It wasn't so long ago that Scot Wolfe, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, needed to check every page of his nearly 70-page National Institutes of Health grant application, to ensure that the copier hadn't smudged any of the required five copies. Then he would pack up the applications and send them by FedEx to Bethesda, Md. "I've blocked that out a little bit," says Wolfe.
When all US federal granting agencies came under the umbrella of the electronic submission portal, Grants.gov (http://grants.gov) in 2005, researchers and grant administrators alike breathed a sigh of relief.
Even though the government's new federal electronic submission system, PureEdge, is an improvement to paper submissions, the program is still considerably clunky, some users say. Researchers must enter their names manually in every section, they can't double click to...
This summer, the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs Grants.gov, hopes to replace PureEdge with an Adobe platform. Grants.gov administrators say the Adobe format will be a great improvement over PureEdge, which was notoriously incompatible with Apple computers and the new Microsoft Vista operating system on PCs. Unfortunately, the program doesn't resolve many of the other issues that have annoyed researchers.
Soon after the federal government launched PureEdge, other companies started developing programs and software that submit directly to Grants.gov but are more user-friendly than PureEdge. Today, several options exist for institutions and individual investigators, depending on whether they want a large system, custom designed for the institution, or a less expensive option that can help investigators compile and submit their grant applications. Even nonprofits outside the federal granting sphere now offer an online electronic grant submission system.
These programs have many benefits, but they are not perfect. We've asked researchers and administrators who use the programs to tell us what makes them great, and how to overcome some of the programs' faults.
Click on the case studies above and to the right to find out what they said.