Soooo, how's all this government chaos working out for NSF?

Nov 04 2013 Published by under [Et Al]

In terms of worst possible timing for a government shutdown, October would be a pretty high pick for NSF's Bio directorate. October/November is pretty much panel season for IOS and DEB, and POs and panelists had the pleasure of sitting on their hands, not knowing whether they were even going to be able to meet. Once the shutdown ended everyone furiously starting getting ready for the panels that had not been interrupted by the shutdown.

...and then they were all canceled, across the board.

Any panels that met had to get special permission from the director. What that meant was that there was huge variation with how reviews were handled from one panel to the next. Some still met, others met virtually, some found an afternoon for a virtual ranking of proposals and a few never got together at all, leaving the POs to rank.

It is not totally clear what effect this will have, if any at all. You'll remember that we have data suggesting that the fine scale machinations of panel review are not particularly predictive. Whereas I have certainly seen a proposal forcefully argued up or down a category by a particularly opinionated panelist, there is generally agreement on the broad ranking of most proposals.

But all of this may be moot since these short term Continuing Resolutions force POs to short their budgets year after year. No matter what the science funding target of this administration is, the CRs lead to slow bleed out. What happens when you can only budget for 90% of last year's budget when that was only 90% of the year before?

It's getting tighter and tighter out there and there's not much light at the end of the tunnel.

3 responses so far

  • Mikka says:

    Just as bad as the funding squeeze, between the consumables price inflation and increases in bennies, the money you can get out of NSF is starting to feel like loose change. 100K/year, including indirects? My Uni has 55% indirects; you can barely pay a grad student and one of your summer months, which leaves barely anything for actually doing the research. The "results from previous NSF funding" section is soon going to look pretty comical. "I paid a grad student to sit on his ass because we couldn't afford doing experiments".

  • Moose says:

    As a current grad student, I appreciate being able to hear realistic talk about funding. What advice are you generally giving aspiring R1 professors these days? I'm certainly interested in doing more research/leading a research group, but GTFO sounds like a good option too.

  • BirdNerd says:

    It sounds like at least some clusters within DEB are hoping to have PO recommendations finished by the second week in December. Later than everyone would like, but still early enough to polish up that pre-proposal for January should your grant go unfunded this time around.

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