Federal Agencies and Research Funding at UB

Published May 29, 2013

The following includes facts regarding the current federal budget climate, and the impact that investigators may feel – or are feeling – as a result of federal agencies’ funding reductions.

First and foremost, federal agencies are currently funding fewer proposals, resulting in increased competition for limited research funds.  We are seeing peer-reviewed proposals with priority scores or panel recommendations that would normally have resulted in gaining an award in the past, which may not be funded by the agency due to current year budget reductions.  This situation is impacting investigators here at UB, and investigators at research institutions across the nation. 

In an effort to assist our faculty in preparing the most competitive proposals possible, we can offer the following resources: 

  • The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (OVPRED) will coordinate an outside review of an application, if requested by PIs, and if the proposal is received no less than two months prior to the due date at the funding agency.  This resource is being offered as a pilot program, due to limited resources, and depending on the level of interest expressed by our faculty.
  • In an effort to increase our capacity to compete successfully for more research funding, we are pleased to announce the launch of the Office of Research Advancement. This new initiative at UB will support faculty in their pursuit of large scale multi-investigator, cross-disciplinary research grants and funding for institutional priorities related to our research strengths, as well as emerging initiatives. The office is overseen by the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and the Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives.  Please see the ORA website created for this office for more information on the services that are available to the research community.
  • There will be two grant writing workshops that will be held later this year:  the first, on August 22nd, will focus on NIH applications; the second, to occur in October (exact date to be determined), will focus on NSF applications.  Registration information for these workshops will be announced shortly.
  • As always, please allow sufficient time for a full review of proposals by SPS staff so that we can identify areas that, if not corrected, might result in proposals being rejected for non-substantive, technical, or formatting errors.  We have heard, for example, that a significant percentage of proposals submitted to NSF could be returned without review because of noncompliance with technical requirements. This is a result of examinations performed via “Auto-comply” software, which is unforgiving when scanning proposals for certain technical compliance.  Please note: this observation was shared with us by NSF, and refers to all incoming proposals, not only those submitted by PIs from UB.

With regards to currently awarded grants, as a cost-cutting measure, we are also hearing that some programs are not approving requests for no-cost extensions—even those with good programmatic justification—which could result in a loss of funds for PIs. In other words, awarded monies not spent in the originally allotted time frame may result in the return of that money to the funding agency.  This is certainly a change in practice from what we are accustomed to, and we therefore wanted faculty to be aware of the possibility of this happening to current awards.  For new awards, we can also expect that agencies will fund awards at reduced levels, which may pose challenges to investigators in accomplishing the goals set out in the proposal.