April 03, 2013

Selected Grantweek updates from the Grants Resource Center for the week of April 1, 2013

Federal Budget Progress (No April Fool’s Joke)
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed budget plans for FY 13 and FY 14 recently, leaving GRC members one step closer to knowing the future landscape of Federal funding opportunities. It was the Senate’s first budget in four years. The Senate plan calls for almost $1 trillion in tax increases while cutting spending by roughly the same amount over the next decade. The plan addresses higher education by fully funding the Pell Grants Program, increasing aid for existing education programs, and increasing institutional and research support.

According to the Washington Post, the GOP-led House plan would lead to a “radical” reduction in the size of government, making large cuts in healthcare and social programs. The House plan hopes to move funding for higher education away from financial aid to policies that develop more innovative institutional options for students and their families.

Of course, neither of these plans will be implemented as is. Instead, they will set the boundaries for the coming debate. The real battle begins as Senate and House leaders meet to reconcile their competing visions and try to come up with something both chambers can approve and send on to President Obama.

Foundation Funding Not Predicted to Increase in 2013
A March 24, 2013 Chronicle of Philanthropy article (registration required) noted that while the U.S. stock market has been booming recently, this hasn’t translated into increases for foundation funding. According to a new Chronicle of Philanthropy survey based on data from 192 funds, the nation’s biggest foundations expect to be cautious with their giving for the rest of the year. It appears that other factors are in play that are slowing down growth in foundation giving, such as an unstable global economy, irrational markets, and a federal government that seems paralyzed.

Melissa Berman, chief executive of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is quoted in the Chronicle piece, as saying “many foundations set their budgets by taking an average of assets for the three prior years. That helped nonprofits tremendously during the worst of the downturn. But the downside is that funding is not growing as fast in the recovery. A short-term increase in the markets isn’t enough to change the spending.”

IARPA: Enhancing Research Through Alternate Reality Environments
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) on Using Alternate Reality Environments to Help Enrich Research Efforts (UAREHERE) -- specifically social, behavioral and psych research -- which may be of interest to many GRC members. IARPA (the Intelligence Community's version of DARPA) frequently issues RFIs to solicit information relevant to a possible future IARPA investment. Respondents are invited to provide comments on the content of this announcement and include suggestions for improving the scope of a possible solicitation to ensure that every effort is made to adequately address the scientific and technical challenges described below.

IARPA is soliciting responses in order to assess the extent to which Alternate Reality Environments (AREs), such as Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), may provide capabilities that allow for high-quality, externally valid social, behavioral and psychological research in near-real-world contexts. AREs and ARGs combine storytelling elements across multiple media platforms with a participant’s real-world actions, allowing the real and alternate worlds to interact. This RFI invites interested parties to respond with ideas, approaches, and evidence that can address questions ranging from challenges for designing or using AREs/ARGs for research, to the validation potential of such research. Responses to this request may be used to support the development of, and later be incorporated within, a future IARPA solicitation.

For more on examples of existing AREs/ARGs, see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_reality_gameand http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/08/conspiracy-for-good-a-recap-of-an-arg-by-the-creator-of-heroes/
Responses are requested by April 19, 2013. Contact UAREHERE RFI with any specific questions or clarifications.

NSF TUES Offers Web-Based Trainings
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is sponsoring 21 Interactive Web-Based Workshops (IWBWs) in support of its Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM (TUES) Program and other research projects with significant educational components (e.g., the BRIDGE and CAREER programs).

Workshops are offered around five topic areas. Some workshops are already closed; institutions should register immediately. Registration is open to institutions that provide facilitators  who agree to organize and coordinate a local group of faculty members that are participating in the IWBWs.

These workshops are intended for all STEM faculty members that are planning NSF educational proposals or already have a funded project. The workshops are being hosted by the Virtual Faculty Collaborative (AAAS, Louisiana State University, and Higher Education Services) and presented by former NSF Program Directors in the Division of Undergraduate Education. Each IWBW will be offered multiple times between now and May 1, 2013. The Workshop sessions are scheduled on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 1:00-3:00 p.m. or 3:00-5:00 p.m. ET. To register for one or more NSF TUES IWBWs, please access this site. If you have questions about the IWBWs, please email Yolanda George at ygeorge@aaas.org.

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