Friday, July 20, 2007

The joy (ha!) of NSPIRES

My Geospace proposal went out the door this morning.

Proposing to NASA is a frustrating process. Requirements and formats change annually, and we have to use the user-hostile (as well as Mac-hostile) NSPIRES system. We can also use (which I have not yet done), but reports are that is even worse than NSPIRES.

An example of the frustrations of NSPIRES: In our budgets, we have to put in "Faciltites and Administrative" (a.k.a. overhead) costs. NSPIRES asks for the cognizant federal official for F&A rates--which must be put in separately in each year of the budget. Never mind that the cognizant official is the same for everybody at a given institution and does not (usually) change during the middle of a proposal preparation round. If the designers had thought for even one minute, they could have put in a lookup function for that, rather than make us supply that information repeatedly in a given proposal. There are also all kinds of hidden buttons and whatnot which make NSPIRES so user hostile.

NSPIRES is a later generation system. It came on line about three years ago to replace an earlier clunky system which had the ironically appropriate name SYS-EYFUS. (If you are unfamiliar with Greek mythology, click the link to find out why the name is appropriate.) But NSF had already developed the much more user-friendly Fastlane system. Fastlane was designed with its end users in mind, and it works much more effectively than NSPIRES.

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