Back in April I discussed how the federal government is discriminating against Macintosh users with regard to e-gov business transactions with the grantee community. I still cannot believe that OMB chose a solution that disregards a significant segment of its community. Furthermore, I find it hard to trust a vender who cannot implement a quick solution to cross-platform compatibility issues, particularly now that we live in an era that relies less on any given computing platform in favor of open-standards web services. Anyway, here is the latest word on Mac compatibility with Grants.gov:
I have heard that Grants.gov is not Macintosh compatible. What do I do if I use only a Macintosh?
Grants.gov is aware of the issues facing Macintosh users who apply for Federal grants electronically. Grants.gov has provided the following response regarding this issue on the FAQ page of their website:
“Grants.gov has been working with PureEdge [since acquired by IBM and renamed IBM® Workplace Forms™] to offer a viewer that is compatible with as many operating systems as possible. Once a MAC compatible viewer has been developed information will be posted on our website. Our goal is to ensure the widest possible acceptance of Grants.gov and not exclude anyone from the electronic grants submission process.”
Pure Edge anticipates having a platform independent solution available by November 2006. Until then, PC emulation software for the Mac will allow Macintosh users to prepare and submit their applications to Grants.gov. Grants.gov has provided information [PDF] on using the PureEdge viewer with a Mac.
Grants.gov and NIH are partnering to provide free access to Citrix servers for Macintosh Users who are looking for an alternative to using PC emulation software with the PureEdge™ forms. This service will be available for use at the end of December 2005.
A Citrix server connection allows Macintosh users to remotely launch a Windows session on their own machines by using the free Citrix client application. While connected to the server, Mac users can develop their grant application using PureEdge™ forms. Applicants will need to download and install the free Citrix client application in order to work on the SF424 (R&R) application package with the specific grant for which they are applying.
While connected to the Citrix server, the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR)/Signing Official (SO) can submit the application to NIH via Grants.gov.
Applicants can also use service providers (see Service Providers) for a platform independent solution.
Applicants having trouble submitting their application electronically to Grants.gov should contact Grant.gov customer support for assistance.
Statement from OER Deputy Director regarding Macintosh compatibility:
“We truly regret the inconvenience that Grants.gov’s lack of platform independence is causing Macintosh users. As stated in the FAQ’s posted on this website, the Office of Management and Budget, part of the Executive Office of the President, has chosen Grants.gov as the single portal for all submissions of federal grant applications, and NIH’s parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as Grants.gov’s implementer. As the federal government’s largest research granting agency, NIH is expected to be a key player in the DHHS implementation of Grants.gov. We and others have made Grants.gov aware of the difficulties that Macintosh users are experiencing and are working with Grants.gov staff to implement a temporary solution (Citrix). We recognize that this solution is not ideal but ask for your patience and forbearance as we work toward the very complex task of electronic submission of all NIH applications by May 2007. Grants.gov is working with PureEdge toward a platform independent solution by November of 2006. For additional information about Grants.gov please visit their website at www.grants.gov.”
– Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH Deputy Director of Extramural Research
At first I too was concerned with the Mac compatability issue. Many of us in the scientific community use Macs, and it is hard to imagine why we would have to go out and by windows boxes just to submit grants. Well, I just used the grants.gov system for the first time to submit a grant, using a windows machine, and I have this to report. Don’t worry about the system not working on your mac. It doesn’t work on a windows machine either. It is truly the most wretched system I have ever had to struggle with. Who ever decided to use this system has single handedly set biomedical research back at least a year.
I’ve submitted a few grants.gov applications in the past, only because the university I worked at required approval and submission by the central administration instead of direct submission by the PIs.
It’s wasn’t too painful, but it was not intuitive either. What I dislike is that you can only check preliminary submission status at grant.gov, then you must go to the agency to check the status of the application.
I do understand part of the reason to use PureEdge. It allows for offline work to get necessary data elements into the proper XML format. The powers that be rightly knew that some persons may not always have constant (high speed) internet connectivity.
On the other hand, a reliance on a proprietary product not available for all platforms seems preposterous to me.
What is the lesser of two evils – requiring an internet connection or requiring the use of a proprietary product?
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