partial recall

a blog of ideas, links, and musings.

Grant.gov Usability Incompatability

13.02.2006.

Grants.Gov

Today’s Washington Post catches on the problems Mac users have identified for a while now – that Grants.gov does not support Mac users unless these users use a Citrix workaround.

Scientists should focus on science, not on how to submit applications for funding. It seems to me that the process should be intuitive and quick – not painstakingly difficult to figure out. The Grants.gov issue starts off with usability problems because it does not support a variety of computing platforms. Why does the grant community gush about NSF’s Fastlane system? Well, you don’t need to get bogged down in instructions to figure out how to use it and it is platform independent.

Perhaps Grants.gov should determine why scientists love this system. Previous posts about Grants.gov here and here.

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Dave Cassidy on February 13, 2006 AT 09 pm

Rob, I just responded to a similar comment on the TCG blog, thusly:

There won’t be a platform-agnostic version as long as Grants.gov uses e-forms technology. This is for two reasons. First, I don’t know of a single e-forms vendor that (a) has implementations of their product for every platform imaginable, (b) could guarantee that all those platforms could utilize the same form structures, and (c) could provide tools to make it affordable to produce multiple platform-specific flavors of forms for every kind of form used by Grants.gov.

What’s more, Grants.gov has no interest in hosting grantee’s data. The RFI notes that “The forms should not require the user to be connected to the Internet in order to be completed.” Having off-line access to the forms is very important — not every grant applicant has reliable Internet access.

So we’re left with Grants.gov trying to please as many people as possible, given the constraints of the mission and the technologies available. The FastLane model was rejected early on in the Grants.gov conceptual design. Maybe it will come back as complimentary service to the e-forms…but I don’t see it happening soon.

Jim Hu on February 14, 2006 AT 11 am

Rob, I sent a trackback ping to this post, which was accepted, but I don’t see trackbacks displayed. Anyway, there are several related posts on my blog, and the links show up on Dave’s Defenestrated blog.

Alexander Repenning on April 3, 2006 AT 04 pm

| Dave Cassidy: “trying to please as many people as possible”

Thank you for trying but I think this experiment has failed miserably. The idea of using federal money to create a submission system that is engineered around the web and is not even trying to be cross platform is simply mind boggling.

| Cassidy: “Having off-line access to the forms is very important — not every grant applicant has reliable Internet access”

No it isn’t. Nobody ever types in proposals directly into a browser using Fastlane either. People use documents, spreadsheets etc. to prepare submissions offline anyway. Then they upload and modify submissions incrementally. This is how the Web works and it works quite well. Grants.gov hinges on proprietary mechanism requiring uploading a proposal as one gigantic file. Then grants.gov server can obviously not handle the traffic consisting of these files. How is this an improvement?

This technology has been a BIG step backwards. The only organization happy with the system must be the one who created it. Please abandon this terrible experiment and give us a real, web-based submission mechanism.

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