The Work Piled Up! What Now?

October 22, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

paper-pile-860272-mAs much as I enjoy vacations, sometimes they make it even harder to return to work because I’ll have my work for the current week to do, plus work that had piled up from the previous week. Then I’ll wind up working twice as hard to take care of the backlog until I’m finally caught up. I’m quite sure many of you go through the same thing.

This process was eased somewhat when I got the ability to check my work emails on my smart phone. Clearing out the clutter of emails while sitting around the pool on vacation was a lot better than trying to sort through them all when I got back to the office. I thought about this the other day when I saw an article about federal government workers returning to work following the 16-day shutdown. They could not check their emails while they were furloughed, and one reported coming back to work to find more than 1,600 messages waiting for him in his inbox. Yikes!

Now that the shutdown is over — at least until January — federal workers are forced to play catch-up to get things up and running again. To highlight this, let me turn to one of my favorite blogs – Rock Talk, written by Dr. Sally Rockey, deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health. Rockey said that while NIH grantees could continue conducting research through their FY 2013 awards, NIH could not release any awards while it was closed. Because of the shutdown, more than 200 review meetings were canceled and thousands of reviewers had to change their travel plans, Rockey said, adding that more than 11,000 applications were affected by these cancellations. Oh my!

So now it’s time to play catch-up, but the process will not happen very quickly. Says Rockey, “The volume of missed review meetings severely complicates catching up with our normal awards cycle. Many reviewers have contacted us expressing their willingness to put in the extra effort now to make the reviews happen this cycle. However, it is impossible to manage the logistics of rescheduling hundreds of review meetings in the next six or so weeks. Thus, many meetings will need to be rescheduled for peer review in February/March, and those applications will be reassigned to the May council.” March? May? We’re going way into next year. All for a 16-day shutdown.

This is only one example of how grant applicants and recipients will be affected by the shutdown for weeks and months to come. I, for one, certainly hope that in January when this issue comes up again that Congress realizes the folly in shutting down the government and takes steps to avoid this mess.

How has the shutdown affected your grant program? Let us know.



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