What’s the trick to finding what you’re searching for on nsf.gov?
With Halloween 2015 approaching, you’ve probably been thinking about a lot of scary things. We know navigating nsf.gov can be scary for some people, especially first time visitors. So we thought we should shed some light on the process to make it less scary. Grab some candy, and enjoy this treat.
This post is specifically about using the search function to find program information, but you can also navigate the site using the menus at the top of the page. “Quick Links” at the top right corner of the page may also get you where you want to go. Here’s a screenshot of what the top of the nsf.gov main page looks like:
Let’s type something into the search box and see what results we get. We’ll search “Dimensions of Biodiversity,” which is the name of one of BIO’s funding programs.
Hit enter and you will see a page full of results like those you see in the screen capture below (assuming no files have been changed “behind the scenes” since this blog post was written). The initial set of results is from a search of “All NSF,” meaning all of nsf.gov.
(Click to enlarge images.)
You can filter the results to show only pages related to funding or news. If you click on “More,” you can also filter results to show items related to research discoveries, events, or, statistics (such as pages from the Science and Engineering Indicators). Note, when you chose a filter from “More,” it replaces the “News” option, but don’t worry, “News” hasn’t disappeared, it is now under “More.”
So what are all of these results?!? We are going to demystify them for you.
The best way to find what you are looking for is to look at the URLs of the pages in addition to the page titles and descriptions. Here is an annotated version of the search results, set to “All NSF”.
Filter your results with the “Funding” filter and apply what you just learned. (We’ll enjoy some candy while you do that.)
Now filter your results with the “News” filter to see what news-related results look like. Here is what you will find:
Finally, filter your results with the “Discoveries” filter. Discovery items are stories about NSF-funded research and are different from press releases.
Now, let’s return to the last item in your unfiltered search results…the tricky publication from 2011. Does the page contain news or discovery content? How do you know?
It’s actually an old solicitation. This is tricky because we suggested you look for a fiscal year (“FY”) to identify solicitations, but older solicitations may not have a FY in their titles or descriptions; additionally, their descriptions may not tell you they are archived (we’re working on this!). All other signs point to it being a solicitation, but if in doubt, click the link and open the document. If the document has been archived, there will be a statement on the document itself that says, “This document has been archived and replaced by ______.”
We are working to add archive tags to older documents and make search results relevant. Currently, we are identifying the best search result for a particular keyword or phrase so we can direct the system to recommend those “best bets” to you at the top of the results. As we do so you will see more search results that include a recommended page, like this:
We hope this quick guide has cleared away some of the cobwebs and given you a better view of how nsf.gov is organized.