The Government Shutdown

When the month began with rumors that the government could shut down I admit I didn’t give it much thought.

No one in my family is employed by the federal government or receives aid that could be impacted and be detrimental to their lives.

And yet as we hit Day 15, I think maybe I should have paid a little more attention after all…

In Grantland I’ve encountered personally or heard from others in the grant writing community frustration bordering on desperation about:

1) Accessing the U.S. Census.

Almost every grant you write will ask about the demographics being served. And unless you have a prior grant serving the exact population, grant writers will turn to the U.S. Census website to find the numbers. Until now:

Census

I was working on a community foundation grant the day after the government shutdown began when I realized the demographics I needed for children ages 9-11 weren’t available. Not gonna lie, I cursed.

Fortunately there have been several work-arounds made available.

For that first grant I visited the state website and used their data center. The information wasn’t as up to date as it would have been from the Census site, but sufficient for that need.

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has screen captures which may work for some instances but not for manipulation of several demographic areas.

For that I am extremely grateful that Oxford Academic made their Social Explorer temporarily free with an email request. I e-mailed that release out to a resource development list serv and received many thank you emails in return. The site is really fun and I wish I had time to just play around with the data visualization aspects – unfortunately not needed for my work.

2) Accessing scholarly research.

As a grant writer for an institution of higher education I use articles accessed via the school’s EBSCO ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) interface a lot. There are many journals that offer access to education articles but the ERIC collection provides the best range from my school’s subscriptions. While I can still use ERIC as a finding tool, the links out to the government repository do not work.

ERIC

Fortunately, once I have pinpointed the articles using the EBSCO features I have been able to locate many full-text versions elsewhere on the Internet using a basic search engine. For this reason, if researchers have the patience and where-with-all to follow through, the EBSCO limited time free access to their ERIC is nice for people without institutional access and who relied on the government interface.

Librarian skills for the win!

3) National Science Foundation Grants

Articles by Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education mention that although many government agencies that offer grants have their websites down, the site Grants.gov is still up and running. This is great and would be better if this website worked well. I have not personally had the opportunity to use the site yet, but on the list-serv there is a resounding decision NOT to submit NSF grants using Grants.gov but to wait until Fastlane is back up and running. Apparently the interfaces don’t mix very well, people have lost their grant applications that way, and often if you haven’t registered a Principle Investigator with the specific agency or received a Division or Program Code from NSF before the shutdown, you can’t submit the grant on the general site.

NSF

Unfortunately there is no work-around for this one as far as I can tell or read -it’s just a waiting game. People are trying to gather all the materials they need and then waiting until the appropriate sites re-open and have their fingers crossed they won’t be overloaded as everyone submits before a deadline.

We are fortunate to not be submitting a federal government grant at this time and although we had one recently start we received the funds last month. However, we have run into the issue of not being able to clarify budget questions and having to wait until the government re-opens for clarification to make sure certain items can be covered.

Have you run into government shutdown problems in your work?

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