Admin Burden in Canada/Background


ISED has been hearing from its various stakeholder communities that the administrative burden associated with the application and management of research funding can lead to sub-optimal use of resources. Recipient institutions are increasingly faced with a multitude of administrative requirements and regulations from diverse funding organizations. Research-funding organizations and institutions have their own regulations which can make it difficult for institutions to ensure compliance, and to put in place the required resources in an efficient manner. The allocation of scare resources has become major preoccupation of all institutions.

Some administrative burden is necessary for due diligence in research funds management, accountability and reporting; the challenge is to reduce undue burden and to implement effective efficiency measures. Although a great deal of administrative requirements are due to the federal government policies and their oversight activities, or reflect other external pressures on institutions from their local/regional context, some of the burden at institutions can be self-imposed. In an attempt to reduce or eliminate risk, some institutions have put in place processes and controls that are quite burdensome on their researchers.

There is a need for the federal government to review its own processes, activities, and requirements, and a concomitant need and opportunity for institutions to do the same. ISED has expressed its interest in working closely with institutions, funders and their partners to ensure that the community collectively addresses this issue. Provinces should be kept informed given the inter-dependence with some provinces on the requirements and/or oversight activities of the federal government in regards to research funding.

Ultimately, the federal government is accountable to the Canadians for the spending of public funds. Therefore, ISED needs to help ensure appropriate requirements, mechanisms, and oversight activities to ensure accountability and compliance with federal government policies, while removing any unnecessary administrative burden.

CASRAI, CARA, CAUBO, CAGS and CARL have formed a Steering Committee to oversee the ABC initiative to explore what can be done to reduce the administrative burden on researchers and research institutions in Canada. There are many different dimensions of burden and the issue spans multiple organizations including post-secondary institutions, federally-funded departments and agencies, and regulatory bodies, among others. The ABC initiative provides an opportunity for the post-secondary research community to come together to identify issues and bring forward proposals that could be considered by the relevant players in the research ecosystem within the context of the overarching federal commitment to reduce the administrative burden of research, while upholding high standards of research excellence and accountability. CASRAI believes it can contribute by having a particular role to play around information flows and data administration and convening/facilitating its membership and partners to develop concrete solutions. From the government's STI Strategy 2014 (link), p. 16 / 3.3 Reducing the Administrative Burden

"Ensuring research funding is adjudicated and administered efficiently and effectively is a long-standing challenge in Canada and around the globe. Some level of administrative effort is always necessary to ensure a rigorous peer review process. It is also critical to promote accountability for federal dollars spent, as well as compliance with the various guidelines and requirements governing the conduct of research. At the same time, an excessive administrative burden can result in scientists and researchers wasting energy, time and resources on paperwork, rather than on advancing science – an inefficient and unproductive use of resources.

A range of players are involved in funding research at post-secondary institutions and in regulating or administering the conduct of research. This can include post-secondary institutions, federally funded organizations, federal departments and agencies, provincial governments and regulatory bodies, standard setting organizations, charitable foundations, as well as industry and international bodies.

Such complexity calls for concerted action on the part of all stakeholders in Canada’s research ecosystem to enhance efficiency and reduce the administrative burden on researchers, releasing them to concentrate their efforts on generating breakthrough ideas.

Our Government will work with the post-secondary sector and other research-funders to reduce the administrative burden associated with research so it will be the lowest in the G7, while maintaining a strong commitment to uphold our high standards of research excellence and accountability and to govern the conduct of research and protect the health, safety and privacy of Canadians.

To accomplish this, we will:

  • Expand the current efforts of funding agencies supported by the federal government to improve client service, harmonize and simplify administrative requirements as well as align and integrate funding opportunities.
  • Reach out to research funders and administrators as well as standard-setting organizations and regulatory bodies outside the federal family to identify and pursue opportunities to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our research enterprise.
  • Investigate actions such as aligning reporting requirements, adopting common standards and promoting mutual recognition or harmonization of regulatory requirements where possible."