System for research proposals overwhelmed

US federal agencies are scrambling to prepare for a wave of research proposals from scientists eager to win funding offered in the nation’s economic stimulus package, as reported in an online Nature News story on 16 March. White House officials fear that the number of applications could overwhelm the country’s online grant-application system,, if immediate action is not taken. From the News story: "The system, which went online in 2004, was intended to streamline the grant process by offering a central electronic application portal for all federal grant-making agencies. But it was designed to handle only about 65,000 applications a year, says Sheila Conley, acting deputy assistant secretary in the office of grants at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in Washington, DC, which manages the system. “We’ve blown that out of the water,” she says. The system received 200,000 applications in 2008; that’s expected to jump to 275,000 this year."

Various researchers and research administrators have described their experiences with this system, and compared it with other application procedures, both in the News story and in online comments at the Nature News website. In view of the complex procedures, technical hitches and bureaucracy, tight deadlines and number of applications, researchers planning to request funding need to be well prepared. Let’s hope that is enough.


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