Funding agencies are in a tough spot right now. Like every federal agency, they have no idea what their budget will be for the coming year. The budgetary disaster we have in Congress right now means that many of the 2012 applicants who agencies want to fund, are being left in limbo. In the case of NSF Bio, many of us are having to resubmit our preproposals from last year even though our full proposals are being "held for funding". I know a number of people in this position, myself included. It feels a bit like this:
From the I Fucking Love Science FB page, $3M behind glass made by 3M. If you can get it, it's yours. That's me in panel 2.
For those of us sweating out a decision (maybe until the summer!) it means recruiting students who we might not be able to pay. It means making plans around work that might not be funded. It means submitting abstracts for conferences that we might not be able to pay for.
In a typical year* we would know where we stand by now, but the congressional pissing contest is pushing everything back. And so we wait. In our stress-free jobs.
*Well, maybe this type of thing is becoming the "typical" and smooth years are now the exception.