Letter to House Leadership Seeks Changes in “Troubling Provisions” of GRANT Act

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Publication date: 
9 January 2012

Rep.  Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) have sent a Dear Colleague to  other Members of the House asking them to sign a letter to Speaker of the House  John Boehner (R-OH) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) regarding  H.R. 3433, the Grant Reform and New Transparency Act of 2011.  The letter asks that “troubling provisions be  addressed before the House acts on this bill.”

The  GRANT Act was approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee  in mid-November.  In addition to a provision requiring the  disclosure of peer reviewers, the 21-page bill also requires federal agencies  to post on a website “a copy of any proposal, application, or plan submitted  for the awarded grant, including any amendment to the proposal, application, or  plan (whether made before or after the award of the grant).” (See Section 7404 (d)  “Grant Award Information” (B) of the bill.

On  December 12, Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Committee on  Oversight and Government Reform and Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Ranking Member of  the Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations  and Procurement Reform sent a letter outlining their concerns to Chairman Ralph  Hall (R-TX) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) of the Committee on  Science, Space and Technology.  Although  H.R. 3433 was not referred to the Committee, Cummings and Connolly wrote to  convey their concerns about the bill.   They focused on the requirement for the online posting of grant  applications, which, they charged, “could endanger American intellectual  property” and that “would create an immense amount of paperwork for agencies  and universities.”  They cited one  estimate that the National Science Foundation would be required to post in  excess of 150,000 pages of documents. 

The  new letter authored by Holt and Price highlights the online posting of grant  proposals and the disclosure of peer reviewers.   “We ask that these troubling provisions be addressed before the House  acts on this bill,” the letter to Boehner and Pelosi states.  Price and Holt are asking other House Members  to sign this letter.

The  deadline for signatories on this letter is this Friday, January 13.  Members of Congress receive many “Dear  Colleague” letters every day.  Members  are far more likely to respond to such a letter if contacted by a  constituent.  The U.S. Capitol  Switchboard telephone number is 202-224-3121.   Members can also be contacted through email, although they received  hundreds of such messages every week.

The  text of the Holt - Price letter to Speaker Boehner and Democratic Leader Pelosi  (with copies to others in the House leadership) regarding H.R. 3433, the GRANT  Act, follows:

Dear  Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi,

We  are writing to express our serious concerns about the Grant Reform and New  Transparency (GRANT) Act of 2011 (H.R. 3433).   Several provisions in this bill pose significant threats to our nation’s  scientific research system and will stifle innovation and economic growth.  We ask that these troubling provisions be  addressed before the House acts on this bill.

Scientific  research not only creates jobs directly for those involved, but does so  indirectly for many others through innovations that lead to new technologies,  new industries and new companies.  In  fact, more than half of U.S. economic growth since World War II has been  attributed to technological innovation.   Such groundbreaking research has created vaccines, lasers, the MRI,  Global Positioning Systems, the Internet, and a host of other advances that  have grown our economy, improved our health, and made our nation stronger and  more secure. 

The  GRANT Act poses a significant threat to the research and innovation system that  produced these economic drivers because it includes provisions that undermine  the peer review process and attack intellectual property rights.  The most troubling provision in the GRANT Act  is the requirement that grant proposals be published in full on the Office of  Management and Budget (OMB) website.   Grant proposals typically contain propriety intellectual information  related to the applicant’s hypotheses, novel experimental methods, and  preliminary research findings.  Making  these ideas and data publicly available to everyone via the OMB website would  undermine the applicant and their institution’s right to their intellectual  property. 

A  second disconcerting provision in the GRANT Act would require the public  disclosure of peer reviews.  Anonymity of  peer review is the foundation of the modern scientific method.  The prospect of negative career repercussions  due to the public release of the name and contact information for peer  reviewers and panelists would undermine the entire peer review process, hinder  the ability of scientists to evaluate the credibility of research findings, and  increase the likelihood that limited research budgets at federal agencies would  be poorly spent.  Proper peer review is  critical for fiscal responsibility and anonymity is foundational to the review  process.

In  its current form, the GRANT Act poses a significant threat to the research and  innovation system of the United States.   Increased accountability and transparency are valuable goals which can  be achieved without sacrificing intellectual property rights and the peer  review process.  We urge you to remove  the damaging provisions before further consideration of the GRANT Act by the  House of Representatives.

Thank  you for your consideration.


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