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    Subject Term: "Research grants"

    4 publications with a total of 26 open recommendations including 2 priority recommendations
    Director: Beryl H. Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    11 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the design of internal controls over the indirect cost rate-setting process, the Director of CAS should develop a standardized checklist and document procedures in its internal guidance instructing negotiators to use the checklist during negotiation.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Division of Cost Allocation
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. In response, HHS stated that its Cost Allocation Services (CAS) will update and complete standardized checklists and that staff will be instructed to use these checklists by December 31, 2016. We are currently reviewing support received from HHS to determine if we can close the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the design of internal controls over the indirect cost rate-setting process, the Director of CAS should develop detailed internal guidance for the completion and documentation of supervisory review of the indirect cost rate negotiation process to provide reasonable assurance that key control activities have been performed by the negotiators.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Division of Cost Allocation
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. In response, HHS stated that by December 31, 2016, its Cost Allocation Services (CAS) will establish a document outlining standardized review procedures for supervisory review of workpapers and rate agreements. We are currently reviewing support received from HHS to determine if we can close the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the design of internal controls over the indirect cost rate-setting process, the Director of CAS should develop internal guidance for negotiating indirect cost rates with all types of research organizations, including hospitals, as well as universities using the simplified method.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Division of Cost Allocation
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. In response, HHS stated that its Cost Allocation Services (CAS) will update internal guidance for negotiating indirect cost rates with universities using the simplified method by December 31, 2016. This guidance will include an example under the two types of direct cost bases, a salary and wage base and a modified total direct cost base. CAS will develop internal guidance for negotiating with hospitals as soon as possible. We are currently reviewing support received from HHS to determine if we can close the recommendation.
    Recommendation: As NIH-DFAS begins formalizing its internal guidance, the Director of NIH-DFAS should update internal guidance to include key characteristics, such as policy number, purpose of the policy, effective date, and approving official, that are normally included in formal policy and procedures.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: National Institutes of Health: Office of Management: Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management: Office of Acquisition Management and Policy: Division of Financial Advisory Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. In response, HHS stated that by December 31, 2016, National Institute of Health's Division of Financial Advisory Services (DFAS) will update internal guidance to include key characteristics that are normally included in formal policy and procedures. NIH-DFAS has finalized three of the five polices, which are effective as of July 1, 2017. The remaining two policies will be finalized by August 31st, 2017. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: As NIH-DFAS begins formalizing its internal guidance, the Director of NIH-DFAS should develop detailed procedures for the completion and documentation of supervisory review of the indirect cost rate negotiation process to provide reasonable assurance that key control activities have been performed by the negotiator.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: National Institutes of Health: Office of Management: Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management: Office of Acquisition Management and Policy: Division of Financial Advisory Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. In response, HHS stated that the National Institute of Health's Division of Financial Advisory Services (DFAS), will develop detailed procedures for the completion and documentation of supervisory review of the indirect cost rate negotiations process. NIH-DFAS has developed draft internal guidance to address the supervisory review of the indirect cost negotiation process. NIH-DFAS plans to finalize these procedures by August 31, 2017. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: As NIH-DFAS begins formalizing its internal guidance, the Director of NIH-DFAS should establish a mechanism for tracking key milestones in the indirect cost rate-setting process, such as when indirect cost rate proposals are due.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: National Institutes of Health: Office of Management: Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management: Office of Acquisition Management and Policy: Division of Financial Advisory Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendations. In response, HHS stated that National Institute of Health's Division of Financial Advisory Services (DFAS) will establish a mechanism for tracking key milestones in the indirect cost rate-setting process. NIH-DFAS has initiatives underway that include moving from paper to electronic submissions of indirect cost proposals and developing a replacement to its Commercial Rate Agreement Distribution Services website. DFAS is looking into the feasibility of incorporating key milestones into these two major initiatives. NIH-DFAS is currently working with a contractor to develop a web based system that will establish a tracking system to account for when indirect cost proposal are due from organizations. The original initiative to enable the electronic submission of indirect cost proposals was modified to incorporate this new requirement. NIH-DFAS anticipates the planned date for implementation of this system to be October 1, 2017. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the design of internal controls over the indirect cost rate-setting process, the Director of ONR should implement the May 2014 policy requiring an annual review of guidance so that internal guidance is updated when changes are made to applicable regulations and procedures to reasonably assure that the guidance reflects current requirements.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy: Office of Naval Research
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In response, DOD stated that the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will comply with its requirement for an annual review of its internal policy on negotiating indirect costs. As of June 15, 2017, no updated information has been provided by the Department of Defense. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the design of internal controls over the indirect cost rate-setting process, the Director of ONR should include in its internal guidance acceptable Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audit completion time frames and identify supplemental procedures to be performed by negotiators if DCAA cannot perform its audits timely or if DCAA issues a qualified opinion or rescinds one of its previously issued audit opinions, to reasonably assure that the indirect cost rate proposal has been adequately reviewed and the negotiated rate complies with applicable regulations.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy: Office of Naval Research
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In response, DOD stated that the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) internal guidance will be updated to provide more realistic audit report due dates and will include general procedures to be performed by negotiators in the case of untimely audits, qualified opinions, or rescinded opinions. As of June 15, 2017, no updated information has been provided by the Department of Defense. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the design of internal controls over the indirect cost rate-setting process, the Director of ONR should develop detailed procedures for the completion and documentation of supervisory review of the indirect cost rate negotiation process to provide reasonable assurance that required certifications and assurances are obtained and follow-up with the research organization is documented.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy: Office of Naval Research
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. DOD did not agree that the Office of Naval Research (ONR) lacks procedures to ensure supervisors confirm that negotiators adequately performed and documented key controls. DOD noted that both the primary and secondary supervisors are required to review and approve the Business Clearance Memorandum, which records steps performed by the negotiator. While we agree that the Business Clearance Memorandum documents steps performed by the negotiator, these steps are documented at a high level and do not include detailed procedures for supervisors to follow to reasonably assure that the negotiator has performed and documented all key control activities, such as obtaining all required certifications and assurances. DOD agreed in its response that ONR's Business Clearance Memorandum can be improved and stated that ONR will update it to require the negotiator to cross-reference the review steps to the proposal to facilitate the supervisor's review process. However, it is not clear whether the planned Business Clearance Memorandum revisions will include providing detailed procedures for supervisory review as we recommended. As of June 15, 2017, no updated information has been provided by the Department of Defense. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the design of internal controls over the indirect cost rate-setting process, the Director of ONR should finalize and issue internal guidance for negotiating indirect cost rates with universities and nonprofit organizations, including establishing a time frame for issuance of the internal guidance, to help ensure that the procedures are implemented in a timely manner.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy: Office of Naval Research
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In response, DOD stated that the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is currently updating its internal guidance and currently plans to issue this guidance by December 31, 2016. As of June 15, 2017, no updated information has been provided by the Department of Defense. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the design of internal controls over the indirect cost rate-setting process, the Director of ONR should update ONR's existing process for tracking key milestones in the indirect cost rate-setting process to include information such as when indirect cost rate proposals are overdue and when DCAA's audit reports are due.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy: Office of Naval Research
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. In response, DOD stated that the Office of Naval Research will update its existing processes for tracking key milestones to include information such as due dates for rate proposals and DCAA audit reports. As of June 15, 2017, no updated information has been provided by the Department of Defense. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    9 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To reduce pre-award administrative workload and costs, particularly for applications that do not result in awards, the Secretary of Energy, the NASA Administrator, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services should conduct agency-wide reviews of possible actions, such as further use of preliminary proposals, to postpone pre-award requirements until after a preliminary decision about an applicant's likelihood of funding and, through OSTP's Research Business Models working group, coordinate and report on these efforts.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, DOE stated that it remained committed to addressing this recommendation. DOE outlined several steps it planned to take, such as participating in interagency meetings, but it did not indicate whether it has taken these steps.
    Recommendation: To reduce pre-award administrative workload and costs, particularly for applications that do not result in awards, the Secretary of Energy, the NASA Administrator, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services should conduct agency-wide reviews of possible actions, such as further use of preliminary proposals, to postpone pre-award requirements until after a preliminary decision about an applicant's likelihood of funding and, through OSTP's Research Business Models working group, coordinate and report on these efforts.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to HHS, NIH is considering the feasibility of an approach to streamline its application process. As of May 2017, HHS anticipated implementing this recommendation by early fiscal year 2019.
    Recommendation: To reduce pre-award administrative workload and costs, particularly for applications that do not result in awards, the Secretary of Energy, the NASA Administrator, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services should conduct agency-wide reviews of possible actions, such as further use of preliminary proposals, to postpone pre-award requirements until after a preliminary decision about an applicant's likelihood of funding and, through OSTP's Research Business Models working group, coordinate and report on these efforts.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, NASA anticipated implementing this recommendation by September 2017. NASA stated that it is working with other federal agencies to identify best practices for reducing the administrative burden to applicants and will assess the impact these practices have on the quality of applications so that NASA can continue to meet its mission.
    Recommendation: To better target requirements on areas of greatest risk, while maintaining accountability over grant funds, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, as part of the planned evaluation of the HHS regulation governing financial conflicts of interest in NIH-funded research, should evaluate options for targeting requirements on areas of greatest risk for researcher conflicts, including adjusting the threshold and types of financial interests that need to be disclosed and the timing of disclosures.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS stated that, as of May 2017, NIH was proceeding with plans to assess the financial conflict of interest regulation, including how to reduce administrative burden on researchers while maintaining the integrity and credibility of research findings.
    Recommendation: To better target requirements on areas of greatest risk, while maintaining accountability over grant funds, the Director of OMB, as part of OMB's planned evaluation of the Uniform Guidance, should evaluate options for targeting requirements for research grants to universities, including requirements for purchases and subrecipient monitoring, on areas of greatest risk for improper use of research funds.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of August 2017, OMB had not provided information on steps it has taken to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To further standardize administrative research requirements, the Secretary of Energy, the NASA Administrator, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Director of NSF should coordinate through Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) Research Business Models working group to identify additional areas where they can standardize requirements and report on these efforts.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2017, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act was signed into law, requiring the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to establish an interagency working group to reduce administrative workload and costs while protecting the transparency of and accountability for federally funded research. As of March 2017, DOE, HHS, NASA, and NSF stated that, as part of their efforts to implement GAO's recommendation, they would coordinate with other research funding agencies through this interagency working group.
    Recommendation: To further standardize administrative research requirements, the Secretary of Energy, the NASA Administrator, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Director of NSF should coordinate through Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) Research Business Models working group to identify additional areas where they can standardize requirements and report on these efforts.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2017, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act was signed into law, requiring the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to establish an interagency working group to reduce administrative workload and costs while protecting the transparency of and accountability for federally funded research. As of March 2017, DOE, HHS, NASA, and NSF stated that, as part of their efforts to implement GAO's recommendation, they would coordinate with other research funding agencies through this interagency working group.
    Recommendation: To further standardize administrative research requirements, the Secretary of Energy, the NASA Administrator, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Director of NSF should coordinate through Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) Research Business Models working group to identify additional areas where they can standardize requirements and report on these efforts.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In January 2017, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act was signed into law, requiring the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to establish an interagency working group to reduce administrative workload and costs while protecting the transparency of and accountability for federally funded research. As of March 2017, DOE, HHS, NASA, and NSF stated that, as part of their efforts to implement GAO's recommendation, they would coordinate with other research funding agencies through this interagency working group.
    Recommendation: To further standardize administrative research requirements, the Secretary of Energy, the NASA Administrator, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Director of NSF should coordinate through Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP) Research Business Models working group to identify additional areas where they can standardize requirements and report on these efforts.

    Agency: National Science Foundation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2017, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act was signed into law, requiring the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to establish an interagency working group to reduce administrative workload and costs while protecting the transparency of and accountability for federally funded research. As of March 2017, DOE, HHS, NASA, and NSF stated that, as part of their efforts to implement GAO's recommendation, they would coordinate with other research funding agencies through this interagency working group.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to ensure complete, analyzable records regarding research grant award decisions are available for management and analysis, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to lead the implementation of additional data collection efforts in coordination with DOD's grant-making components. These should include: (1) Retaining complete records of pre-proposal, proposal, and award data, including a record of proposal disposition, in linked electronic files to facilitate aggregate, statistical analysis of the grant-making process, including the calculation of success rates. (2) Collecting demographic, education, and career information from applicants, on a voluntary basis, that is not available to proposal reviewers but is used for analysis of success rates.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD agreed with our recommendation to implement additional data collection efforts. As of August, 2017, the Basic Research Office (BRO) has drafted an implementation plan and schedule for the collection of demographic data on grant applicants and lifecycle grant data. As part of this, BRO has identified a number of issues to be addressed and resolved within DoD. One of these areas is the protection of any information collected to assess the success rates of women as Principal Investigators (PIs)/co-PIS under STEM Research grants and cooperative agreements. As a result, before BRO proceeds with its planned actions, they are working with the Office of Information Management, WHS, to ensure there are no issues related to the Privacy Act. The agency did not provide a timeline to GAO for when these actions are expected to be completed.
    Recommendation: In order to ensure complete, analyzable records regarding research grant award decisions are available for management and analysis, the Secretary of Energy should direct DOE's grant-making agencies to implement additional data collection efforts, which should include: (1) Retaining complete records of pre-proposal, proposal, and award data, including a record of proposal disposition, in linked electronic files to facilitate aggregate, statistical analysis of the grant-making process, including the calculation of success rates. (2) Collecting demographic, education, and career information from applicants, on a voluntary basis, that is not available to proposal reviewers but is used for analysis of success rates.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE generally agreed with our recommendation to implement additional data collection efforts. According to DOE officials, as of September, 2017, of the four components audited at DOE, all four have taken actions toward implementing the recommendation and one component has completed its implementation. Specifically, the Office of Science began collecting investigator demographics during the second quarter of fiscal year 2015 and already retained complete records that enabled the calculation of success rates. Three additional DOE components conducted a joint feasibility study and all concur that it is feasible to collect data on demographic, education and career information of applicants. The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) revised its approach to data collection and now retains complete grant life cycle information for each individual award, including complete records of pre-proposal, proposal, and award data in linked electronic files. NE is also changing existing data systems to input/track voluntarily submitted demographic information on Principle Investigators on applications to facilitate aggregate, statistical analysis of the grant-making process, including the calculation of success rates. The agency notes that for NE, the completion of the actions required to implement this recommendation is estimated to take up to 12 months. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) participated in the joint feasibility study regarding the collection of demographic data, but have not completed any actions to implement such data collection.
    Recommendation: As NASA begins to collect demographic data on its grant proposals and awards, the NASA Administrator should include the following key components: (1) Retain complete records of pre-proposal, proposal, and award data, including a record of proposal disposition, in linked electronic files to facilitate aggregate, statistical analysis of the grant-making process, including the calculation of success rates. (2) Collect demographic, education, and career information from applicants, on a voluntary basis, that is not available to proposal reviewers but is used for analysis of success rates.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: NASA agreed with our recommendation and indicated it will begin collecting basic demographic, education, and career data from its research grant applicants on a voluntary basis by the end of fiscal year 2016. In addition, NASA noted it will explore its ability to consolidate proposal and award data as part of the ongoing update to its procurement and grants management systems. As of September 2017, NASA officials reported that the notice of grant award document (form 1687) was modified to require entry of the proposal number on the form in order to capture the linkage between proposal and award. When the transition to the new contract/grant writing system (Procurement for Public Sector) occurred in June 2017, NASA began using the amended award notice. NASA states they are continuing to investigate system options for fine tuning this cross-referencing methodology. However, as of September 2017, there were no stated plans to collect or track demographic, education, or career characteristics of grant applicants in such a way as to facilitate the analysis of success rates.
    Recommendation: To comply with Title IX enforcement requirements, the Secretary of the Department of Defense, which funds STEM research at universities, should direct the Director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity to ensure that Title IX compliance reviews of DOD's grantees are periodically conducted.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD agreed with our recommendation and noted it is in the process of revising current DOD guidance which will address its Title IX enforcement requirements. In a conversation with GAO in September 2017, a DOD official stated that the agency is in the process of formulating instructions related to both Title IX and Title VI that they believe will address the recommendation regarding Title IX enforcement. To date, these actions are not complete as they are still in the process of developing appropriate language.
    Recommendation: To comply with Title IX enforcement requirements, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which funds STEM research at universities, should ensure that Title IX compliance reviews of NIH's grantees are periodically conducted.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS indicated it would consult with NIH and initiate a sex discrimination compliance review program that includes grantee institutions with STEM programs. We will update the status of this recommendation when the agency provides documentation that these efforts have been completed.
    Director: Kohn, Linda T
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help address the uncertainty NIH faces, related to the potential impact of increasing indirect costs on its funding of future research, the Director of NIH should assess the impact of growth in indirect costs on its research mission, including, as necessary, planning for how to deal with potential future increases in indirect costs that could limit the amount of funding available for total research, including the direct costs of research projects.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: National Institutes of Health
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 7, 2015, NIH provided some information indicating that it had taken action to address our recommendation by tracking the size of indirect costs as a proportion of NIH's overall budget as part of the agency's annual budget planning process and risk assessment program. However, we determined that the actions did not fully address the recommendation because they focus on the agency's overall budget and do not assess the potential ongoing impact of indirect costs for universities on its mission. As of August 2017, NIH officials have not informed us of any additional actions taken to implement this recommendation. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive additional information.