Federal Government Shutdown Showdown

Update: OER has released a Notice on the shutdown – here are the key points:

CONTACT WITH NIH STAFF

E-mail, Phone, Fax, and Postal Mail Contacts:  For the duration of the funding lapse, NIH extramural employees will be prohibited from working (remotely or in the office).  Consequently, there will be no access to voice mail, e-mail, fax, or postal mail during this period.  Mail requiring someone to sign/accept may not be received.  All other postal mail, fax, and voice mail communications will not be acted upon until after operations resume. It is recommended that you delay sending such communications until after operations resume.

Help Desk Support:  For the duration of the funding lapse, all help desks, central e-mail boxes, and web ticketing systems for questions related to NIH grants policy and electronic grants systems will not be available, including the eRA Helpdesk and Grants Information Services.

In the event of an emergency involving human safety, please contact Dr. Sally Rockey at rockeysa@od.nih.gov.

SUBMISSION OF GRANT APPLICATIONS

For the duration of the funding lapse, applicants are strongly encouraged not to submit paper or electronic grant applications to NIH during the period of the lapse.  Adjustments to application submission dates that occur during the funding lapse will be announced once operations resume.  For any applications submitted immediately prior to or during the funding lapse, here is what will happen.

  1. For electronic submissions through Grants.gov: Grants.gov will be open and can accept electronic applications.  However, applications will not be processed by NIH until the eRA Systems are back on-line.  NIH will ensure that all applications submitted within the two business days before or during the funding lapse will receive the full viewing window once the systems are back on-line.
  2. For electronic submission of multi-project applications through NIH’s ASSIST system: The ASISST system will not be available until NIH systems are back on-line.
  3. Paper Submissions: Staff will not be available to receive paper applications during a funding lapse.

The safest course is to wait to submit any application to NIH until after operations resume and a Notice in the NIH Guide concerning adjusted submission dates is posted.

PEER REVIEW AND COUNCIL MEETINGS

Initial Peer Review Meetings:  For the duration of the funding lapse, the NIH will not be able to conduct initial peer review meetings – whether in-person or through teleconferences or other electronic media. Also during this time, the NIH staff will not be able to send or receive email messages, or update website information, and NIH computer systems that support review functions will not be operational.  When operations resume, those meetings will be re-scheduled and the pending applications will be processed and reviewed as soon as possible.

Also, the results, including final impact scores and summary statements, of some peer review meetings that took place prior to the orderly shutdown of operations may not be available until operations resume.  Therefore, applicants with applications going through the peer review process should stay tuned to the national news to determine when operations of the government resume, and then check the NIH website for information on any review meetings that may have been extended or re-scheduled.  The results of meetings held prior to a potential funding lapse will be released as soon as possible after resumption of operations.

Individuals who had agreed to serve on NIH review panels (”study sections”) that were scheduled to meet during the funding lapse will not be able to access the Internet Assisted Review (IAR) site or other NIH web-based systems during that time. Reviewers who were scheduled to travel for a review meeting on a day when operations are down will not be able to board a plane or train, and will be sent instructions on how to handle their reservations.  Reviewers who are attending an NIH review panel on the day of orderly shutdown will be able to change their travel plans and return home.  Therefore, peer reviewers should stay tuned to the national news to determine when operations of the NIH will resume, and then check the NIH website for information on meetings that have been re-scheduled.   As soon as possible after operations resume, the NIH Scientific Review Officer in charge of the review meeting will contact those reviewers with more detailed information.

Advisory Council Review: The NIH will not be able to conduct Advisory Council review meetings – whether in-person or through teleconferences or other electronic media – during the funding lapse.  Also during this time, the NIH staff will not be able to send or receive email messages, or update website information, and NIH computer systems that support review functions will not be operational.  Therefore, no applications will be processed for Council review or be taken to Council meetings during that time.  When operations resume, those pending applications will be processed, and meetings will be re-scheduled as soon as possible.

Applicants with applications pending Council review during that time should check the NIH website for information after operations resume.  Advisory Council members should stay tuned to the national news to determine when operations of the government will resume, and then check the NIH website for information on Council meetings that have been re-scheduled.   As soon as possible after operations resume, the NIH Executive Secretary in charge of the Council meeting will contact those Council members with more detailed information.

AWARDED GRANTS

Currently Active Grant Awards:  For the duration of the funding lapse, all work and activities performed under currently active NIH grant awards may continue.  However, see below for limits on performing many of the reporting requirements associated with NIH grant funding.

Progress Reports:

  1. Electronically Submitted Progress Reports:  For any progress reports due during the funding lapse, the eRA Commons will not be accessible.  Users will need to wait until the eRA Commons is back on-line before these progress reports can be submitted.
  2. Paper Submitted Progress Reports:  No NIH staff will be available to receive paper progress reports. Therefore, institutions are encouraged to delay mailing all paper progress reports due during the funding lapse until after operations resume.

Notice of Awards (NoAs):  No NIH grant awards will be processed for the duration of the funding lapse.  For any awards processed before the funding lapse that have an issue date during the funding lapse, the awards will not be sent to the grantee on the issue date.  Once operations resume, all pending NoAs will be sent.  This will not affect the start date nor the issue date of these awards; it just affects the date the award document is actually sent to the grantee and available for access in the eRA Commons.  In the absence of actually receiving the NoA, institutions may use pre-award costs authority at their own risk.

No-cost Extension Notifications:   The eRA Commons will not be accessible during the funding lapse.  Further, no-cost extension notification cannot be submitted via the Commons once the expiration date of the grant has passed.  For any grants due to expire during the funding lapse that plans to be given a no-cost extension, a paper notification to the IC will be required after operations resume.

General Access to eRA Commons and Other OER-Supported Systems:  The eRA Commons will not be accessible during the funding lapse.  Therefore, no user will be able to access the Commons for viewing electronically submitted applications, accessing Internet Assisted Review, or processing such actions as Commons Registration, FSRs/FFRs, xTrain documents, Closeout documents, and/or FCOI notifications etc.  Further there will be no ability to access Commons for query or other purposes.  There also will be no access to the Interagency Edison or Electronic Council Books systems.

Prior Approval Requests and Other Communications:  NIH extramural employees will have no access to voice mail, e-mail, fax, or postal mail during the funding lapse.  All prior approval requests and other communications will not be received until operations resume.  It is recommended that you delay sending such communications until after operations resume.

Access to HHS Payment Management System (PMS):   For the duration of the funding lapse, the HHS PMS will be open; however, no Federal staff will be available to assist or process any requests.  Therefore, drawdowns (payments) on accounts can be processed as long as no Federal staff action is required to finalize the payment.  For most NIH grantees, this means drawdowns should be possible.  However, if a particular grant is on a reimbursement basis for withdrawing funds or otherwise restricted, then these requests cannot not be processed until after Federal Government operations resume.

I will update this post as I learn more, but the key message to convey right now is that your SRO and/or PO will not be able to (as in, prohibited from doing so) communicate with you during a federal government shutdown … and that they likely would not have any useful information at this point anyway. All extramural staff will be furloughed (only 27% of NIH employees will continue working during a shutdown, those providing clinical care at the CC plus animal care and some security personnel).

9 Comments »

  1. You are providing an amazing service with these updates. I don’t have much in terms of new intelligence about the shutdown, but Science has been posting updates on the Science Careers blog. Here’s the latest about the looming shutdown, which includes both NIH and NSF info.
    http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2013_09_30/caredit.a1300215

    • writedit said

      Thanks so much for posting the Science Careers link. I will add the notice about canceling meetings above – nice to have the NSF update here.

  2. scientist said

    “At those meetings, more proposals may be triaged. “Reviewers may be asked to discuss only about 40 percent of them vs. about 50 percent as usual so they can finish their work today,” NIH says.” Great. So the slim chance of getting fund… – discussed gets even worse.

    • writedit said

      This was in reference to study sections that met on Sept 30th and may not apply to meetings that need to be rescheduled – but I won’t be surprised if they do triage more. And given the current meltdown, I would not anticipate good news for the NIH appropriation, so even 40% of applications will be a big pool for limited resources.

  3. Anonymous said

    Writedit: sorry to remove this comment, but the blog is for conveying information, not launching partisan debates.

  4. writedit said

    Nature has posted a news piece about the impact of the shutdown on NIH research, though they failed to mention the accumulating additional expense each day that study sections must be canceled and grant application submissions delayed.

  5. confused said

    Just curious…I have a grant deadline for the 16th of October. Assuming that the issue remains unresolved, should I have still go ahead and submit (my grants management service here at the University is unsure as well). Although the notice clearly states “strongly encouraged not to submit” I wonder if the NIH will then come back and say that I should have submitted although it would only be held in the server and not really processed.

    Please help!

    • writedit said

      You should certainly work on the application under the assumption it will be submitted on Oct 16, but if the government is still shut down, your institution should hold off on submitting – you will not pay a penalty for not doing so, per the notice. BICO did not submit R01s on Monday and will wait for a notice from OER as to when to resume the submission of applications. Applications that have been submitted will benefit from a 2-day error correction window. I expect that the NIH did not know how grants.gov might perform while unattended so opted to suspend submission deadlines until eRA Commons personnel et al. were back to manage the process.

      • confused said

        Thank you very much for your prompt response. It is very useful to know that there is guidance here. I have learnt much from your website. Thank you!

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