As observed today in Nature (& blogged here earlier in the year), the NSF is doing a very precise time audit of funded researchers to ensure they actually spend as much time as they are paid for on specific projects. So far, UPenn and Caltech have been scrutinized and found wanting (Caltech took a hit to their indirect cost rate). The next batch of reports will cover UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, U Utah, U Ill Urb-Cham, and Vanderbilt. Not surprisingly, everyone is being tight-lipped about the entire process. So much for NSF’s concern about administrative burden.
Update: Speak of the devil. The US DHHS Office of the Inspector General has released its FY08 Work Plan. Among the fun doings to anticipate, “We will review administrative and clerical salaries charged to federally sponsored grants and cooperative agreements by colleges and universities…. We will review colleges’ and universities’ compliance with selected aspects of OMB Circular A-21. … We will review NIH’s monitoring of extramural grantees for potential conflicts of interest. We will focus on financial conflicts of interest that grantee institutions report to NIH, as well as the extent to which NIH oversees grantees’ monitoring and management of potential financial conflicts of interest.” And somehow this slipped past those crack federal editors: “We will review the extent to which Data and Safety Monitoring Boards (DSMB) in clinical trials.” Hmmm.
Our friend Brian Martinson and his group in Minnesota note that misreporting is the norm: 70% of mid-career scientists winning their first R01 use at least some of the funds for other projects. Of course, this is getting harder to do now when the NIH lops 20% off your approved budget just for starters.
All I can say is wait until the CTSAers have to start logging in NUMBERS OF HOURS PER PERSON OR PROJECT (fractions of hours even!) in a central database. I am so far behind logging in my own effort it isn’t funny … and it really puts a damper on wanting to help people because, damn, then I have to log the hours and probably create a new account describing the person & their research & exactly what CTSA services they received. Criminey. Nothing like making the support of innovative translational research such a joy.