A couple of months ago I signed up for a NSF Bio preproposal panel. I did so without really knowing what I was in for; I mean, this is the first time it is happening, so it's up in the air. This week, however, I got the conflict of interest (COI) spreadsheet. This document is sent out to panelist to identify any proposals they should not be assigned or will have to step out of the room for during the discussion.
Based on a comparison to the last time I received a COI document from this same panel, I am estimating that the number of preproposals is in the neighborhood of 3X the number of full proposals this panel has recently received. The exact number isn't possible for me to guess because I'm not able to tell what the average number of PIs is on a co-PI proposal from the data I have, but given the new constraints my guess it it won't be far from 2.
So, if you're keeping track at home, the preproposals are 1/3 the length of the full proposals but 3X are submitted, making that a wash. I'm not clear whether there will be ad hocs for the preproposals, but my assumption is not. In August there will be a substantial reduction to what I expect will be ~20% of the preproposals coming back as full proposals. These will almost certainly go through ad hoc review, but their number will be a little less than half (I'm guessing based on convos with POs) the normal load. SO the ad hoc load will be drastically reduced on an annual basis (again, assuming no ad hocs for the preproposals) but the panelist load will be only slightly reduced along the same time period, with a big advantage going to the fall panel.
More to come as I get more info.