Author Archive

Whew! i3 is over…now what?

The last week has been a real bear finishing up the i3, but it’s over, and the submission receipt is in hand.

The Department of Education granted an extension for folks affected by the flooding in Tennessee–they have till May 19th to get everything done. Except for the folks who truly were affected by the floods, I’m not sure this type of mercy is kind. I know I couldn’t have survived another week.

In other i3 news, the Department is still looking for peer reviewers. Even though the site still says the deadline for applying was April 1st, I queried yesterday and confirmed they’re still desperately seeking help. If you want to apply, do so here.

Now the waiting game begins, but the wait won’t be long. After all, the funds must be committed by September 30th. That’s only 20 weeks away. But the notification date for most folks will come at least 4-6 weeks earlier when groups receive news they’ve scored high and need to confirm (or find and confirm) the 20% match. If some groups can’t get the match, the next groups on the list will possibly get the green light, but they’ll have even less time to meet the match requirement.

So some groups will probably hear somewhere between August 1st and 15th. That’s just 2 1/2 months away…

By the way, next time around I hope they put a page limit on the budget narrative…

NSF, NIH, Commerce Dept. announce i6 Challenge

The three agencies have teamed up to introduce yet another “innovation” competition (PDF)–in this case it’s to support “innovative ideas to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.”

The 6 in i6 apparently refers to the six teams that will receive $1 million awards for their projects from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and an additional $6 million that is set aside for related funding through the NIH and NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The deadline for applications to EDA’s part of the program is July 15, 2010. A conference call is scheduled for potential applicants on May 17th.

More information is available at EDA’s i6 site.

i3 gets $500 million boost from private foundations

The Department of Education announced today that 12 private foundations are contributing $500 million to supplement the $650 million in the Investing in Innovation award program. This brings the total amount available to $1.15 billion–or about half the amount needed to fund awards at the levels the Department has projected.

Although the details are sketchy (i.e., almost none are provided), it appears that about $233 million will be used to support proposals under Absolute Priorities 1-3, and about $178 million will be used to support Absolute Priority 4. Another $95 million will be devoted to sustainability–specifically research and evaluation of the i3 programs and building support for successful programs after the award period. It’s not clear whether these funds will be used to offset the evaluation expenses on proposals or develop stand-alone evaluation and promotion activities with Departmental oversight.

Interestingly, part of the $178 million for low-performing schools is allocated specifically to provide “support for high-quality school choices including charters and alternative school designs.” I must say that I didn’t see that coming (though in hindsight I should have), but it does provide very important insight into what the Department is hoping to see from Applicants under Absolute Priority 4–I’m glad I’m writing under a different priority!

Perhaps the most interesting part of the announcement was the unveiling of the Foundation Registry, a site where i3 applicants can post their proposals and foundations will review the proposals to identify programs they want to support. It’s being touted as a way to simplify obtaining the match. It’ll be interesting to see 1) how many applicants post their proposals (assuming that information is released), 2) whether foundations wait to see who is funded before contacting applicants, and 3) whether foundations opt to partially or fully fund any projects that don’t receive an i3 award.

These 12 foundations (no surprises) provided the $500 million boost to the i3 and are participating in the Foundation Registry:

New i3 deadline and archived i3 webinars available

The Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) application deadline has been moved by one day from May 11th to May 12th.

The department’s stealth webinars on “Eligibility & Matching” and “Evidence & Evaluation” are now available in archived form.

NSF inspector curbs fraud investigations for porn complaints

The Washington Times reports that NSF’s inspector general’s office spent so much time, though it’s not clear how many investigations are ongoing or how many specifically involved employees viewing pornography at work.

Maybe when Blue Waters comes online, they can devote some computation to developing better site-blocking algorithms for the agency…

NIH director speaking in Chicago on Saturday–webcast available

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, will be speaking at 2 pm CDT Saturday at Thorne Auditorium on the campus of Northwestern University in Chicago. The address is hosted jointly by Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

If you can’t make it (or don’t want to risk not getting a seat), you can watch the webcast live.

Required open-access moves a step closer

Congressman Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania introduced the House version of the research can be published prior to full public disclosure.

NIH-funded research is already subject to open access provisions.

In somewhat related news, reports on PETA’s attempt to use state open records laws to seek out possible animal abuses in research labs at state institutions.

Upcoming changes to state standards may pose a threat to ED’s i3

Earlier this month the comment period closed on the proposed Common Core Standards for English-language arts and mathematics. After a brief period of final revisions based on comments received, the standards are scheduled to be released in time for most states to consider adoption prior to or around the start of the new school year.

Governors and education officials from 48 states (not including Texas and Alaska) and 2 territories committed to the process of developing these standards, and the assumption is that most states will adopt them to replace their current standards. Strangely, Kentucky already adopted them sight unseen.

Although the parties involved have taken great care to avoid calling these national standards, the adoption of common standards across even a few states is unprecedented, and the likely adoption of these standards by most states will push us as near to national standards as we are ever likely to achieve. Adopting states have the option of modifying or augmenting the standards, but they are being encouraged to keep changes to a minimum.

I think the adoption of common standards (followed eventually by a common assessment a la NAEP) may be the educational system’s best hope of fending off the impending (but possibly endangered) NCLB 2014 deadline, and it’s the only approach proposed so far that has any chance of not leaving whole states behind (my home state being one of them).

But the new standards may present a $643.5 million problem. The) is #3 which states that “Under this priority, an eligible applicant must propose a project that is based on standards that are at least as rigorous as its State’s standards. If the proposed project is based on standards other than those adopted by the eligible applicant’s State, the applicant must explain how the standards are aligned with and at least as rigorous as the applicant’s State’s standards as well as how the standards differ.”

So the adoption of new standards after the i3 submission date but before the award start date may present some problems for applicants if they plan to use their state’s standards. Even programs based on different standards may find it difficult to describe how their standards differ from the yet-to-be-adopted standards, particularly since the final standards won’t be released before the i3 submission date.

I think the programs that are based on standards other than the state’s standards may have an easier time of it, particularly since the i3 program also requires that Scale-up proposals use the same program for which the supporting evidence is provided and that Validation proposals use the same or a very similar program with a clear and reasonable rationale for the changes.

Most of the programs based on state standards are likely to be inextricable from those standards and may be headed for the trashcan once the Common Core Standards are adopted, and even if the framework of the program can be salvaged and retooled for the new standards, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether such a proposal will pass muster during review.

The Secretary speaks

Education Secretary Arne Duncan was the Talk of the Nation yesterday on NPR’s program of the same name. You can see a transcript of the show and kept him on the full hour. If you get a chance, you may want to listen to the audio. The anger and frustration out there was evident in every call except one.

The weekly news drop

If Representative Lipinski’s National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2010 survives the legislative process intact, NSF will receive a 19% increase in funding over 2010 levels next year (compared to a 7% increase under the president’s proposed budget). The Act calls for a 55% increase in funding over five years to $10.7 billion in 2015. As always, writedit provides a good overview.

Jeff Mervis of AAAS’s ScienceInsider asks whether NSF is taking enough risks.

Former NSF director Guy Stever died this week. The current director comments on the passing of his friend and colleague.

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee of ScienceInsider reports on the National Science Board’s decision to leave information on the state of American’s knowledge and understanding of evolution out of the 2010 report on Science and Engineering Indicators. (Full story is here if you have access to Science.) PZ Myers over at Pharyngula stirs the pot a bit more.

NIH Director Francis Collins rebuked the American College of Pediatricians for using language from one of his books “to make a point against homosexuality.” In this letter the group’s president points school district superintendents across the country to where this article uses quotes from Dr. Collins and others to “educate” school officials.

We’re in the wrong business. The real NIH money is in staffing!

Roderic Pettigrew, director of NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, told attendees at the Design of Medical Devices conference that they’ll have to do more with less, and the key is innovation.

Meredith Wadman of Nature reports that the  WiCell Research Institute has submitted an application for NIH approval to fund research involving four Bush-era stem cell lines, including the frequently used H7 and H9 lines. Approval may come in a matter of weeks.

It’s been two weeks since the Dept. of Ed. announced Delaware and Tennessee were the only states to receive awards under the first round of Race to the Top, but you can expect it to stay in the news for a while. Some states have announced doubts about applying again, and a few have said officially they won’t pursue a piece of the remaining $3.4 billion. Others are considering extensive revisions to their applications.

At least one state is taking it’s case to the airwaves. Ed groups are making ad buys to promote New York’s application.

The VP’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, says be on the lookout for $2 billion in funding for education and training through community colleges, including funding partnership with regional industries.

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