Philosophy Matters - Examining the Value of Knowledge Page: 4
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o Many agencies use the peer review process to assess the potential societal impacts of
the research they fund.
o Agencies often encounter resistance from both proposers and reviewers to the
incorporation of societal impacts considerations into the peer review process.
o Despite the well-documented resistance on the part of the scientific community to
including impacts criteria in peer review, there is little evidence to suggest that peer
review is in principle any less effective at ex ante assessments of societal impact than it
is at ex ante assessments of scientific, technical, or intellectual merit.
o Agencies continue to experiment to find better ways to include societal impacts
considerations in ex ante research evaluation.
These findings are not merely theoretical, however. CAPR research was brought to bear on
the recent reconsideration of NSF's Merit Review Process by the National Science Board,
NSF's governing branch.
Frodeman and Holbrook (2011 a and 2011 b) argued that NSB should maintain enough
vagueness in the notion of 'broader impacts' to allow researchers to use the same creativity
and exhibit the same autonomy that they do in terms of the 'Intellectual Merit' activities they
propose. NSB had been considering providing a list of 'national goals' that the Broader Impacts
Criterion was meant to help achieve. When NSB released its final 'Review and Revisions' in
December 2011, however, the list of national goals had been removed.
NSB came to realize that a degree of vagueness - especially when it is used intentionally - is
actually a good thing: the final revisions allow proposers and peer reviewers to provide their
own answers to the demand for accountability by addressing the potential transformativity of
the proposed activities for both intellectual merit and broader impacts.
NSB's integration of intellectual merit and broader impact means seeing the connections
between things formerly thought to be separable. NSB's new criteria recognize that in the 21st
century, our disciplinary peers are no longer our only audience. This will require an adjustment
in the way we think about broader impacts: scientists and engineers will need to begin to see
that even basic research must take place in the context of the needs of the users of that
The CAPR project clearly achieves three of the four goals CSID has identified for research
projects: it is theoretically rigorous (as the list of publications attests), culturally significant (as
the book publication in China and the Dalian workshop demonstrate), and policy relevant (as
NSB's decisions regarding changes to NSF's merit review process show). The only remaining
question is whether CAPR - or CSID itself- is economically sustainable. CAPR did garner
almost $400,000 in support from NSF. And CSID has received $600,000 over the last 4 years
from NSF and NASA - enough to help propel the Department of Philosophy and Religion
Studies into the top ranks of US doctoral programs in philosophy in terms of external research
funding.4 This makes UNT Philosophy special. CSID, however, is unique. Despite the fact that
there are thousands of interdisciplinary centers around the world, there is no other center for
the study of interdisciplinarity. What is the real value of that for UNT?
Here’s what’s next.
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Frodeman, Robert & Holbrook, J. Britt. Philosophy Matters - Examining the Value of Knowledge, paper, May 10, 2012; (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc84353/m1/4/: accessed April 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Arts and Sciences.