NSF wants some (most? all?) of the research it funds to be "transformative". I don't know exactly when this word became central in NSF-speak, though I first became aware of it during an NSF committee meeting a few years ago. Those of us who recently completed an NSF questionnaire, the results of which are now out and being discussed in science/news forums, had to answer questions about how much of our own research is transformative, how much of the research in proposals we review is transformative etc. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of us think we are doing transformative research, but see it less often in proposals we review.
Now this word is creeping out of NSF and into proposals. I just reviewed a proposal that proclaimed the described research as transformative. Alas, using the word in a proposal does not make it so, though I suppose this raises the question of whether I would know it if I saw it. And this raises the question of just what "transformative" means, and whether it is a definite state that can be predicted from a proposal.
6 months ago