Why Are Research Grantees so Overwhelmed?

September 28, 2011 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

One TV commercial that many of us can relate to — myself included — is a spot for 5-hour ENERGY. See the video at the bottom of this post.

This commercial came to mind as I attended the Federal Demonstration Partnership meeting earlier this month as the attendees discussed their plan to update the Faculty Burden Survey. The original survey, completed in 2007, suggested that multiple discrete activities linked to federal research grant management create a cumulative burden that reduces the amount of time available for faculty to engage in active research. 

The FDP is now reevaluating the changes in burden since the first survey. The new survey, which will be called the Faculty Workload Survey, will include more details on new and specific burdens facing researchers. Survey organizers said they plan to finalize a questionnaire in the coming weeks that can be used for the survey this fall, with a goal of completing the survey by March 2012. They currently are accepting information from universities to determine a sample size for the survey.

The initial survey found that of the time that faculty committed to federal research, 42 percent was devoted to pre- and post-award administrative activities — not to active research. The overall top burdens reported by faculty included grant progress-report submissions, personnel hiring, project-revenue management, equipment and supply purchases, IRB protocols and training, training personnel and students, and personnel evaluations. That’s definitely a heavy load, all of which takes time from conducting the actual research.

I harken back to the scene in the commercial where the worker’s boss plops down tons of paperwork into her in-box. I’m not saying researchers are falling asleep at their desks as the commercial suggests, I’m just trying to emphasize that all these tasks can create a wearisome burden for them. They may need several 5-hour ENERGY drinks to complete all their chores.

It’ll be interesting to see what new burdens researchers are facing and what their recommendations may be to address them. I’m sure they are SO tired of it.

If you can see this, then you might need a Flash Player upgrade or you need to install Flash Player if it's missing. Get Flash Player from Adobe.

What burdens do you face in your daily grants workload that should be addressed? We’d like to hear if you have suggestions for improvements of your own.

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