Update from FDP Meeting, 5/25/2007

Feeling refreshed from a long weekend of being exhausted by children, I’m pleased to finally write up my notes from the Update session at last week’s FDP meeting. Michael Pellegrino, Vince Sprouls, and a gentleman whose name I didn’t catch presented the latest and greatest about I had to skip out to another meeting right at the end of the session, before a discussion about potential enhancements to began. If you were there for that, please feel free to post your notes in the comments, or send them to me and I’ll post them separately.

The main point that most drew from the session, I think, is that there is no firm date available for the deployment of the 2007 system (that is, the version that uses Adobe forms). The original plan was to have it deployed by April 1st. This got pushed back to May 1st, then May 5th, then “some time in the summer”, and now there’s no timeframe being given. The cause of the delay wasn’t discussed but I’d imagine it’s something to do with how the forms are “stitched” together using Adobe, a concern I described back in September.

But there’s also a lot of good news surrounding…

  • There have been over 208,000 submissions through since it began, and over 109,000 in FY2007 alone. Let’s put that in context. The original contracts to build totaled about $25 million. That means that the average cost of submission so far is just over $120 per submission. That sounds like a lot, I know, but compare it to the costs of each agency administering its own system, managing all the paper submissions, staffing departments to do all that work, and so on. I’m betting that such a comparison would easily exceed $120 per submission, so this is a pretty good figure!
  • When the Adobe suite is available, agencies will choose whether the opportunity will be available in Adobe or PureEdge. So the control over this aspect of submission is in the agencies’ hands…at least inasmuch as will continue to support PureEdge.
  • Adobe 7.0.9 is the minimum version of Adobe that will be supported. Testing on Adobe 8 has not begun as yet.
  • All agencies will be invited to test the 2007 system, eventually. Right now there’s a tiger team having at it (NIH, Education, and NEH, if my memory serves me correctly).
  • There was a problem with the PureEdge MacViewer. IBM provided a temporary fix, and a permanent one was due last Friday. (It’s not there as of this posting.)

The schedule for the 2007 deployment will remain a big point of contention, especially with agencies, until some new commitments are made. Agencies are posting grant opportunities with long preparation periods now — some as long as 18 months, from what I understand — and the question of how the technology will support these is non-trivial to the agencies and applicants.

However, continues to develop, expand, and improve itself over time. With the support of folks like the FDP, NGP, and others, I’ve no doubt that its use (and cost-per-submission) will continue to improve.