National Science Foundation's Actions on Recommendations of GAO Report "Opportunities for Improved Management of the Research Applied to National Needs (RANN) Program"

HRD-77-54: Published: Mar 15, 1977. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 1977.

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In March 1971 the National Science Foundation (NSF) consolidated most of its problem-oriented research into a single program called the Research Applied to National Needs (RANN) program. The program focused on NSF research activities on selected environmental and social problems and opportunities for future technological development to help solve major national problems. A 1975 report identified the following RANN program areas which needed improvement: (1) program development; (2) proposal evaluation; (3) utilization planning; and (4) hiring management officials.

Formal procedures have not been developed to make certain that new mechanisms for publicizing the RANN program's research areas are used to involve interested parties in developing new programs; that inputs from these parties are effectively used in program planning; and that interested parties are given continued opportunities to provide additional inputs during program development. Some 900 researchers who submitted formal proposals to the program expressed concern with the peer reviewers' objectivity, the availability of peer review information, and the time required to process proposals. The National Science Board and the Director, NSF, have issued some new policies and procedures concerning the selection of peer reviewers, release of review information, and timely processing of proposals. Program management is currently updating the utilization planning guidelines and plans to include GAO suggestions. A documented search will be made through the Civil Service Commission's registers for qualified personnel to fill the RANN program's positions. Those registers are sometimes not used by NSF because they are not always considered the best source for highly qualified personnel.

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