CSPC2016 Round Table Input - Ideas for Reducing Admin Burden/Optimizing Research Outcomes


This CSPC session, organized by CASRAI, asked the question of how to optimize our investment in publicly funded research. While recognizing that we have a strong and dynamic academic research ecosystem, with much to celebrate – both in terms of funding structures and research performance – the research ecosystem is under pressure. There are real concerns that research productivity and effectiveness is being compromised by undue administrative burden on researchers and research institutions. This CSPC session focused on identifying constructive and feasible ways to ways to reduce administrative burden without compromising quality and accountability of the research system.

The session was launched by three presentations that addressed this issue from various perspectives - the issues being addressed in the Admin Burden Canada program/CASRAI, the outcomes of a mini-survey conducted prior to the CSPC session, a funder and a researcher. Following that participants broke into round tables to identify potential approaches to system improvements as summarized below.

The Canadian Common CV (CCCV)

  • Use ORCID
  • Eliminate need for information that is not used
  • Redesign CCCV as Open Source
  • Move towards use of a Biosketch (as per NIH)
  • Too many partners are defining parameters – resulting in overkill; CCCV should set rules of play
  • Reduce admin burden at source of CCCV (e.g. capacity to port data from other systems)

Funding Proposals

  • Introduce a lighter “front end” proposal; then take a deeper dive on initiatives that make the first cut; introduce more stages in the funding/review process for very large complex proposals to reduce the time spent writing proposals that will not get funded at the end. Use triage
  • Do not use externally imposed evaluation criteria or metrics that do not relate to proposal
  • Use ISO model – evaluation of a proposal as it proceeds.

Other Administrative Issues

  • Redesign web forms
  • Confirmation of continuing eligibility of applicants is unduly complex. Should have a simpler way of confirming with a single click in a web based system

Reduce Pressure on Applicants

  • Increase team work – to enable more researchers access to funds
  • Build culture of interdisciplinarity within institutions
  • Institution to assist in the building (and selection) of research teams

Peer Review System

  • Face to face peer review a must
  • Following a peer review selection of fundable proposals, experiment with a “lottery system” for allocating grants. Do not do for the whole system; perhaps try with new applicants

International Issues

  • Institutional requirements for proposal submission should be re-assessed to streamline

Funding Agency Opportunity

  • Make admin data from TC3 available in open comparable formats

Tackle Funding Landscape

  • Large number of medium sized funding agencies; coordinate funding opportunities
  • Coordinate TC3+ and other funding opportunities (including international) ; consider convergence of funding opportunities based on research topics
  • Portal to help ID relevant funding opportunities
  • Manage the equilibrium between the number of programs and funding opportunities with the necessity to reach to special sector-specific research and requirements

Address Confounding Pressures on System

  • Disconnect of what researchers expect to submit as applicants and what researchers demand of the TC3+ in terms of proposal content
  • Lack of resources within funding agencies: operational versus direct funding of research