Updating the Grant Process

7 Comments

Over the past few months the Grants Committee has been working to improve our grants process. Our main problem is that we have a very low completion rate for grants. In the past couple of years only 25% of the grants awarded by the Grants Committee have been completed. Not surprisingly we feel that the current system should be changed.

There are a number of different problems. We have been paying out 50% of the awards up-front leading to situations where we may have made payments with no results. Also, the fact that we allow grants to remain open while they lie dormant ties up money that could be better used in areas that are actually being worked on.

To tackle this problem the Grants Committee is working to close all historic grants. As well as that we want to tighten up the reporting rules to make it clear to grantees that not providing reports or not communicating with grant managers will mean a termination of the
grant. We are also considering changing our payment time-frames to pay out on completion of grants, with the possibility of interim payments if the grant manager and committee feel that this is appropriate.

These are major changes to our current process and we would appreciate community feedback on these changes and suggestions for ways in which we could improve the current process. Please post comments to this post, or if you would prefer send your suggestions to ambs [at] perlfoundation.org

7 Comments

I really don't like the current payment system, and I say that as a member of that rarified 25%.

I think the default should be to pay the full amount on completion of the grant. The alternative would be for the grant to have a few (up to 2-3?) well-defined milestones for payment during the grant.

But really, with the small grants that we're talking about, I'm not sure that's necessary.

I also like the idea that lack of communication is grounds for terminating the grant.

All of that said, I'm not sure if any of these changes will achieve all that much. I think the real problem of the grant program is a little deeper. The grants are too small to let anyone invest serious time in the work. I wrote about this in my old use Perl journal.

Of course, I did say in that journal entry that I wouldn't be likely to apply for a grant, because it would just pay for work I'd do anyway. I later realized that was only sort of true. For me, the grant was a way to create an obligation to do work that I might otherwise put off indefinitely.

I do not really agree with Autarch point of view. If with small grants grantees loose the interest on doing the grant, lose communication, etc, how can TPF invest on longer flights?

Of course we have a few grants, like the Hague grant that was awarded recently, but these are for well known individuals.

I think this is a good and important step. With the future we can try to understand if we can raise the funding limit for these grants.

Cheers

My thoughts:

  1. Keep grant periods short. Big projects should be broken up into small pieces as separate grants
  2. No upfront payment
  3. Regular progress payments, conditional on a meaningful public progress summary. This should be weekly to monthly, agreed by recipient and grant manager
  4. Have a back-up manager for all grants
  5. Reserve 25% to 50% of the grant to be paid upon completion.
  6. Grants terminated after a set number of missed progress reports unless an extension is granted by the committee for extenuating circumstances (e.g. illness or death in the family)

It's some extra overhead (which is why you need a backup manager) but should lead to better results.

-- dagolden

The question is how we could have helped these 75% people who did not complete their grants.

> But really, with the small grants that we're talking about,
> I'm not sure that's necessary.

Autarch is correct that the way how grant is given is not a major factor to change people's behavior. I would suggest that grant managers should work with grantees more closely to track progress and, if necessary, to put appropriate pressure on them. In some cases, the grant managers could find alternative resources who could help or even take over the grant (and receive x% of payment).

The point I want to stress is that completion of each grant becomes an asset of the whole community and not only of the grantee, so TPF should provide all the help to get it done.

I don't have much to add to what autarch said. I've been through the system, and I don't think the up-front payment really does any good. I've basically already adopted the suggestion and skipped asking for a first half payment. All the more reason to get things done.

I'm also a grant manager, and I see how frustrating it is for me and for other grant managers when a grantee goes AWOL. If he is taking money and wandering off, he is stealing from us, and we don't have much we can do about it. We'd do better with the new system, where we say, "We have put aside this money just for you, as long as you get this job done more or less on time and let us know as you make progress."

That will hopefully let us get more results, especially because we can more readily cancel a grant and reallocate the funds to new projects.

As part of the 75% I do feel obliged to add my opinion to this.

In my case, health issues came in between my grant project, so I don't think a change of policy would have made me complete my project any sooner. (In case people are wondering, I'm back on the project and have just sent a progress report).

More on topic I too think up-front payment may not be a very good idea.

I also agree with dagolden's post. I'd like to stress out the value of a back-up manager (unfortunately, that's experience). I'd like like to add one more small requirement though:

Make it mandatory that the code/documentation is in some kind of public repository. Progress (or the lack of it) should be visible to the community, even if a grantee isn't responsive.

I also agree with the spirit of mn's post.

Being a person who dragged the grant a lot (due to some valid reasons, and some not so valid reasons!), I think that the current process should be changed. In my humble opinion, money should be granted after set milestones have been accomplished. That will increase the morale of the grantee as he/she does not have to worry about the money until he/she completes milestones. Else, the grantee will receive money for what he/she has not completed yet, and will be under pressure to complete it as soon as possible, or, drag the grant.

About TPF

The Perl Foundation - supporting the Perl community since 2000. Find out more at www.perlfoundation.org.

Recent Comments

  • Alan Haggai Alavi: Being a person who dragged the grant a lot (due read more
  • Leon Timmermans: As part of the 75% I do feel obliged to read more
  • Ricardo Signes: I don't have much to add to what autarch said. read more
  • mn: The question is how we could have helped these 75% read more
  • dagolden.com: My thoughts: Keep grant periods short. Big projects should be read more
  • Alberto Simões: I do not really agree with Autarch point of view. read more
  • autarch.urth.org: I really don't like the current payment system, and I read more

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen published on March 24, 2010 2:27 PM.

YAPC::NA Call For Papers Ends March 31st was the previous entry in this blog.

YAPC::NA 2011 Call For Venue is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 4.38