A new report from the National Science Board recommends reducing the administrative workload for federally funded scientists. The report, released last week, calls for limitations on proposal requirements and reporting in order to decrease the time researchers spend on paperwork. Principal investigators spend an average of 42 percent of their time on administrative tasks related to federally sponsored research projects.

“Regulation and oversight of research are needed to ensure accountability, transparency and safety,” said Arthur Bienenstock, chair of the task force that examined the issue. “But excessive and ineffective requirements take scientists away from the bench unnecessarily and divert taxpayer dollars from research to superfluous grant administration.”

The National Science Board recommends that federal agencies modify proposal requirements to only include information collection essential to evaluating the merit of the proposal and making a funding determination. Annual progress reports should be limited to research outcomes and should be appropriate to the size of the award.

“Reducing Investigators’ Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research” also addresses federal regulations. The regulatory burden could be eased for research involving human subjects and animals. The report also calls for safety and security requirements to be re-examined.

Another problem is different grant management requirements among federal agencies. The Board recommends that agencies “accelerate efforts to harmonize and streamline the grant proposal and submission processes and post-award requirements.”


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