Stimulus Bill Opportunities

Thursday, February 05, 2009

From: George J. Pappas
To: SEAS Faculty
Subject: Stimulus Package Advice

Dear SEAS faculty,

The stimulus package will clearly affect us all.  In this message I will try to outline how you can best position yourself in order to directly benefit from the stimulus.

Government agencies like NSF, NASA, NIST, NIH will get stimulus supplements in their FY 2009 budgets.  How much is still debated.  For example, the House version of the bill has $2.5 billion for NSF, while the Senate version has cut this down to $1.2Billion.  New York Times today reports that Senators Nelson and Collins, in charge of the Senate version of the bill, want to completely eliminate the NSF stimulus.  We think that President Obama's strong scientific agenda will not allow this to happen.

There is one more major uncertainty between House and Senate.  The House version of the bill forces agencies to spend the money in 120 days (around June 15).  This means that agencies will not have enough time to form new solicitations, new projects and new programs.  If the Senate version of the bill passes, agencies will have a bit more time (until September 2010).

If the House version of the bill passes, then chances are that proposals already in the pipeline and currently under review will be the major beneficiaries of the stimulus.  Acceptance/success rates may temporarily double or more.  However, any programs that have upcoming deadlines (before March 1) may still be able to complete a review cycle by June 15 and are likely to benefit.  Therefore if you were thinking whether or not to submit proposals with an upcoming deadline, we strongly encourage you to do so.   In addition, funds may be distributed in the form of supplements to existing projects.  This is the fastest way that program managers can easily (i.e. without peer review) add 20% on top of your existing projects.  Therefore, once the stimulus is decided and if the money must be spend by June, you should contact your program managers and ask them for well-justified supplements to your existing projects.  In your short justifications emphasis has to be on job creation (that is funding graduate students, postdocs, etc) and workforce training. 

There are also funds for infrastructure with an emphasis on maintenance (but not new construction).  In addition to federal agency programs (like the NSF MRI program), the stimulus will also route, via states, funds for deferred maintenance projects.  We may be in touch with some of you about SEAS infrastructure projects that could directly benefit.

If the Senate version of the bill passes, then there will be more time and agencies may respond with more imaginative ways to spend the money. There may be time for new program solicitations. We will be monitoring the situation, but so should you. But this is clearly a good time to think about writing proposals as the success rates will be back to the good old days.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

George J. Pappas
Joseph Moore Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering
Deputy Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Pennsylvania

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