May 30, 2014

NSF Clarifies Policy on Abstracts and Titles

The National Science Foundation has issued Important Notice to Presidents of Universities and Colleges and Heads of Other National Science Foundation Awardee Organizations: NSF Abstracts and Titles (Notice No. 136) to clarify the NSF policy on award abstracts and titles. NSF is acting to ensure that abstracts and titles clearly convey to the public justification for NSF actions and funding decisions.

The notice states:

The Title of an NSF supported project must describe the purpose of the research in nontechnical terms to the fullest possible extent.

There are two major components of the NSF Abstract:
  • A nontechnical description of the project that states the problem to be studied, and explains the project’s broader significance and importance, that serves as a public justification for NSF funding. This component should be understandable to an educated lay reader. It may include such information as the theoretical or analytical foundation of the proposed research, the fundamental issues that may be resolved by the research, the project’s relation to NSF’s mission, the project’s place in the context of ongoing research in the field, the project’s potential impact on other fields, and the prospect that it will lead to significant advances or the integration of related lines of inquiry.
  • A technical description of the project that states the goals and scope of the research, and the methods and approaches to be used. In many cases, the technical description may be a modified version of the project summary submitted with the proposal.
Thus, an NSF award abstract which is intended for a broad audience may differ from the Project Summary that is submitted as part of a technically reviewed proposal.