NEWS: NSF Offers Online Progress Reports

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Science  15 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5366, pp. 975
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5366.975b

After asking more than 100 scientists to try out a new online system for reporting progress on research grants, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is preparing to offer the system to everyone as early as this summer.

The electronic reporting is part of FastLane, NSF's larger online effort to improve the grants process by making it faster, more efficient, and more useful to a wider community ( Although a few programs have already shifted to all-electronic submissions, the Reports Redesign Project takes the process a step further. Next year's goal is to have 70% of grantees' annual and final reports come in over the Internet, says NSF's Nat Pitts. The shift to electronic processing, he says, should make information now stored in paper files more accessible—not just searchable, but also available to reviewers of future proposals and to NSF officials speaking to politicians and the public.

The online reports project is not without bugs, however. Some principal investigators have complained about formatting limitations, and others are unhappy with having to answer a new set of specific questions rather than simply responding to an open-ended query about what they have accomplished. “It's a definite improvement, but … I'll probably submit my next [grant] proposal the old-fashioned way,” says Yale neuroscientist Ted Carnevale, “and let somebody else be the guinea pig.”

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