NSF learns the art of FWDAOTI

Sep 12 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

For anyone paying attention, you'll be aware that NSF Bio has been going through some changes. First, they pulled the rug out from everyone and announced they were going to a single proposal cycle per year with a preproposal round. We're now 9 months into that and different groups, including ESA, are making noise about this change.

I've opined in the past that NSF went to the extreme this year to shock the system so that they could eventually land somewhere in between the old and revised proposal cycle. Much like a labor negotiation, the two sides start at the poles and move closer to a middle ground.

There are those who think that the ESA letter has resulted in NSF releasing a new survey on the preproposal process. But I think NSF was hoping all along to get a response from the community.

Take a look at the survey. If you're a parent you will recognize the technique immediately. There's two questions in the survey. To paraphrase, they are: 1) Do you like the shitty option we jammed down your throat or do you prefer what you were used to? 2) If you prefer 2 deadlines, are you willing to do the work necessary to sustain that model?

Classic parenting. Choose between an acceptable and unacceptable option under the agreement that you will meet my terms to make the acceptable option happen. They're not capitulating to the demands of the PIs, they are just kicking the community in the ass to get people to do what they want you to do.

NSF Bio PIs, welcome to Federal FWDAOTI!

[UPDATE: As noted in the comments, it is possible that the survey was created by the people who spearheaded the ESA letter. On close inspection, the email urging people to look at the survey is non-specific about the origin, but sent by Sarah Hobbie who was involved with the ESA letter. That the ESA folks would word the survey as they have is even more ridiculous than if NSF did it.]

17 responses so far

  • Yoder says:

    ... so you're saying you didn't answer the survey?

  • MediumPriority4Life says:

    How about MCB, within BIO, and their 8 month cycle? IMO MCB went the better route to change the system.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Dude, MCB is reportedly going to the preproposal system.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Yoder, I did fill it out. Can't wait to see how many people picked the 1 cycle per year and what their demographic is! Assuming NSF would show us the results....

  • I too had assumed that NSF made the survey, but after a close reading of the letter that was sent out announcing the survey it's now not clear to me who wrote it. It never says the survey is NSF's only that the survey is "To provide NSF Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) with feedback from the community regarding issues #2 and #3..." I think it's equally possible that the wording was constructed by the ringleaders of the petition.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Morgan, that would make it even more hilarious, in that the wording leaves no doubt what the intended answer is.

  • Morgan says:

    I had exactly the same thought. 🙂

  • DrugMonkey says:

    So it is a push poll?

  • ecologist says:

    The survey is not from NSF. It turns out that NSF is not allowed to send out a survey without having it approved by the Office of Management and Budget. Which can take up to five years. So, NSF (or, to be more exact, NSF program officers) have made it clear that they want to get input from the community, but they cannot formally put out a survey.

  • MediumPriority4Life says:

    MCB will not go to preproposals yet:

    "January 28, 2013 is the next deadline for proposals submitted to core programs in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB). The Division will accept full proposals submitted in response to solicitation 11-545. MCB has no plans to require preliminary proposals before the submission of full proposals"

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Ecologist, that's why I updated the post. Where it says Updated in bold.

    MP4L, I thought we already dealt with this in another comment section.

  • MediumPriority4Life says:

    Guess we did. I forgot I made the comment after I clicked the above link to the MCB thread.

    Anyways, I'm a fan of the 8 month cycle over the preproposal route. Sucks having to hone two writing styles to get one grant.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Unfortunately, I don't think the 8 month cycle is long for this world. The main problem with it is that MCB alternates between one and two cycles per year. Since the budget is done by year and "extra" money can't be carried over, you have a situation where POs have to get rid of a year's worth of cash in one cycle, then spend the next two cycles giving out half that. The success rate per round is going to fluctuate dramatically between those different cycles.

  • anon says:

    Can't MCB just stagger their funding decisions evenly across fiscal years despite having 2 cycles in some years and 1 cycle in others? Basically: September cycles are always for the current fiscal year, May cycles are always for the following fiscal year, and January cycles are evaluated on a timescale where they can fund half of them in the current fiscal year and the other half in the following one?

  • MediumPriority4Life says:

    Regarding MCB: My only NSF grant paid me 1/3 in year 1 and 2/3 in year 2 and 0 in year 3. Seems like they, MCB, can just alter when and how much they pay out.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I don't think that's how the Fed sees it.

  • [...] Researchers who depend on those other agencies don't necessarily have to send letters or make online surveys to try and get your attention, then wonder if anyone received [...]

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