Thursday, February 12, 2009

Taken for Granted is designed to be a site for one-stop-shopping for those pursuing taxpayer-funded projects, but even the site's own FAQ acknowledges possible pitfalls to be encountered in its Byzantine procedures and from its overloaded servers nearing deadline times.

Blogger Isaac Seliger has described in " Lurches Into the 21st Century" some of the problems with at all levels from platform to interface to code, as the following passage indicates.

One fun aspect of submitting through is that the system generates a total of three emails after upload to confirm the upload process, but gives itself 48 hours to do so. Thus, the real world deadline for submissions is actually two days in advance of the published deadline, since, unless there is a system meltdown, the funding agency is unlikely to give you any slack. So, if the upload gets screwed up, you’re generally screwed as well. And, of course tech support (actually provided by IBM) is closed on weekends, making Monday submissions especially festive. Finally, the tech support people have no knowledge of the funding programs and the program officers at the funding agencies have little if any technical knowledge. This sets up a perfect opportunity for being bounced back and forth between the two, making a call to tech support a virtual guarantee of frustration.

This endemic problem with lag time is an open secret at universities, which have designed means to compensate for problems with agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities by building in safeguarding procedures of their own.

Cheryl Ball
passed on the following amazing piece of bureaucratic prose from her own university's guidelines on how to handle online submission with

The federal grant submission system is currently experiencing significant system problems. These problems stem from the system’s inability to process ever larger numbers of submissions as additional federal agencies require submission through this system. As a result, university research offices across the nation are finding that they are unable to log in to the system. If they are able to log in they are unable to submit, and if they are able to submit they do not receive a tracking number – required for a submission to be considered submitted “on time” by the posted deadline. It is taking 3-7 days of continual attempts to submit to receive the tracking number prior to the posted deadline for grant opportunities.

If the proposal does not get processed through the system (assigned a tracking number) prior to the posted deadline, it will be considered “late” and not accepted for review. There are no allowances made for system problems. The and agency stance is that we have been advised that the system is overloaded and having problems, so it is the PI/institutions fault if the proposal is not processed due to system problems.

Therefore the following process is recommended and requested:

1. PIs should contact RSP for an appointment to come in to review the appropriate submission package forms and requirements as soon as they think they might submit.

2. As work on the submission progresses, PIs should email the application package to their contact in RSP so review can begin on sections as they are completed. If the application package becomes too large to email to RSP, it may be sent to RSP on a flashdrive .

3. 1 week prior to the posted grant proposal deadline the PI must bring the completed proposal application package and the completed RSP Proposal Submission Form to RSP for review. Please note that RSP staff work Monday through Friday 8am to 4:30 pm, and are not available to assist PIs after hours or on the weekend.

4. Proposals must be submitted by the ISU internal deadline to insure that RSP has adequate time to review the proposal.

5. Failure to submit a proposal to RSP by the internal deadline may result in the rejection of your proposal due to errors or omissions or overload.

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