As most of my readers will know, my research focus leads me to spend more of my time honing my NSF-based granting experience than NIH. Whereas I have submitted to NIH and gotten decent feedback, the pool of study sections that would even read an application from my lab is exceedingly small. However, the fact that it is possible for me to send applications to NIH means that I have devoted some time to figuring that process out.
Where I have been really impressed with NIH is the agency's willingness to engage scientists outside of the traditional channels and in a dynamic manner. My first exposure to this was the NIGMS blog, in which (now former) NIGMS director, Jeremy Berg, often posted behind-the-scenes type data on the granting process, which was often fodder for posts by DM. Whereas the NIGMS blog has had fewer posts of that nature since Berg left, Sally Rockey has taken up the reigns from the Office of Extramural Research blog. Hell, the OER is even on twitter!
So the NIH is willing to get it's message out to the blogosphere and twits, providing some truly interesting data in the process. What's more, based on anecdata from this blog, NIH is engaged in reading the blogosphere as well. The "NIH.gov" designation is a regular domain in my site stats, and I rarely post on topics as central to the NIH mission as others. Bottom line, NIH is willing to listen to the unwashed masses and other n'er do wells.
So what about NSF? Well, NSF has a twitter account, but a quick perusal suggests that it simply posts the same things that go out in the email updates that everyone can sign up for (which are rarely illuminating, except when they drop a random bomb). If you want to narrow the scope of NSF tweets you receive, each program area has an account (BIO is here), but it's a battle of meh.
Blogs? It's not clear that NSF knows what they are. They are certainly not employing blogs as an information dissemination tool (that I am aware of, but please correct me if I am wrong), nor does there appear to be much interaction with the blogosphere. We are allowed this table that breaks the funding numbers down, but beyond that the well is dry. In fact, even the numbers published in that table are difficult to interpret because if the mix of "funded" grant types that end up in the various categories. In the panels I am most familiar with, the numbers posted do not remotely match the review summaries I have or the numbers from the PO.
So why is it that NSF has almost no online interaction with its constituency, while NIH appears to be taking this head-on? Time to pull back the curtain, NSF.