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The National Science Foundation's (NSF) leadership in advancing the frontiers of science and engineering research and education is demonstrated, in part, through internal and external performance assessments. Responsibilities for accurate and complete assessments are distributed throughout the organization with important roles in virtually every program and administrative office. Increasingly, performance will be used by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and others as an input to future budget decisions.

Of course, external factors related to institutional partners, the private sector, and government affect how individuals and groups respond in proposing and conducting research, which in turn impacts NSF’s progress toward attaining its Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) strategic outcome goals. As with all basic research, the outcomes associated with NSF research and education investments are likely to be unpredictable in content and timing. Many of these activities require years to develop and the outcomes can only be judged retrospectively. Nevertheless, in the short-term, investment in diverse portfolios can be described and identified, and it is these investments that will determine whether short-term outputs and long-term outcomes resulting from the portfolio of current awards will be as significant as past outputs and outcomes. NSF has also developed a set of management goals that support attainment of its strategic outcome goals. Development of annual management goals is informed by the NSF Strategic Plan, previous agency Performance Plans, internal deliberations, past performance, and reasonable projections for future levels of performance.

NSF’s effectiveness is documented by its Committees of Visitors (COVs) and other independent evaluations (e.g., the Advisory Committee on GPRA Performance Assessment, AC/GPA) and with the analytic Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) developed by OMB. The PART assesses program performance in four areas: purpose, strategic planning, program management and program results. The PART complements and reinforces GPRA, emphasizing the link between budget and performance. Resulting PART ratings inform the budget process and highlight areas in need of improvement. All programs at NSF, aggregated in various possible ways, will be assessed using the PART.

The President’s Management Agenda (PMA) includes five government-wide initiatives: Strategic Management of Human Capital; Competitive Sourcing; Improved Financial Performance; Expanded E-Government; and Budget and Performance Integration. For each initiative, OMB tracks agency progress with a scorecard consisting of “green, yellow and red lights” that reflects agency status. The FY2003 NSF scorecard gives a “green light” to NSF for the Improved Financial Performance and Expanded E-Government initiatives.

The Administration is also developing investment criteria for evaluating quality, relevance and performance (R&D Investment Criteria) of Federal research and development. The goal is to improve the quality and relevance of Federal research programs.

A key challenge is to integrate these assessment areas into Foundation workflow and planning. NSF already has a collaborative/integrated approach to long-range planning and budgeting. These activities are distributed throughout the agency’s program directorates and offices, with coordination activities centralized within the Office of Budget, Finance, and Award Management (BFA) and the Office of Information and Resource Management (OIRM). A Budget Planning Liaison Group, comprised of program and budget staff, participates in the budget formulation process. Responsibility for development, coordination and innovation in GPRA activities resides with a team of senior managers - the agency’s GPRA Infrastructure Implementation Council (GIIC) - who report directly to the agency’s Chief Operating Officer. GIIC is assisted by an integrated planning/budget working group (GIIC-WG) composed of key staff from the program directorates and offices, BFA and OIRM.


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