Following a fender bender on Dolly Madison Parkway last Thursday, I made it to the National Grants Management Association’s monthly lunch at Maggiano’s in Tenleytown. Tom Cooley, CFO of the National Science Foundation, was the speaker and he had a lot of interesting information to share. The presentation Tom gave can be found on NSF.gov so I won’t recount that. But here are some tidbits I picked up:
- Tom noted that Grants.gov is reproducing NSF’s experience with FastLane: IT is charging ahead of policy. FastLane was in production in 1994 but only became truly useful in 2000; the same maturity cycle is evident for Grants.gov. The Grants Policy Committee (GPC), which Tom heads up, will start readdressing the technology-policy balance.
- The latest OMB-approved number for grant-making in the federal government is $540 billion. That’s a lot higher than the $425 billion that The NGP found in Census data, as it now includes mandatory grant-making dollars.
- NIH is mandating that all 80,000 SBIR grant applications should be submitted electronically in this cycle. That’s a huge effort. They also expect 300,000 R01’s in January 2006.
- The R+R dataset is pretty well established, and has a group with momentum pushing it along. The same cannot be said for the non‑R+R grant types, and the GPC is trying to initiate this. (Interested? Contact Tom Cooley!)
- He’s also looking for a chair of the Mandatory Work Group, since Tyson Whitney moved on to other things at USDA.
- Following input from The NGP, the FDP, and others, the GPC intends to involve stakeholders in their decision-making process as much as possible. From what was said, I don’t think it will be “lip service” this time. We can only hope. I know that The NGP and The FDP have already been asked to submit some thoughts to the GPC for this purpose.
- Tom reminded the attendees that all grant applications must be submitted electronically by the end of FY2008. Given this target, NIH is clearly getting out in front of this!
- Regarding the Grants Management Line of Business, Tom anticipates that there will be 4 or 5 service centers by “2009…or 2014, take your pick,” he teased.
- He anticipates that the November 2005 OMB passback language will clearly indicate that the GMLOB should move full-speed toward the consortia model that is well-known by now. This will give agencies some much-needed solidity in their planning.
- However, he also warned that the service centers won’t start operating until FY2007 and, if FastLane and Grants.gov’s experiences are anything to go by, won’t see much traction until FY2009.
- Some agencies are already consolidating, regardless of GMLOB or Grants.gov activities. An example is an MOU that has apparently been signed between USDA CSREES and NSF. (Disclaimer: TCG has an IT support contract at CSREES.)
- Finally, Tom noted that the establishment of grants service centers represents opportunities for grant professionals. Bigger organizations require more management and therefore more promotional opportunities for all.
I’ll certainly be seeking out Tom’s future speaking engagements. He is erudite and informative. NGMA lunches are always time well-spent in the company of others with deep investment in Grants.gov, GMLOB, and grants administration. This month I met some nice chaps from Booz Allen Hamilton, Aleda Robinson from the Corporation for National and Community Service, and two GAO representatives who are working on a follow-up to GAO’s April grants streamlining report.