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House Science Subcommittees Looks at Administrative Burden in Research

June 13, 2014— The House Science Subcommittees on Oversight and Research and Technology June 12 held a joint hearing on ways to reduce the administrative workload on federally funded research.

The witnesses included Arthur Bienenstock, Ph.D., of Stanford University and chairman of the National Science Board (NSB); Susan Wyatt Sedwick, Ph.D., of the University of Texas-Austin and chair of the Federal Demonstration Project; Gina Lee-Glasuer, Ph.D., vice president for research, Syracuse University; and Allison Lerner, J.D., inspector general, National Science Foundation.

The hearing began with the recent NSB report finding that principal investigators spend approximately 42% of their time on administration of compliance matters. The university witnesses emphasized the need for the following:

  • Harmonizing regulations among federal agencies,

  • Streamlining requirements,

  • Providing flexibility to research institutions, and

  • Requiring documentation on an as-needed basis (i.e., requiring certain certifications after a grant has been awarded, as opposed to in the application, since most applications do not result in awards).

Lerner, defending the need for exacting requirements, noted the sheer extent of findings of misallocation and fraud from federal audits. She proposed that the audit community meet with researchers and institutions to consider proposed reforms, a move especially welcomed by Dr. Bienenstock.

Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Larry Buchson, (R-Ind), physicians who chair the respective subcommittees, expressed frustration at the lack of progress in dealing with administrative burden, as the NSB estimate is substantially the same as a 2007 Federal Demonstration Project report. They asked what a reasonable amount of time would be for investigators to spend on such matters, to which the university witnesses responded about half of the current estimated burden.


Stephen Heinig
Director, Science Policy
Telephone: 202-828-0488


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
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Telephone: 202-903-0806