In DepthBehind the Numbers

Rethinking the time ‘lost’ to red tape

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Science  21 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6250, pp. 779
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6250.779

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Summary

This column is the second in a new series that takes a fresh look at some of the numbers that shape policies affecting the scientific community. The first column reexamined a metric devised by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, called the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index, to track the cost of what's needed to carry out biomedical research. This column tackles the issue of government red tape, specifically, what portion of a grant is devoted to "nonresearch" activities. A closer look at the faculty surveys generating the data suggests there are flaws in the conventional wisdom that scientists are weighted down with a heavy administrative "burden" that interferes with their ability to carry out cutting-edge research.