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Windows only: Scientists using Macs unable to apply for many US grants

Once again Mac and Linux users are out of luck when it comes to applying for grants from the federal government. Following the snafu where only Windows users could apply for FEMA aid online, this one is even bigger and better.

Once again Mac and Linux users are out of luck when it comes to applying for grants from the federal government. Following the snafu where only Windows users could apply for FEMA aid online, this one is even bigger and better. It seems that the gigantic, $20 billion Grants.gov system is set up to only work with Windows computers, and a change that would allow Macs direct access is at least a year away, the Washington Post reports.

 

Although many U.S. scientists and others depend on graphics-friendly Macintosh computers, the software selected by the government is not Mac-compatible. And it is expected to remain so for at least a year.

Last week, faced with evidence that the system will not be fully accessible to Mac users by this fall as promised, NIH quietly dropped its plan to switch to electronic applications for October's $600 million round of major "R01" grants.

But NIH and other agencies already have been asking for electronic applications for smaller grants, triggering hair loss among frustrated Mac users.

"It's been hell on wheels," said Mark Tumeo, vice provost for research and dean of the college of graduate studies at Cleveland State University, one of many smaller institutions that have been hit especially hard by the new requirement.

Grants.gov was constructed by Northrop Grumman under a $22 billion federal contract. But it was a little Canadian company, PureEdge, which has since been acquired by IBM, that hard-wired the process to Microsoft.

The PureEdge solution, it turns out, works only with the Windows operating system. And that is especially galling, several scientists said, as at least one major grant-making agency, the National Science Foundation, has for many years been using a "platform-independent" system that works seamlessly with all kinds of computers. [And while 90% of all computers users use Windows,] critics note that in contrast to the domination of PCs in the business community, Macs constitute about one-third to one-half of the computers scientists and academicians use.

The Post also reports that the available workarounds are getting decidedly mixed reviews. One user calls the Grants.gov workarounds a "walk in the wilderness."