The political standoff that has shut down parts of the federal government since Dec. 22 threatens research funding at universities across the country, including Case Western Reserve.
More specifically, the shutdown affects research agencies not yet funded for the current fiscal year, among them the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We have numerous grants from the affected agencies that will be on hold until a resolution,” said Suzanne Rivera, vice president for research in the university’s Office of Research and Technology Management (ORTM). “In addition to the immediate financial impact for current awards, I expect lasting consequences from the inability of some of our sponsors to review and fund new research awards, or to renew existing awards for continuing periods of performance.”
Some agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the departments of energy and defense, are funded by spending bills already signed into law and therefore not affected.
“We are very lucky that NIH is already funded; it took them four months to recover normal operations from the 2013 shutdown,” Stephanie Endy, the university’s associate vice president for research, explained in an email. “I anticipate NSF and others having the largest difficulties in this arena—and the NSF website for grant reviewers would be the first place to look for what they’re saying: nsf.gov/shutdown/panelists.jsp.”
The shutdown began after President Donald Trump refused to sign a federal funding bill unless it included the full $5.6 billion he wanted to build a wall at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Democratic Congressional leaders have been unwilling to go beyond the $1.3 billion included in the existing bill.
A meeting Wednesday between the president and Congressional leaders from both parties failed to yield any progress; the group is scheduled to reconvene today.
ORTM, which sent an informational email to university researchers the day before the shutdown began, is following closely all federal guidance and advises the following suggestions and resources:
- The partial shutdown—and associated furlough of federal employees—does not waive or alter CWRU’s obligation to comply with federal regulations, rules and policies. Most often, work will continue on any federal awards from these agencies unless you receive different instructions.
- Any “stop-work orders” received on federal contracts should be forwarded to your pre-award office—either the university’s central Office of Research Administration or the School of Medicine’s Office of Grants and Contacts.
- Each federal agency handles the shutdown differently. It is important to follow the instructions of your particular funding agency.
- Agency contingency plans and FAQs can be found on the federal Office of Management and Budget website at whitehouse.gov/omb/information-for-agencies/agency-contingency-plans/.
- The University of Minnesota has an extensive site with links to guidance from the closed agencies at research.umn.edu/units/spa. However, researchers at state-funded institutions may have additional considerations that don’t apply to CWRU.
- CWRU researchers will be most affected by the shutdown of NSF, which provides guidance for awardees at nsf.gov/shutdown/grantees.jsp. During the shutdown, no new funding, grant or cooperative agreements will be awarded, no new Continuing Grant Increments will be awarded and no payments will be made. NSF has also shut down its letter-of-credit payment system, which means CWRU is essentially fronting payment for work on continuing NSF awards until the government reopens.
- For additional questions about specific projects, contact Diane Domanovics, ORTM’s assistant vice president for sponsored projects, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216.368.5930.