The University Record, February 6, 1996

Steiss: Real consequences of shutdown yet to be felt at U-M

In remarks prepared for a late January meeting of the Research Associate Deans, Alan Steiss noted that while the shutdown occurred during the term break, thus having little effect on new awards, "the real consequences are yet to be felt."

Steiss, who is director of the Division of Research Development and Administration, noted that since Dec. 1 the U-M had received 160 new awards for $52.3 million, compared with 181 awards totaling $34 million for the same period in 1994-95, resulting in 21 fewer awards and $18.3 million more in funding.

However, Steiss noted, the $52.3 million includes a $21.9 million multi-year award from the National Institutes of Health for the General Clinical Research Center at the Medical School. When this amount is subtracted, funding for the current year is $3.6 million less than a year ago.

In 1994-95, research expenditures at the University totaled $409,235,763. Of that total, $277,900,041 came from federal agencies.

Research support from federal agencies accounted for 67.9 percent of the total. Major funding agencies included Health and Human Services ($159,604,286), National Science Foundation (NSF) ($47,889,200), Department of Defense ($23,329,784), NASA ($11,186,624) and Department of Energy ($9,598,093).

"Between 100 and 125 projects were temporarily affected by the budget impasse," Steiss said. "The impacts have included delays in renewal authorizations, missing award notices, artificially low award amounts.

"As might be expected, the majority of these projects involve National Institutes of Health funding, and because the NIH budget has been signed, this problem will sort itself out over the next few months with little or no residual effects on the primary investigators."

Steiss reported that, according to the National Science Foundation, 422 continuing NSF projects came due for funding renewal during the period Dec. 15-Jan. 26.

"We have been awaiting word on eight of these continuing projects. NSF hopes to have some of these funding renewals processed by the end of January."

Steiss said that some large awards, both new and continuing, may receive partial awards for less than 12 months.

He said that on Jan. 23 "we were notified that a new award for which we had begun negotiations prior to Dec. 15 would be funded at 75 percent of the level previously discussed and it was suggested that the project duration be reduced from 36 to 30 months to partially accommodate this funding reduction."

At NASA, Steiss said the agency has been authorized to provide funds of up to 75 percent of the level approved for last year, and that "funding authorizations are `trickling in' for continuation projects."

While FY 95 funds for continuation of projects are being awarded without reduction in project costs, "delays in processing new awards can be expected."

For the most part, Steiss said, the University has been able to "shield primary investigators from the furlough and budget delays" by using the delegated authority under the Federal Demonstration Project (FDP).

The University has participated in the FDP since its inception in 1988. "A primary objective of the program," Steiss says, "is to `eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens on sponsored research and to enhance research productivity' by permitting certain changes to be made that formerly required sponsor approval.

"Awards made under the terms and conditions of the FDP include a number of special provisions, including authorization for the University to approve pre-award costs of up to 90 days prior to the effective date of an award."

Steiss says that "the great sea wave that has not yet hit the shores relates to the proposals for new awards that were in the pipeline at the time of the shutdown, and the proposals that have been or will be submitted over the next six months.

"We anticipate funding discontinuities in a number of areas in which the primary investigators will be unable to `stretch' their existing support in the last year of an award through `no-cost time extensions' to cover the periods until new funding is awarded."