NSF ISE Online Project Monitoring System Characteristics of Lead Organizations and their Partners

November 1st, 2011

By Gary Silverstein, Hannah Putman, and Melissa Bryce

Many of the projects that have entered baseline data into the Online Project Monitoring System (OPMS) have wondered whether any interesting findings about the NSF ISE program have emerged from the data. This article is the first in an ongoing series about what the ISE field can learn from the extensive data that projects have provided. This article focuses on the characteristics of lead organizations and their partner organizations. Because it is still too early to provide this information for those ISE projects that are currently entering their baseline data into the system, this article focuses on the 120 ISE full-scale/broad implementation projects awarded between FY 2006 and FY 2009 that have already submitted their OPMS data.

Characteristics of lead organizations

The ISE OPMS obtains information about the characteristics of lead organizations so that NSF can track the types of organizations that receive ISE funding. For the purpose of the OPMS, the lead organization is defined as the lead fiscal agent. As shown in Exhibit 1, the most prominent lead organizations between FY 2006 and FY 2009 were media organizations (30 percent), informal learning institutions (25 percent), and colleges/universities (23 percent).


According to NSF administrative data, a total of over $194 million was awarded to the 120 projects over the four-year period of FY 2006 through FY 2009. Trends regarding the total amount of funding reflect, in part, the number of full-scale/broad implementation projects that provided baseline OPMS data in any given FY. Matching NSF administrative data with OPMS data reveals that, over the four-year period, the median dollar amount awarded to individual projects was $1,704,995 (Exhibit 2). Interestingly, the difference in median funding when classified by lead organization type was fairly narrow ranging, from $1.8 million for projects headed by a media organization or an informal learning institution, to $1.4 million for projects headed by a community group, association, or public agency.

Prior receipt of NSF funding

Most (73%) of the 120 lead organizations had received previous financial support from the ISE program, and 73% had received previous support from other NSF programs. The percentage of projects for which the lead organization had received previous support from the ISE program or other NSF programs declined over the four-year period (e.g., from 82.4% in FY 2006 to 66.7% in FY 2009 for prior receipt of ISE funding).


Characteristics of organizational partners and contractors

The 120 projects identified a total of 453 organizational partners and contractors. As shown in Exhibit 3, the most prominently cited partner types across the 120 projects were informal learning institutions (reported by 38% of projects) and community groups, associations, or public agencies (36% of projects). However, at least one-fourth of projects reported a partnership with a materials developer or research and development organization (28%), media organization (28%), or college or university (27%). Nearly one-third (32%) included at least one organizational partner or contractor that was categorized as other. In addition, almost one-fourth (24%) of projects and 33% of projects in FY 2009 partnered with a science-technology center or museum.


Primary and secondary STEM content foci

Respondents were asked to select the primary and secondary STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) foci of their project. For the purpose of the OPMS, the focus was defined as the specific subject area(s) in which their project sought to increase knowledge among the public. The most frequently cited primary STEM foci were biological sciences (29%), engineering/technology (28%), and geosciences/environmental sciences (23%) (Exhibit 4). Additionally, 20% reported having a primary content focus that was interdisciplinary, while 28% reported having a secondary content focus that was interdisciplinary.  There was some slight fluctuation over the four-year period with engineering/technology being the most prominent STEM content focus in FY 2007 and geosciences/environmental sciences being the most prominent STEM content focus in FY 2008.

Next month look for a new article about project’s anticipated deliverables.  In the coming months, we will answer additional questions about the characteristics, activities, and impacts of the ISE projects that have submitted their OPMS data.