The Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act (H.R. 3433) is raising alarm throughout the research community. Of greatest concern is a provision requiring publication of full research grant proposals on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website, making an applicant's ideas and data publicly available to all. A second provision would require public disclosure of the names of all grant peer reviewers. The bill's co-sponsors, who include Reps. James Lankford (R-OK), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), and Patrick Meehan (R-PA), argue it is needed to create greater transparency in the federal grants process.
The GRANT Act would:
- Require all federal executive agencies to use merit-based procedures in awarding grants (with some exceptions);
- Make public the selection procedures for each grant program, including how proposals are evaluated, ranked, and selected;
- Before making an award, assess the adequacy of a grant applicant's financial management system, internal controls, and reporting and compliance systems;
- Require the OMB to create a single, comprehensive website for all federal grant opportunities;
- Require OMB to post within 15 days of an agency's notification of a grant award such information as a copy of the final grant agreement, a copy of the submitted proposal, the number of proposals received, numerical ranking of the awarded grant proposal if rankings were assigned, the name, title, and employer of all individuals who served as reviewers for the grant program for the six months preceding the award, and the same information about peer reviewers of the awarded grant.
During 2011, the bill was reviewed at the committee level by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. At that time, House Democrats offered two amendments to temper the legislation, but both proposals were rejected. The committee rejected an amendment by Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) that would have required that grant abstracts and not full grant information be published on the government-wide website. A second amendment, by Reps. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), aimed to strike the section requiring disclosure of the name, title, and employer of peer reviewers for a grant program during the six months preceding an award, was modified by a second-degree amendment that left in place a disclosure requirement but added language to permit federal agencies to disclose a "unique identifier" for peer reviewers rather than their names. It is unclear in the bill's language what constitutes a unique identifier and how federal agencies would implement this section of the bill if it became law. Currently, the bill is expected to be debated and voted on by the full House of Representatives later in January.
Earlier ASH advocacy on this bill helped result in more than 30 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sending a letter to House leadership seeking the removal of provisions requiring publication of full research grant proposals on the OMB website and public disclosure of the names of peer reviewers before the bill is considered on the House floor.
ASH strongly encourages all members to visit the ASH Advocacy Center to contact Members of Congress and urge them to protect the scientific research process and oppose the GRANT Act when it is considered on the House floor.
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