[update]Tip of the Week: A Lapse in Appropriations, Some Affects on Research

nsfclosed[to keep abreast of the effect on research, this from is a good article from Science Careers, see below for more links and information]. Forgive me as I create a lapse in our weekly tips and instead give one ‘insider’s’ view of the shutdown (or lapse in appropriations in official parlance). This most definitely not a full understanding of how the government shutdown will effect you as a researcher, educator or student, but hopefully will give you an idea.

As many readers know, I am currently on a temporary leave from OpenHelix to work at the National Science Foundation. Though on leave, I still write Tips (among other activities) for the blog. My turn was today. Unfortunately, yesterday the government shut down and though it did, it took a lot of the day to prepare for an ‘orderly shutdown.’  We were given a large portion of the day to shut down operations. That was an intense time of emails, calls and preparations. We had to leave the office by 1:30pm. (unfortunately for me my home computer seized up in it’s own version of a shutdown the day before). So that you, our readers, may get an idea of the affect of the shutdown on NSF and research in general, allow me to relate my experience and some of the affects the shutdown will have on research and possibly you.

My work at NSF (and AAAS), for the most part, entails working on programs to broaden participation in science education. Among other activities, I organize working meetings to explore the research in the topic and develop and run a science engagement project for refugee youth.

As part of the shutdown, NSF shut it’s doors. This is pretty much a complete shut down. All NSF employees were told they had till 1:30pm to complete an “orderly shutdown” of all activities. For me this included emailing all the PIs and educators attending a meeting next week here at NSF about computer science education for those with disabilities and others that I am working with on other projects. By federal rules, no NSF employee, fellow or other staff is allowed to access email, respond to communications, work on any and all NSF-related activities, travel to conferences or meetings or otherwise conduct any business. The violation of this is a large fine.

What does that mean for those who have funding or dealings with NSF? If you have no immediate work or need to contact an NSF employee, than the effect will be minimal if the shutdown is short. If you need to submit a grant proposal, talk to a grant officer or have an NSF meeting to attend or any other business with NSF within the next few days (or as long as the shutdown lasts) you will be unable to do so. All activities have ceased. If there is an NSF meeting that takes place during the shutdown, it is canceled.

For example, I have been planning and organizing a meeting here at NSF for educators in computer science for persons with disabilities. It has entailed everything from getting rooms settled to setting agendas to choosing reviewers to procuring ASL interpreters and translating documents into Braille. If the shutdown continues into next week, that meeting will be canceled  and all attendees will be unable to come. So, in my case, if the shutdown lasted into the next week, this even would be canceled, the researchers and educators (about 20) attending will have to cancel their flights and plans and all arrangements will be for naught. Obviously this will have some costs from lost flights and plans, but it will also mean that hundreds of man hours of past work will be wasted.

If you have a current award, there should be little impact in the short term, but no new solicitations will be made, grants will not be allowed to be submitted, etc. As the homepage now says:

No new funding opportunities (program descriptions, announcements or solicitations) will be issuedFastLane proposal preparation and submission will be unavailable.Grants.gov may be up and running, however, since FastLane will not be operating, proposal downloads from Grants.govwill not take place. Therefore proposals will not be checked for compliance with NSF proposal preparation requirements or processed until normal operations are allowed to resume.”

The National Institutes of Health will also shutdown though the impact will be somewhat different. Since NIH is a research institution in addition to be a granting one (NSF is a granting institution), all research at NIH will cease. Universities will feel little short term affect as one of the three granting cycles just completed. That said, October 5th is the next round of deadlines and if the shut down continues past that date, no grant applications will be accepted. A short shutdown will only delay the processing of those grants for up to a month, the longer the delay the more exponentially delayed the process will become because of backlogs.

There are other effects on the shutdown on researchers also. Visa sponsorships or requests from visiting scientists will not be issued during the shutdown and some activities will be postponed or cease. Another example from my own work is the science engagement program I run for refugee youth. Though not funded through NSF, it is something I do under my fellowship and thus I am not allowed to work on it. THis means the program will be halted until further notice and the students will not be able to participate in the activities they’ve been very excited to do.

So, let’s reiterate the top 10 effects on research the shutdown will have:

10. NSF, NIH and other agency websites and information will be unavailable or affected. Many databases such as PubMed will not be updated or maintained.
9. Visas for visiting scientists to the US or scientists collaborating overseas will not be processed.
8. Payments of student loans and stipends might be slowed or otherwise affected in the long term.
7. NIH, NSF and other agency-hosted meetings and discussions will cease.
6. New grants proposals will not be accepted, processed or reviewed.
5. Contractors and businesses that rely on NSF, NIH and other research and granting institutions will receive no business and payments will be delayed.
4. Government employed researchers, grant officers and staff (at NIH and NSF among other agencies) will not be paid.
3. Government employed researchers, grant officers and staff will not be allowed to work or contribute to any and all meetings, work-related activities or communications.
2. Research at NIH (and some other agencies such as Energy’s ARPA-E) will cease.

and the number one affect (at least in the sadness factor)
1. Children with cancer will be turn away at NIH.

Do you know of an effect missed here? Comment!

An article from ThinkProgress about some other effects on science and research including other agencies such as NOAA, etc.

A long Reddit discussion from scientists  (with some good pointers and not-so-good stories) about the effects.

Don’t worry, the lapse in a video tip will not be long as the shutdown. I have a lot of time today :D , so will be doing one for later.