As pointed out by @biochembelle today, NIAID announced their interim paylines yesterday and the news is predictably bad. 6% for Non-new/ESI applications and 10% for the N00Bs on R01s. Why so low, because congress is playing a dangerous game of chicken right now. With the senate unable to agree on a budget, we're facing the possibility of sequestration. About a week or so ago we learned what this would do to the budgets of agencies we all apply to and NSF would take it in the teeth to the tune of $551 million (almost 10% of its overall budget).
There is certainly optimism in DC that congress won't let things go that far, but the timeline to get things done post-election will be short. This means that funding agencies have to prepare for Armageddon and plan their decisions accordingly.
Where does that leave NSF? Let's get out our calendar, shall we? Decisions on the current round of IOS and DEB proposal that survived the preproposal round and were submitted for the only call for 2012 are supposed to happen in late Oct / early Nov. You know, right around election time. Once the election occurs, we'll have a sprint to a new budget to avoid sequestration by a lame-duck congress. I totally trust that everyone will be in an agreeable mood.
So say we don't have any answers by mid-Dec. Where does that leave those waiting on DEB or IOS grants? My guess is that a small percentage will be funded and a larger percentage will be told to hold tight. Of course, the next round of preproposals (assuming Bio doesn't come to its senses) in due Jan 12. We can all see where this is going, right?
Even though NSF has been saying all along that it doesn't matter if there are one or two proposal deadlines in a year because the money is either all in one chunk or split between two rounds, we may be watching a train wreck unfold that pokes that assertion right in the eye. If NSF is forced to fund at sequestration rates for the 2013 FY, the success rate is going to be very low for the whole year and we won't be able to recover until at least Jan 2014 under the current system.
Guess what pre-tenure peeps?