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While attending the Society of Research Administrators’ (SRA) 2015 Annual Meeting I heard multiple discussions, both in and out of sessions, which revolved around the topic of the administrative burden associated with doing research. These discussions ranged from what those administrative burdens are to how everyone addresses and handles these burdens.

administrative burdens on research funding

Administrative Burdens on Research Funding

Since 1991, according to the Council on Government Relations (COGR), there have been over fifty new regulations and over twenty revised regulations implemented and imposed that directly affect the conduct and management of research under federal grants and contracts. This may not sound like a lot to most people given that almost twenty-five years have passed since 1991. However, we must not forget that this includes changes made to circulars published by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), including the new Uniform Guidance, and anyone familiar with any of these items knows it’s not just the implementation of those changes and additions, but also the interpretation of them that can be burdensome. The mentioned changes and additions have become so troublesome in their interpretation and implementation that many groups have been formed to address them and existing groups have devoted significant time to addressing them. Some of these groups have done studies to evaluate how these additions and changes are affecting individuals that perform research as well as the organizations that support the research. This blog will touch on some of those groups and their studies, note the key areas that each saw as the most burdensome for research administration and suggest some ways to assist in some of the more troublesome areas.

Groups, Their Studies, and Their Findings

The National Science Board (NSB)

The NSB formed the Task Force on Administrative Burdens that published the report Reducing Investigators’ Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research in March of 2014. Some of the top reported burdens in that NSB report were:

  • Financial Management
  • Proposal Preparation and Submission
  • Required Reports – Progress and Others as Required
  • Effort Reporting

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)

The FASEB conducted a survey and published those results in 2013 in the report Findings of the FASEB Survey on Administrative Burden. Some of the top reported areas of burden within their survey were:

  • Proposal Preparation and Submission
  • Personnel Management
  • Effort Reporting
  • Financial Tracking and Reporting

Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP)

The FDP conducted a survey, started in 2012, that resulted in the publishing of the report 2012 Faculty Workload Survey released in April 2014. The FDP report differed from the NSB and FASEB reports in that it focused on how faculty conducting research spent their time when focused on their research efforts. The survey found that time was spent on the following activities:

  • 7% on Active Research
  • 4 % on Proposal Preparation
  • 6% on Post-Award Administration
  • 6% on Report Preparation
  • 7% on Pre-Award Administration

Conclusions from Reports

As you can see, when comparing these reports, the overlapping areas of burden lie in proposal preparation and submission and post-award activities such as creating reports, managing finances, managing personnel and reporting effort. Keep in mind there were other areas noted in these reports such as compliance (humans, animals, etc.), monitoring subcontracts and the growing amount of training requirements, just to name a few, but those noted above were at the top or near the top of each list.

Assistance with These Administrative Burdens

Most organizations that perform research have found that an easy way to help with some of these administrative burdens is to install solutions to assist with the overall management of these key trouble areas; however, for a solution to be adapted and accepted by those performing research and working in research administration, those solutions must be easy to use, always evolving (as this landscape continually does) and they must assist in relieving the burden(s), not add to them. IT Works offers a variety of solutions to assist with these key burdens:

Solutions from IT Works are innovative, easy to use, constantly evolving, diverse in report selection, well-supported by an implementation staff with research administration experience, and competitively priced. For more information, contact the IT Works team today.