What a Government Shutdown Means to BU

Investigators should continue working on and submitting proposals to Sponsored Programs

The shutdown of the federal government has stretched into a third day after Capitol Hill lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a spending bill over the weekend. Photo By Drew Stephens.

  • Shutdown of federal government enters third day
  • BU investigators should continue working on and submitting proposals to Sponsored Programs as indicated
  • Federal student financial aid should not be impacted by shutdown

With Congress and the White House locked in a failure to agree on a spending bill, the federal government remains shut down for the third day. The shutdown, the first since 2013, affects the lives of Americans in numerous ways, as described in this Washington Post story.

At Boston University and universities across the country, the shutdown’s most immediate effects are likely to impact researchers working with federal grants. In a letter being sent to BU faculty Monday morning, Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, advises investigators to assume that deadlines for proposal submissions will remain unchanged.

To learn more about what the government shutdown means to the BU community, BU Today spoke with Jennifer Grodsky, the University’s vice president for federal relations.

BU Today: What does the shutdown mean for investigators who are submitting proposals for federally sponsored research?

Grodsky: For now, it means that some of their program managers and contacts at federal agencies may not be available. But even though it is unsettling to hear that agencies are closed, faculty should continue to work on their proposals as if the government were still open. It’s possible some government systems may not be working. For example, the National Science Foundation has announced that FastLane, its web-based grants management system, is closed during the shutdown. But the best thing investigators can do is have their proposals ready so that Sponsored Programs can process them according to the most up-to-date guidelines given by each specific agency.

Will the shutdown delay deadlines for a grant proposal?

We don’t know yet, so it’s really important that investigators continue to prepare and submit their proposals to Sponsored Programs in a timely manner. It’s also really important to remember that regardless of the headlines about the political situation, we need to proceed as if there will be no change in grant submission deadlines.

What about researchers who are currently working under federal contracts grants? Should they continue to work?

Yes, researchers should continue to work on their grants and contracts unless their agency or program officer has advised them otherwise. Faculty should keep in close touch with their Sponsored Programs contacts and check the Research Support website for updates.

Are some federal agencies still operating? Which agencies are open and which are closed?

Essential federal personnel are working, and each agency defines “essential” differently. You can see how every agency operates in a shutdown by looking at the agency contingency plans on the White House Office of Management and Budget website.

What does the shutdown mean for students?

Fortunately, federal financial aid should not be impacted. The US Department of Education has explicitly stated that Pell Grants and student loans will continue as normal. The small number of students enrolled in the BU Study Abroad Washington program who were scheduled to begin internships with federal agencies on Monday may see those internships delayed.

Will the shutdown affect faculty and staff at all?

Faculty and staff who planned to travel to Washington, D.C., for meetings with federal officials should check whether their federal contact will be available to meet. Most federal agency staff will not be working during the shutdown. Similarly, if a faculty or staff member has invited a federal official to visit BU, it’s possible the visit would need to be rescheduled.

How long is the shutdown likely to last?

That is the question everyone in Washington is trying to answer. A bipartisan group of legislators is working to negotiate a deal that would reopen the government for several weeks and give lawmakers more time to find a long-term solution. While a shutdown could last just a few more hours, I’m mindful that the last government shutdown, in 2013, lasted more than two weeks.

Author, Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.