study, benefit society, or contribute to the achievement of specific, desired outcomes based on a review of the entire application.

  1. Personal Information, Education, Work/Research Experience, Proposed Field of Study, Academic honors, Publications
  2. Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement (3 pages)
  3. Graduate Research Statement (2 pages)
  4. Transcripts
  5. Two to three letters of reference

Please note the current conflict of interest policy: You may serve on the same panel as an application for which you have a conflict of interest (you are the applicant’s advisor, wrote a letter of reference for the applicant, etc.) However, you cannot participate in the evaluation of applications that pose a potential conflict of interest or the perception thereof, including the review of or engagement in any discussion of that applicant during panel deliberations.

In January, virtual panels will convene to discuss and evaluate the applicants and make selection recommendations to NSF. The virtual panel are required for all reviewers to attend and the exact date will be specified in the formal invitation. Panels will convene online to discuss and evaluate the applicants and make selection recommendations to NSF. There is no travel for the GRFP panel (and no travel expenses will be paid). In order to provide fair evaluation of applications, reviewers need to be present for the entire session of their virtual panel to participate in discussions of individual applications that they have reviewed. To participate in the virtual panel, reviewers must have a computer connected to the internet, and a webcam and headset microphone are recommended.

NSF will provide a flat rate payment of $200 for participation in the virtual panel. Reviewers who are Federal employees, citizens of foreign countries who are not permanent residents, and special visa holders are not entitled to the flat rate payment.