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Paper copies

July 13, 2009

NASA modified the New Frontiers AO today to request that each proposal team provide 90 copies of their New Frontiers proposal, due in less than three weeks.

90 copies x 10 proposal teams x 250 pages each = 225,000 pieces of paper.

Now, government agencies almost always lag behind popular culture, but as researchers increasingly join twitter, facebook, and online consortia in ever greater numbers, I find it surprising that government officials and reviewers still require hard copies of such large documents.

Yes, I know the arguments.  Reviewers like to highlight.  It’s quicker to thumb through printed proposals on the fly at plenaries.  Specialists can be given only portions of proposals.  ITAR sensitive portions can be ripped out of foreign reviewers’ copies.

But really … all of this can be done with editable .pdfs as well, at much less cost, in much less time (after a little practice, true), and without so much … waste.  After all, proposers ALSO have to provide 90 CDs for review, each one attached to the corresponding hunk of paper.

I doubt that the next generation of proposers will stand for this.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan K permalink
    July 15, 2009 12:38 pm

    I wish there was another way…. I just don’t think we’re there yet. NRA proposals are electronic. The most recent CAN proposals were electronic. Maybe we’ll try it someday with a small instrument only AO. But even then… File size is an issue. Trying to read a 2-column format e-proposal is an issue. Cross-platform compatibility is an issue (the world has been sold a bill of goods – PDF is NOT universal).

  2. July 15, 2009 10:59 am

    Susan K,

    Somehow I knew you’d have good points here! It really is amazing, though, at the amount of paper that these require.

    I’d be thrilled if proposers would remember to LABEL their accompanying CDs/DVDs and AVOID the use of glue near them.

    Baby steps.

  3. Susan K permalink
    July 14, 2009 2:27 pm

    Unfortunately, it is not the next generation of proposers who matter here… it is the reviewers. Until such time as this generation is RETIRED, how are you going to staff a technical review panel with unconflicted buy expert people able and willing to review 250 pages (x10) of proposal on the computer?

    I hate it too. But I get it.

    And until PIs understand how to make a PDF file that
    1. has bookmarks
    2. is of decent size
    it will be even harder. I saw a 15 page PDF file that was 65MB in size. 65 MB!!!! And that was very nearly all a single figure. Now, imagine a 250 page proposal, full of different sized pages, different orientations, CAD drawings, MS Project schedules etc. Imagine trying to navigate around in that file…

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