Admin Burden in Canada/Approach


The purpose of the ABC initiative is to support and inform efforts at ISED, funding agencies and institutions to achieve a tangible reduction in the adverse impacts of research administration burden in the Canadian research ecosystem. The end goal is to allow researchers to spend more time on research, while upholding high standards of research excellence and accountability.

This collaborative project will focus on the various issues that contribute to undue administrative burden in the various research management processes shared between the research-performing and the research-funding sectors in Canada. The participating organizations will bring forward proposals to be considered by the relevant players in the research ecosystem to reduce undue administrative burden in research in federal programs and at post-secondary education institutions.


The ABC initiative is driven by the following principles.

  • Shared objective of optimizing return on research investment,
  • A spirit of collaboration – across associations, institutions, disciplines and funders,
  • Pragmatism as to implementation,
  • Decisions by consensus wherever possible

Step-wise Process

A key aspect of the approach is not to try to “boil the ocean” but to tackle a limited number of tractable issues. All working group participants will be assigned by the appropriate authority within their respective organizations. The specific objectives of this project are to:

Step One: This step will be carried out primarily by the Steering Committee (SC) with the input of community members and their respective stakeholder organizations.

  • Inventory and understand the various issues from the perspectives of the diverse stakeholders;
  • prioritize issues and identify a very few (perhaps 3) priority issues where tangible solutions are feasible and can be ‘quick wins’ to leverage follow-on efforts.

Outcome: Prioritized list of issues to be assigned to working groups for action. This will require careful identification of a very limited number of issues which are significant and on which it is feasible to make genuine progress.

Step Two (following diagnostic and review of feasibility): Strike working groups to address priority issues identified in Step 1. Under the oversight of the SC working groups will:

  • Identify harmonization and improvements that would reduce the overall burden on institutions while maintaining accountability. This will entail, among other steps, a review of federal government requirements (including the information requested from recipient institutions and their researchers) and the operational and financial oversight activities performed by the federal government;
  • Identify and share best practices that have been implemented at institutions. These would focus on operational and financial compliance activities and include opportunities for institutions to re-consider their own processes and controls in an attempt to reduce burden;
  • Develop plans for implementation within the local systems of affected stakeholders, including ensuring the right people are at the table;

Outcome: Each working group will produce a report outlining recommendations and implementation plans.

Step Three: If applicable, Steering Committee to identify the next set of priority issues and iterate.

A detailed timeline for the ABC initiative is here.


Work on the initiative will be guided by scheduled teleconference discussions of the Steering Committee and Working Groups, but be carried out primarily through electronic exchange (accessible online documentation and e-mail exchanges). The following communications model will be followed.

  • Steering Committee - Monthly teleconferences
  • Working Groups - meetings as required
  • Community of Interest - group mailing lists and accessible online documentation