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Re: [ontolog-forum] Goverment funding for private research?

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2009 19:12:05 -0400
Message-id: <49EE52C5.7010201@xxxxxxxx>
Len Yabloko wrote:    (01)

> My experience is similar to what you described. However, I believe
> that very much depends on the agency.    (02)

I'm sure it does.  NIST is a small agency, and we don't have a lot of 
SBIR grant money (as Chris implied) and we pride ourselves on being 
conscientious about this stuff.  Other agencies have much more money, 
and get orders of magnitude more SBIR proposals, and don't have a 
proportionate evaluation staff.  So you get the very quick 3-pile 
system: Yes, Maybe, No, and the No's get the 3-sentence review.    (03)

> I think "some knowledge... and new idea" is an understatement.
> My impression is that reviewers are looking for solid (certifiable)
> expertise and prove record of accomplishment in the field.    (04)

Yes.    (05)

> Do you 
> really think that some smart person with good idea can get
> government money just for interesting thoughts about solving
> particular problem at hand?    (06)

Yes.  But that person has to have some track record.  It is the 
Catch-22: you can't get a contract if you have never had a contract. 
(And that is why NSF has first-timer grant programs.)  If you were the 
lead PI on a project at Raytheon or sold your software product to NASA 
Ames, or whatever, that may be enough.    (07)

> If so, how can reviewer be sure that she is not wasting tax money?    (08)

She can't be sure, ever.  And it is probably fair to say that 9 out of 
every 10 such grants are a waste of taxpayer money with respect to the 
objective at hand.  But they are somebody's first grant, or they kept 
some smart person actively engaged in the area and working with and 
educating the agency, or they demonstrated the fruitlessness of a blind 
alley, etc., all of which may bear fruit later.    (09)

> Are newcommers ever welcome?    (010)

If you mean "wet behind the ears", no.  But new small businesses created 
by experienced people, or people with a clear idea and the knowledge of 
where the market for that idea is, yes.    (011)

> What about "high risk" requirements of SBIR?    (012)

That just means that you can't propose something they have already done 
or can buy off-the-shelf, or something that is a simple matter of 
engineering using a well-known approach, i.e. something they could do in 
a week or so themselves.  Much of the "high risk" requirement is just 
nominal justification for public venture capitalism. ;-)    (013)

-Ed    (014)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (015)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (016)

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