What is meant by Intellectual Merit?

Intellectual merit is one of two merit review criteria, along with Broader Impacts, that NSF expects proposers to fully address in their proposals. The definitions of the two criteria, as noted in NSF PAPPG Ch. III Section A, are listed below:

  1. Intellectual Merit: The potential to advance knowledge, and
  2. Broader Impacts: The potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes

The Intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge.

 

The following elements should be considered in the review for both criteria:

1. What is the potential for the proposed activity to:

a. Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit); and

b. Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?

2. To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?

3. Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?

4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?

5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?

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