April 18, 2014

FDP releases final version of the Faculty Burden survey

The Federal Demonstration Partnership has released the final copy of the 2012 Faculty Workload Survey Research Report.

“Executive Summary

The Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP; Phase V) is a cooperative initiative among 10 federal agencies and 119 institutional recipients of federal funds, sponsored by the National Academies, with a purpose of reducing administrative burdens associated with federal research grants and contracts. In early 2012, the FDP conducted a survey of principal investigators (PIs) of federally-funded projects to determine the impact of federal regulations and requirements on the research process. This was a follow-up survey to the 2005 FDP Faculty Workload Survey of 6,295 federally-funded investigators (see Decker et al., 2007). In the current survey, responses were obtained from 13,453 PIs (representing a 26% response rate; 12,816 with complete data) with active federal grants during the 2010-11 academic year from 111 (non-federal) FDP member institutions. Respondent characteristics were remarkably similar across the two time periods.

Overall, PIs reported that almost half of their available research time for federal projects had to be allocated to project-related requirements instead of the content of their research projects. PIs estimated that an average of 42% of their research time associated with federally-funded projects was spent on meeting requirements rather than conducting active research. These results are remarkably similar to those found in the 2005 FDP survey, suggesting little change since the original survey was conducted.

According to PI estimates, research time spent on obtaining and completing federally-funded projects is roughly divided as follows:

  • Proposal preparation 15.4%
  • Pre-award administration 5.7%
  • Post-award administration13.6%
  • Report preparation7.6%
  • Active Research57.7%

In addition to proposal and report preparation requirements, as many as 23 different pre-and post-award administrative responsibilities were identified within the survey. Researchers reported having to deal with an average of 8.67of these responsibilities within the one-year timeframe of the survey. Researchers estimated that additional administrative assistance could reduce their time spent on administrative responsibilities by an average of 27% (from an average of 42% to approximately 31%). In absolute terms, researchers estimated that with adequate administrative help roughly 4 hours per week might be reclaimed for active research.

Sources of and Differences in Administrative Workload

The most commonly experienced administrative responsibilities included those related to federal project finances, personnel, and effort reporting. These were also among the most time-consuming responsibilities. For researchers engaged in projects that required human or animal subjects, the related IRB (Institutional Review Board) and IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee requirements were by far the most time-consuming. Other areas viewed as particularly time consuming were those involving clinical trials, subcontracts, and cross-agency differences. Since 2005, we observed increases in the proportion of respondents reporting substantial time devoted to federal project finances, personnel, and patent/copyright applications, and slight decreases in the proportion reporting substantial time required to meet HIPAA (Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act) requirements and to complete IRB training.

Administrative workload differed as a function of respondent characteristics including respondent’s administrative role, field of study, research assignment, type of project, funding source, amount of funding, and type of institution. These differences were most pronounced in the areas of post-award administration and then interim/final report preparation. There were also small but notable differences in administrative workload as a function of race, sex, and age.”

The complete report is located at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/xpedio/groups/pgasite/documents/webpage/pga_087667.pdf