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National Academies Suggests Ways To Cut Administrative Tasks Of Grant-Getters

Report: Trims of federal application requirements and self-imposed institutional obligations recommended

by Jessica Morrison
September 24, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 38

Federal agencies could relieve administrative burdens of grant seekers by trimming requirements for research proposals to the minimum information necessary for peer evaluation of scientific merit, says a report from the National Academies.

The report, released earlier this week, offers several recommendations aimed at curbing the amount of time grant-supported researchers spend on administrative tasks.

“Federal regulations and reporting requirements, which began as a way to exercise responsible oversight, have increased dramatically in recent decades and are now unduly encumbering the very research enterprise they were intended to facilitate,” says Larry Faulkner, a chemist who chaired the National Academies committee that wrote the report. “A significant amount of investigators’ time is now spent complying with regulations, taking valuable time from research, teaching, and scholarship,” says Faulkner, president emeritus of the University of Texas, Austin.

The committee recommends that Congress create a Research Policy Board, composed of members from academic institutions and representatives from federal agencies, that would work to streamline regulations. The report also suggests that universities pare back self-imposed administrative requirements that go beyond those of federal, state, or local grant-making agencies.

The report comes after Congress last year commissioned the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to investigate the effects of federal regulation on research productivity. The first part of its report, released on Sept. 22, is months ahead of schedule. The second part of the report, which will cover dual-use research and export controls, is expected early next year.


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