The success rate for proposals to the Earth Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation dropped from almost 55% in 1980 to approximately 37% last year. The division has gradually funded more proposals over the past decade, but the rapid rate at which they arrive means that a given proposal is less likely to succeed, given the fixed pot of funds, explained acting director Ian MacGregor in a recent interview. MacGregor explained how proposals are evaluated and spoke about changes in the division, including new awards targeted at postdoctoral fellows and a new hydrology program in the planning stages.
Although NSF reaps an attractive 17.5% increase in the budget proposal now wending its way through Congress, Earth Sciences has not shared in the expected largesse. The Geosciences directorate, which provides the overwhelming share of NSF support to AGU members, is slated for a respectable 14.1% increase. But only a 9.3% increase, just 2–3% above inflation, is proposed for Earth Sciences, one of the directorate's four divisions. Other areas of geophysics have fared better this year.