Friday, May 18, 2012

That Time of Year : Annual NSF Reports

I received my notice a few weeks back that it's time to fill out my annual grant reports for NSF.

I'd like to complain about it;  it's a pretty boring process, and their interface isn't that great.

But, really, I can't complain.  The NSF provides me (and my students) with money to do our work.  In return, they ask for what seems like very reasonable reporting of how that money is being used.  What have I been working on?  Who I have been working with?  Where has the work been published?  What other outcomes of the research -- in industry or education -- has there been?  These seems like very worthwhile questions for them to be asking.

One thing I don't really know is what is done with these reports after I enter them.  I hope they're useful.  I have had an NSF program manager discuss my reports with me, so I do have evidence they're being read.  (I must admit, after a program manager let me know they actually read these reports some years ago, I started taking them more seriously!)

So, strangely, this year, as I'm going through the mundane task of filling out my annual reports, I actually find that it's leaving me with a feeling a gratitude.  Thanks, NSF, for letting me and my students do all this really fun stuff!  I know I complain about the NSF when I feel there's something worth complaining about, so it only seems fair to express the gratitude when I'm feeling thankful for all they do.



Dave said...

Agreed. From what my friends tell me, the bureaucracy involved in EU grants (or maybe they meant national grants from certain nations in the EU) is ten times worse. I'm glad that the NSF makes things relatively easy on us.

Anonymous said...

DARPA is definitely 10 times worse.

BTW: If you have gotten to the end of an NSF grant there is a new requirement of a "Progress Outcomes Report" that is submitted through rather than directly in Fastlane (though is linked from Fastlane). This is actually released to the public so it isn't just your program manager reading it.

ahannaasmi said...

"One thing I don't really know is what is done with these reports after I enter them."

Someone I worked with once outlined a very clever solution to this problem, which had actually been put in use by someone he knew.

This last person wanted to find out if her advisor actually read his thesis. So, at about roughly on-third of the way through the thesis, she put in a footnote saying "I owe you a drink if you read this far.", and then at about two-thirds of the way, a note saying "I owe you a dinner if you read this far."

A few weeks later, her advisor asked her for a drink, as promised, for having read his thesis.