Archive for the 'Funding News' Category

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SciENcv, New NIH tool for Biosketches

“NIH has worked closely with six other federal agencies (DOD, DOE, EPA, NSF, USDA, and the Smithsonian), the Federal Demonstration Partnership, and the extramural research community to create a system that will provide comprehensive curriculum vita information, and at the same time reduce the burden associated with applying for research support. This system — the Science Experts Network or SciENcv — enables researchers to easily maintain and generate biosketches for federal grant applications and progress reports, and, as of September, is available to the public in a beta version.” More information is at

Try it by going to My NCBI and sign in at

NIH May Limit Grant Applications

via Chronicle of Higher Education.
By: Paul Basken

The NIH, the nation’s largest provider of basic research money to universities, has seen its budget cut so much over the last decade that scientists now have only about a 15-percent chance of a successful grant application.

In response to such budget-related stresses, NIH officials are mulling their options. Certainly the agency has been pressing Congress to provide more money. But it is also evaluating ways of being more efficient with the money it has, and that includes changing its own celebrated peer-review system for awarding grants.

Read the full story | NIH Analysis of Applications and Success Rates

Dissertation Fellowship Program

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College announces the 2014 Dissertation Fellowship Program for research on retirement income and policy issues, funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration.

The Dissertation Fellowships support doctoral candidates writing dissertations on retirement income and policy issues. The program is open to scholars in all academic disciplines. Priority areas include:

  • Social Security
  • Macroeconomic analyses of Social Security
  • Wealth and retirement income
  • Program interactions
  • International research
  • Demographic research

Up to two fellowships of $28,000 will be awarded.

The submission deadline for proposals is Friday, February 14, 2014. Award recipients will be announced by April 2014.

Visit the Dissertation Fellowship website to view the proposal guidelines.

Previous awardees include Desmond Toohey.

The 2014 Steven H. Sandell Grant Program

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College announces the 2014 Steven H. Sandell Grant Program for research on retirement income and policy, funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration. Priority areas include:

  • Social Security
  • Macroeconomic analyses of Social Security
  • Wealth and retirement income
  • Program interactions
  • International research
  • Demographic research

Grant Awards

Up to two grants of $45,000 will be awarded based upon the quality of the applicant’s proposal and his or her proposed budget. Applicants are required to complete the research outlined in the proposal within one year of the award. A select group of grant winners will be required to present their work to the Social Security Administration in Washington, DC or Baltimore.


The submission deadline for the 2014 Sandell Grant Program is February 14, 2013. Download this year’s proposal guidelines and budget matrix.

Previous Awardees include Lauren Hersch Nicholas.

See the website for more information or to submit an application.

Dear Congress: Why are you doing this?

It is likely that the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis will be resolved this week, but there has still been harm to the data and research infrastructure. Bookmark this post and use it as notes for your next letter to your representatives.

The Government Shutdown was Temporary, Its Damage to Science Permanent
Andrew Rosenberg | Scientific American
October 18, 2013

Federally funded science allows us to do things as a country that we could never do alone. But the threat of shutdown, combined with inconsistent funding from Congress, leaves America’s scientific enterprise in the lurch.

Shutdown: It ain’t over when it’s over
Jeff Neal | Federal News Radio
October 15, 2013
Author notes that the shutdown is not a toggle switch, where we can easily switch the government back to “on.” There rare many repercussions of the shutdown, detailed in the post.

Sunday Shutdown Reader: Harold Varmus on Self-Destruction in the Sciences
James Fallows | The Atlantic
October 13, 2013

Closed Question
Editorial | Nature
October 9, 2013
The US shutdown is damaging science, and Congress must be called to account.
There are more specific stories, linked to the end of this editorial. In case, they don’t remain linked, here they are:
NASA missions struggle to cope with shutdown
08 October 2013
US Antarctic research season is in jeopardy
04 October 2013
NIH shutdown effects multiply
02 October 2013
US government shuts down
01 October 2013

Cancelled NIH study sections: a subtle, yet disastrous, effect of the government shutdown
Rafael Irizarry | StatsBlogs
October 10, 2013
(This article was originally published at Simply Statistics, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

The New York Times has a series of editorials, all tagged with “Government Shutdown.” I’ll link to one of them on funding the Census Bureau.

To Stop the Craziness in Washington, Fund the Census
Teresa Tritch | New York Times
October 4, 2013

And, finally, most readers of this blog probably received an Action Alert from Population Association of America (PAA). When it shows up on the PAA website, I’ll link to it here.

Scientific version of insider trading

This is not within demography, but here’s a snippet that every researcher shudders to think about:

[From the Retraction Watch website]

Case Western dermatology department hit with second ORI sanction within 6 months

The charge:

“engaged in research misconduct by plagiarizing significant portions from research grant application R21 AR061881 that she had reviewed for NIAMS, NIH, and inserting that text into her submitted grant application R01 AR062378-01. Respondent also plagiarized significant portions of text from the following scientific articles and one U.S. patent application available on the Internet.”

Friday News: Bad

Here is some bad news for scientific research funding, which pretty much missed the news cycle. This will be updated with the reactions and responses which will hit the media cycle next week.

NSF cancels political-science grant cycle
US funding agency said to be dodging restrictions set by Congress.
Beth Mole | Nature
August 2, 2013

The NSF’s decision removes one of the main financial lifelines for political-science research. “This is somewhere between devastating and crippling,” says Henry Farrell, a political scientist at George Washington University in Washington DC and an author of the Monkey Cage, a widely read political-science blog. But Farrell blames the political climate rather than the funding agency for the cut. “The NSF is in an extremely awkward situation,” he says.

. . . . . Avoiding the August funding round may be a strategic move by Hume to see whether the constraints disappear when the next spending bill is passed, says Aldrich. “If he can save the money and spend it later when there’s more clarity, that would be helpful,” Aldrich says.

Other researchers agree. “I think they’re probably worried about upsetting Congress,” says Rick Wilson, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and editor of the American Journal of Political Science. “So why not pull the plug rather than risk it?”

Why is Science Behind a Paywall?

This is one of the more thorough pieces on the open data/open access issue. And, it is a timely piece as Pamela Smock takes over the editorship of Demography, which is a Springer product. Springer is mentioned in the piece.

Why is Science Behind a Paywall?
Alex Mayyasi | The priceonomics blog
May 10, 2013

Canada’s “NSF” Problem

House Republicans are trying to implement serious changes to the evaluation and funding of NSF science [here and here].

Canada is perhaps a bit further down this road. Here’s the latest on the decision to fund research that has industry applications rather than basic science.

When science goes silent
Jonathan Gatehouse | MacLean’s
May 3, 2013
This article touches on the shift in funding from basic science to applied science, but it is more in-line with an earlier post on the muzzling of environmental scientists.

National Research Council move shifts feds’ science role
Canadian Press | CBC News
May 7, 2013
‘Job-neutral’ restructuring to make agency streamlined, efficient and functional, president says

The Harper government is telling the National Research Council to focus more on practical, commercial science and less on fundamental science that may not have obvious business applications.

The government says the council traditionally was a supporter of business, but has wandered from that in recent years — and will now get back to working on practical applications for industries.

Some folks disagree with this shift:

In a statement, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers said the government is “killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

“By transforming the NRC into a “business-driven, industry-relevant” organization, you are denying its ability to support basic research,” said Jim Turk.

“At the same time, you are cutting support to basic research in the universities.”

And is this part of the Tory ‘war on science’? [more coverage on this]

NDP science critic Kennedy Stewart called the shift in direction for the NRC “short-sighted” and said it could actually hurt economic growth in the long run, because it scales back the kind of fundamental research that can lead to scientific breakthroughs.

Research Council to focus on commercially viable projects, rather than science for science’s sake
Jessica Hume | Sun News
May 7, 2013
Two quotes say it all:

The government of Canada believes there is a place for curiosity-driven, fundamental scientific research, but the National Research Council is not that place.

“Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value,” John McDougall, president of the NRC, said in announcing the shift in the NRC’s research focus away from discovery science solely to research the government deems “commercially viable”.

Political Science is not Alone [NSF]

The following are a series of articles on the potential changes to how NSF projects are reviewed and funded. They are in chronological order.

The first is the draft of the High Quality Research Act. It takes some time before that name shows up in an article.

High Quality Research Research Act: [Discussion Draft]
April 18, 2013

NSF Peer Review Under Scrutiny by House Science Panel
Jeffrey Mervis | ScienceInsider
April 18, 2013

“The peer-review process is the backbone of our basic research enterprise, and we’ve done very well with it,” he [Holdren] told Representative Randy Weber (R-TX). “That doesn’t say it never makes a mistake. But I think it’s better than any alternative, including me or you trying to determine what is good basic research in fields not our own.”

Holdren didn’t flinch when asked specifically by Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) whether he agreed that Coburn’s two criteria—that a political science grant must relate to economic or national security interests—”were a good and proper filter” to apply to all proposals. “I respectfully disagree,” Holdren replied. “I think that it is too narrowly drawn.”

Posey then asked Holdren to suggest other criteria that should be applied. The question gave Holdren a chance to deliver his real take-home message. “I think it’s a dangerous thing for Congress, or anybody else, to be trying to specify in detail what types of fundamental research NSF should be funding,” he told Posey.

Political Science is not alone
Henry Farrell | The Monkey Cage blog
April 26, 2013
The title to this entry is because earlier this year, political science research was singled out as not worthy of funding by NSF. The threat has expanded to the rest of the scientific community, although social sciences seem the most vulnerable. See previous PSC-Info blog entry for more.

U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants
Jeffrey Mervis | ScienceInsider
April 28, 2013

Quotes by Eddie Bernice Johnson, ranking Democrat on the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology:

“In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF,” Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. “I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value.”

In her letter, Johnson warns Smith that “the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare.” She asks him to “withdraw” his letter and offers to work with him “to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort” to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.

Links to Letters: via @kjhealy on Twitter
Lamar Smith to Cora Marrett
Eddie Bernice Johnson to Lamar Smith and Cora Marrett

Note that one of the NSF studies that Lamar Smith did not think warranted funding was titled “The International Criminal Court and the Pursuit of Justice” which was pretty close to the title of PSC’s April 29th brownbag “On the Use of Demographic Evidence at International War Crime Tribunals”

House chair wants congressional guidelines to replace peer review for federal science research
Tim Carmody | The Verge
April 29, 2013

A Congressman’s Own Peer Review
Doug Lederman | Inside Higher Education
April 29, 2013

Eddie Bernice Johnson vs Lamar Smith and the NSF
John Sides | Monkey Cage blog
April 29, 2013

Lamar Smith, GOP Push Politicization of Scientific Research
Ryan Grim | Huffington Post
April 29, 2013
This is one of the few articles the “not duplicative” requirement:

“The requirements laid out in the bill are problematic on several levels. The basic scientific method itself is by its nature duplicative, and is often carried out purely for investigative purposes.”

Obama Promises to Protect Peer Review in Salute to NAS
David Malakoff | ScienceInsider
April 29, 2013
Obama was speaking at the 150th anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, but touched on the issues associated with NSF funding:

In addition to touting his administration’s support for research, Obama took an oblique swipe at political adversaries in Congress who want to require the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other funding agencies to adopt new grant funding criteria.

“[W]e’ve got to protect our rigorous peer review system and ensure that we only fund proposals that promise the biggest bang for taxpayer dollars,” Obama said. “And I will keep working to make sure that our scientific research does not fall victim to political maneuvers or agendas that in some ways would impact on the integrity of the scientific process.”

Obama also gave a shout-out to the social sciences, which have borne the brunt of recent congressional complaints. “[O]ne of the things that I’ve tried to do over these last 4 years and will continue to do over the next 4 years is to make sure that we are promoting the integrity of our scientific process,” he said. “That not just in the physical and life sciences, but also in fields like psychology and anthropology and economics and political science—all of which are sciences because scholars develop and test hypotheses and subject them to peer review—but in all the sciences, we’ve got to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they’re not subject to politics, that they’re not skewed by an agenda, that, as I said before, we make sure that we go where the evidence leads us. And that’s why we’ve got to keep investing in these sciences.”

The Republican War on Social Science
Dave Weigel | Slate
May 1, 2013
Great introduction to a mostly sobering piece on the lack of response by Democrats to Republican attacks on science, data, information.

The first time anyone outside of Florida’s Space Coast heard of Rep. Bill Posey, he was talking about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. It was March 2009. Posey had been in office for two months, and he was the first to propose a bill requiring presidential nominees to hand over “documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility.” He was Internet-famous overnight. Stephen Colbert was asking him to prove that he, Posey, wasn’t part alligator. “There is no reason to say that I’m the illegitimate grandson of an alligator,” said the congressman.

Posey’s been re-elected twice since then, and on April 17, he got the chance to stare down the president’s science czar, John Holdren. Posey and fellow Republicans on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee wanted Holdren to explain why the National Science Foundation was wasting so much money from an asked-for budget of $7.6 billion.

Lamar Smith: Science Peer Review Process Would ‘Improve’ With Political Oversight
Michael McAuliff | Huffington Post
April 30, 2013
It is all in the first sentence:

“The chairman of the House Science Committee on Tuesday defended his controversial draft legislation that would subject the National Science Foundation’s peer review process to politics as necessary to “improve” science.”

Lamar Smith, [R, TX] says that the bill is bipartisan:
“The draft legislation was the result of bipartisan discussions about how NSF grants should be prioritized. It was circulated to Committee Democratic staff, the NSF and the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. This was a first step in what we hoped would be a bipartisan initiative to improve accountability of NSF grants.”

Dear Congress: Why are you so Anti-Science?
Rebecca Boyle | Popular Science
May 2, 2013
This is a really strong piece, covering the long-term implications of changing the way science is reviewed and funded. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Of the many and varied things going wrong in Washington today, the frontal assault on science is one of the most alarming. Sequestration will be a blip compared to the setback that could result if Congress makes science–the peer-reviewed, community-checked, fact-based realm of science–all about politics.

The chair of the U.S. House of Representatives’ science committee is floating a bill that would eliminate peer review at the National Science Foundation, essentially replacing it with a Congressional stamp of approval. President Obama has signaled he opposes this, and the bill’s future is unclear right now. But Republican lawmakers are nothing if not tenacious.

Science has been suffocating in a toxic political atmosphere for years, with national leaders outwardly denying climate change is happening, celebrities pushing dangerous anti-vaccine (and anti-science) views on a frightened and malleable public, and conservatives angling to teach creationism using taxpayer dollars. The proposed 2014 federal budget doesn’t help, with major cuts in planetary research and high-energy physics just two of the problems. But this latest salvo could be one of the most damaging anti-science campaigns yet.

That’s because on its face, it sounds innocuous. Wise, even. It’s called the “High Quality Research Act.”

Is Any Science Safe?
Kenneth Prewitt | Science
May 3, 2013
Prewitt argues against the micromanaging of NSF grants on several grounds. He provides excellent background for each point he makes:

“First, it favors research that promises near-term benefits, overlooking the fact that there is knowledge useful under today’s conditions and knowledge that becomes useful when conditions change.”

“Science is an interconnected enterprise. Research on schoolyard bullies can unexpectedly lead to theory that explains suicide bombers. Two U.S. political scientists, Herbert Simon and Elinor Ostrom, received Nobel Prizes for theoretical work on government decisionmaking under uncertainty. Their theories are broadly applicable, including in explanations of failed states—often home to terrorist cells.”

“Members of Congress who believe that the executive branch should not try to pick winners and losers in the market economy should certainly realize that the legislative branch should not try to pick winners and losers in science.”

Congressional debate over science funding draws fire from critics
Wynne Perry | Fox News
May 3, 2013
This piece is littered with quotes from scientists who are against the rule changes. It does include an argument for Constitutional support for Congressional oversight:

Proponents of more oversight do have a strong argument, Cook-Deegan said, because the U.S. Constitution gives Congress oversight over executive branch agencies, including the NSF. (Congress, as part of the federal budget, approves the NSFs budget.)

Both Smith and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who proposed the criteria for political science studies, have questioned the merits of individual, NSF-funded studies. Their lists have included studies on the evolving depiction of animals in the magazine National Geographic; on attitudes toward majority rule and minority rights focusing on the Senate filibuster; and on the International Criminal Court and the African Union Commissions interpretation of international justice and human rights.

These lists are the latest in a well-established history of singling out individual research projects for criticism. Beginning in March 1975, Wisconsin Sen. William Proxmire began issuing Golden Fleece Awards, highlighting what he considered wasteful government spending. His research picks included studies to determine why people fall in love, and under what conditions people, monkeys and rats bite and clench their jaws, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that social science research, including political science, has been a particular target for Republican lawmakers. Historically, conservatives have perceived social science as a tool to advance the liberal agenda, Cook-Deegan said.

This perception has created political conflict over research in a number of topics, including gun violence, he said. Gun violence research, stymied for many years by congressional decree, received a boost from President Barack Obama earlier this year as part of his response to the shootings in Newtown, Conn.