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Macs and Grant Site Just Don't Click

She said her company would also maintain key systems left behind by Grumman -- including, if it works, the new Mac-compatible system.

"The first question for our team is . . . if users can use it," said Biear, who said she has seen the nascent product because the companies have begun a seven-week overlapping transition period. "If it's working appropriately, [we] will maintain it and roll it out. If not, we would push it back."

In that case, Mac users will have to wait until the new system comes out at the end of March.

Not everyone is optimistic that even that deadline will be met. David Cassidy, a vice president at the District-based Turner Consulting Group, which was part of a consortium that lost its bid to take over the contract from Grumman, said he can't see how General Dynamics can fulfill the contract's requirements for the price it promised unless the company "has some incredible 'special sauce' that will enable them to meet these budget, functionality and schedule constraints."

But even if the company succeeds on schedule, it will be too late for the thousands of applicants who face a Feb. 1 deadline for the National Institutes of Health's most popular "R01" research grants. NIH has announced that it wants all those applications to be filed electronically.

"The big NIH deadline is Feb. 1, 2007," said John S. Massa, associate director of the University of Iowa's division of sponsored programs, in an e-mail. So a March release "isn't going to help much."

Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH's deputy director for extramural research, conceded the timing was awkward.

Will the agency consider pushing back its deadline for an all-electronic submission process? "That is something we may want to think about," she said.

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