and Macs — update

Over at Partial Recall,
Rob gives us an update on what NIH is doing regarding PureEdge’s
inability to provide a Mac client to The latest news is
that the Mac client will be available in November 2006. Now, I could be
wrong, but I distinctly remember some pledges from PureEdge about a
year ago that a Mac client would be available “in a year”.

NIH’s solution, which I think is as good as anyone could hope for at
this point, is to offer grant applicants the use of a Citrix PC session
through which they can use the PureEdge forms, or access to one of
NIH’s service providers.
As Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH Deputy Director of Extramural Research, puts
it, “We recognize that this solution is not ideal but ask for your
and forbearance as we work toward the very complex task of electronic
submission of all NIH applications by May 2007.”

I keep saying this; maybe someone will listen soon: there are Mac e‑forms clients out there, available today. One is Formatta’s Filler
application, which is in use by a bunch companies and federal
government agencies already. In fact, Formatta is one of NIH’s “service
providers.” The government shouldn’t be locking users (or itself!) into
a particular platform when perfectly good alternatives are available.

Note that Formatta’s Filler for Mac was not available when was in development, so no-one should think that they didn’t
do their homework. But I think that the situation regarding PureEdge’s
intentions and ability to produce a Mac client should be pretty clear
by now, and a change of direction is possibly overdue. Although
PureEdge was bought by IBM earlier this year, I personally have little
confidence that the development of the Mac client will be any quicker
as a result.

In the meantime, NIH and others have to balance a very tricky
situation. On the one hand, OMB is mandating that they must integrate
and use On the other hand, they can’t risk alienating a
large part of their customer base (research grantees) by mandating use
of a PC-only platform that delivers less customer satisfaction compared
to the existing application submission process or alternative methods,
e.g. NSF’s FastLane. I feel NIH’s pain here; it is acute and it’s not
going to go away until PureEdge delivers a Mac client. Until such
times, I hope the agency continues to work with its customers to
communicate their position, and with as the team there works
to satisfy this need. NIH’s strategy of moving to 100% electronic
applications by the end of FY2007 is brave and admirable for an agency
of its size and the importance grant-making is to its mission. The
people responsible deserve kudos for it.