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Simplifying US grants - White House to review recommendations on streamlining processes as new grant site debuts Editor`s note: This isn`t specifcially brain tumor related, but it may be useful for our readers who are researchers looking for grants.

Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)


Posted on: 12/14/2003

Simplifying US grants - White House to review recommendations on streamlining processes as new grant site debuts

December 12, 2003
| By Ted Agres

WASHINGTON, DC—When it comes to managing federal research grants, the government must revamp its policies and procedures so scientists don't waste time filling out tons of paperwork and grant managers don't go crazy trying to follow Byzantine rules and regulations, according to the cochair of a White House National Science and Technology Council panel.

“To the extent we have cumbersome, unpredictable, and downright annoying rules and regulations, people will figure out how to get around them,” said Constance W. Atwell, who is also director of extramural research at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “We want scientists to be doing the science, not administration, to the greatest extent possible.”

Atwell and other government officials this week shared results from a broad survey of ideas on ways to make life easier and more productive for scientists conducting federally funded research. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) earlier this year had invited scientists and research institutions to suggest ways that government agencies could improve their policies and practices.

Scientific associations, universities, research institutions, and individual scientists submitted dozens of suggestions. Three regional workshops were held around the country to flesh out recommendations. This week's workshop was held here to present the findings.

“We have a pretty good idea of what's wrong, and now we have to sort it out and deal with it,” said Rodney Brown, deputy undersecretary for research, education, and economics at the Department of Agriculture and the other cochair of the OSTP subcommittee conducting the assessment.

Public comments and written responses fell largely into four main areas, said Geoff Grant, staff director of the Research Business Models Subcommittee:

Scientific research: Respondents recommended that the federal government help facilitate research opportunities and remove barriers to collaboration; provide consistent financial support to graduates and postdocs through stipends, tuition benefits, and salaries; and allow investigators to focus on science by minimizing unnecessary administration.

Partnerships with granting agencies and the government: Respondents noted that smaller universities and organizations do not have the resources to deal with government requirements and require more agency support. Agreement should be reached by agencies, auditors, and the research community on acceptable principles and business standards, they said. “We don't want to manage to the exceptions and penalize the vast majority of people who are doing the right thing,” Atwell said.

Streamlining accountability: Recommendations included reducing or eliminating multiple and overlapping agency audits, emphasizing good practices, and maintaining the Single Audit Act, OMB Circular A-133, which establishes standards of consistency that federal agencies must follow when auditing universities and nonprofit research organizations receiving federal grants.

Standardizing cost sharing and infrastructure support: Many respondents criticized the federal government's 26% cap on reimbursing administrative costs of research. “Caps on administration, salary, tuition, etc. undermine the institutions' ability to carry out research,” Grant quoted respondents as saying. “Equitable, effective, and appropriate costing and regulatory systems [should] reflect the diversity of research providers.”

Subcommittee members plan to review the recommendations in early January. “There are lists and lists of suggestions,” Atwell said. “We have to choose what to put our weight behind.” Atwell warned that full cost reimbursement, for example, was unlikely. Senior OSTP officials will meet in February and in March.

In a related development, on December 9 the government unveiled a new grant-related Internet site, The Web portal includes information about some 800 grant programs involving all 26 federal grant-making agencies. Five agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the National Institutes of Health, also have posted application packages. More will be added over time.

“By putting relevant information in one place, we're helping to level the playing field for organizations less familiar with federal grant programs so that they too can identify and apply for appropriate grants,” said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson in a statement.

“Request for information regarding National Science and Technology Council/Committee on Science/Subcommittee on Research Business Models,” Federal Register notice, 68:46631-46632, August 6, 2003.

August 6, 2003: Request for information regarding National Science and Technology Council/Committee on Science/Subcommittee on Research Business Models, Subcommittee on Research Business Models Summary of Comments

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