Government agencies are tightening their belts due to the current economic climate. The National Science Foundation is no exception: their budget for research activities decreased by $150 million in 2011. The logical assumption is that fewer projects will be funded, and therefore competition for the remaining funds will be fierce.
Many scientists have experienced the frustration of receiving a grant proposal review that is favorable (all “very good” or “excellent” ratings) yet is not funded. The funding rate for NSF as a whole was at 32% in 2009, with the lowest funding rates in the Engineering and Biological Sciences directorates (25% and 28%, respectively). Increasingly grants that are funded must be above and beyond good; they must be stellar.
As of January 18 2011, all NSF grant proposals must include a data management plan, or DMP. This document, much like a Broader Impacts statement, is a supplement to the main body of the 15 page proposal. Although the DMP is in its early phase of implementation, we can assume that the DMP will garner importance similar to that of the Broader Impacts statement in awarding grants during these fiscally challenging times.
In 2010, the University of California received almost $500 million in research funds from the National Science Foundation. This funding is in jeopardy if UC scientists are not cognizant of the importance of a good data management plan in their next NSF proposal. The DMP Tool is meant to help guide scientists in the creation of an excellent data management plan, and should be used in conjunction with talking to your discipline’s librarian about how best to structure your data organization, storage, and archiving.
Aside from the “stick” that NSF is using to encourage data management plans, there is also a “carrot”: researchers will benefit immensely from even a minimal amount of planning for their data management. The University of California campuses are leaders among universities in receiving research funding from the National Science Foundation. To maintain our position as top-tier research institutions, it is imperative that good data management plans accomany all proposals to the NSF.