So I was please to get home tonight and see that some students had forwarded me the following e-mail from the NSF:
Dear Colleague:Now of course I wouldn't want to claim that this about-face was all due to my blog post. I'll just let you draw your own conclusions.
The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you of recent developments
in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). There was a
recent change in policy that NSF has decided to reconsider. In
particular, the policy concerns what can be expected of Fellows during
the three years they receive NSF funding (on tenure). NSF has decided
to reinstate the previous policy with respect to this issue while
further study is conducted to inform this and other GRFP policies.
The policy that will be in effect during the 2011-2012 Fellowship Year
is an updated version of the one described in the 2009 Guide (NSF
09-62), which is as follows:
Each Fellow is expected to devote full time to advanced scientific
study or work during tenure. However, because it is generally accepted
that teaching or similar activity constitutes a valuable part of the
education and training of many graduate students, a Fellow may
undertake a reasonable amount of such activities, without NSF
approval. It is expected that furtherance of the Fellow's educational
objectives and the gain of substantive teaching or other experience,
not service to the institution as such, will govern these activities.
Compensation for such activities is permitted based on the affiliated
institution’s policies and the general employment policies outlined in
You can refer to the 2011 Guide (NSF 11-031) at
publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_ key=nsf11031 for
further information about teaching, research, and other work
activities during tenure years.
We apologize for confusion these changes may have caused, but look
forward to working with you to ensure the GRFP is as effective as
possible in helping to ensure the vitality of the U. S. scientific and
The Graduate Research Fellowship Program Office
Division of Graduate Education
Directorate for Education & Human Resources
National Science Foundation
More seriously, I'm glad they're pausing and getting some more input on the issue. As I like to repeat often, the NSF is a wonderful institution, and it's nice to see them showing willingness to revisit this issue, given my opinion that their new policy was questionable in terms of its benefit to students. I imagine many institutions encompassing large bureaucracies would never manage to reconsider a decision like this, so it is to their credit.