Environmental Factor, October 2009, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Grants Management Branch and ARRA - How All Those Awards Got Made?
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act has been a challenge for the extramural staff at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). With $10 billion extra dollars to spend in approximately seven months, NIH had to develop, announce, review and make awards - at the same time ensuring the best science was funded and appropriately distributed geographically. Working on a September deadline, the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) asked staff to take on additional duties, and the DERT Grants Management Branch (GMB) worked quickly to bring in six extra temporary staff.
At NIEHS, GMB had the Herculean task of making all the awards. The task was made more difficult because three experienced employees had recently left and their positions were not all filled. To accomplish the extra workload, Dorothy Duke, chief grants management officer for NIEHS, recruited two DERT employees from sister branches to details at GMB, filled two temporary positions with former federal employees and lured two former employees out of retirement (see text box).
While NIH current and would-be grantees were busy planning and writing applications for ARRA opportunities, much was taking place behind the scenes as the work came in waves. NIH and DERT management were busy developing initiatives, and the Center for Scientific Review and Institute review groups planned strategies for reviewing applications in a well-conceived and timely manner. Program staff juggled the myriad duties associated with program management, while other staff developed systems for tracking everything that was going on, and the budget office helped strategize on the allocation of funds.
The hard work has paid off, however, and GMB expected to award the final ARRA contracts by October 1. Each day, NIEHS gets closer to its goal of completing ARRA funding, and grantees, new and old, are getting the stimulus they need to preserve and create jobs while pursuing high-quality environmental health sciences research.
Recognizing Temporary Staff at GMB
- Jerry Phelps, Extramural Program Analysis Branch, offered to be detailed to GMB because it would be an interesting way to learn what specialists do on a daily basis that would help him in his regular job and would give GMB another pair of hands during this busy time.
- Laura McGrew, Research Contracts Branch, took great pleasure assisting to spend ARRA funds to improve the U.S. Economy. She said, "The process gave me a chance to learn about grants and work with the great people in the DERT Grants Management Branch."
- Dwight Dolby, a former NIEHS grants management specialist, had only a brief taste of retirement before accepting Duke''s request to help out after he retired on January 2 of this year. It took some convincing, but he eventually agreed because Duke told him how much she needed experienced people. He said that although he enjoys being retired, "it was harder than he expected." Now he sees his friends, but has the luxury of knowing he can leave when ARRA is over.
- Carolyn Winters received a letter of invitation from NIH asking her whether she had an interest in coming back as a re-employed annuitant. At the time she retired from NIEHS in 2006, Winters still loved her job, but decided it was time to do other things. She remains active with other granting organizations as a volunteer. She had to think about it, but with no immediate big plans, Winters took this opportunity as a challenge - could she still do the old job? She likes that it is for a short period, and while helping out, she gets to spend time with old friends.
- Natasha Hurwitz, a former NICHD grants specialist, was looking for part-time work following the birth of her second child. She was happy to accept a position that has allowed her to use her skills on a part-time basis while working from her home in the DC metro area.
- Barbara Gittleman is a former government employee with OMB and the Office of Food and Nutrition in the Department of Agriculture. As a recent transplant to North Carolina from Washington with a Master's degree in Public Policy and experience with budgets and programs, Barbara describes this opportunity as her dream job and loves helping implement the President's plan to stimulate the economy.