H.R. 3433, the “Grant Reform and New Transparency Act of 2011,” or GRANT Act, was introduced by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) on November 16, and was passed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform the next day. The legislation would require publication of full federal grant proposal, including research proposals, on a public website, and public disclosure of the names of peer reviewers. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is an original cosponsor.
Sponsors of the GRANT Act introduced the legislation to increase transparency and accountability in federal grants. However, a number of concerns have been raised by research associations and members of Congress on the potential negative impacts of the legislation. The GRANT Act would apply a one-size-fits-all system of accountability on all federal grants, and does not take research grants into special consideration.
Last week, Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and David Price (D-NC) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter to their House colleagues asking them to co-sign a letter urging changes to the measure. In the letter, Holt and Price point out that making grant proposals publicly available “would undermine the applicant and their institution’s right to their intellectual property,” and the provision requiring public disclosure of the names of peer reviewers would “hinder the ability of scientists to evaluate the credibility of research findings.”
In a statement issued after the committee's passage of H.R. 3433, Lankford stated:
This legislation will bring transparency to the $50 billion annual discretionary and federal grant programs. During a time of massive budget deficits, members of both parties came together today to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent in a wise and accountable manner. The current process is too complex and operates with little transparency. With the federal government offering 1,670 grant programs annually, it should be required that the agencies leading these programs clearly disclose how grants are evaluated and awarded. This will help bring fairness for applicants going through the grant process and give taxpayers a greater level of transparency concerning how their tax dollars are spent.
The Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council on Governmental Relations have been working with the Committee in an attempt to address concerns with the legislation before it moves to the House floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives.