Tufts Joins Federal Program to Reduce Administrative Burden

Federally funded researchers now spend more than 40 percent of their time on non-research work, which partnership seeks to curtail

Scientists and scholars who conduct federally funded research spend roughly 42 percent of their time on the administrative tasks currently required for such projects, according to national studies. Tipping the balance back to the research itself is the goal of the government-led consortium the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP). Tufts signed onto the consortium this summer, joining 10 federal agencies and more than 119 universities and other nonprofits in a collective effort to streamline research administration.

“It is a balancing act to have responsible oversight while also ensuring the research is the first priority,” says Zoya Davis-Hamilton, senior associate director of research administration at Tufts and the university’s business representative to FDP.

The administrative tasks—everything from tracking the time spent on a project and monitoring costs to understanding the federal guidelines regulating the research itself—can be both frustrating and time-consuming, says Sarah Booth, associate director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts and a faculty representative on FDP.

“Our priorities as faculty are to write about our science so it can be considered for funding and to get our funding so we can do our research and then report it to our peer community,” Booth says. “But this is undermined when a faculty member is working more than 40 percent of the time on administration and not the actual research itself.”

Over the past decade, FDP has been able to help stabilize—but not yet reduce—the administrative burden. “All of us in FDP are being asked to think very hard about what the implications of every regulation are and how can we make them simpler,” Booth says.

Elena Naumova, professor and associate dean for research at Tufts School of Engineering, is also an FDP faculty representative. Angela Coutlis, business analyst in the Office of the Vice Provost, is Tufts’ technical representative to FDP.

Gail Bambrick can be reached at gail.bambrick@tufts.edu.

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