National Academies: Red tape hurting federal science research

Overlapping regulatory and reporting requirements often require duplication of effort by researchers, authors of the new report complain.
By Brooks Hays   |   Sept. 22, 2015 at 2:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Scientists say federal research funding could get more innovation per dollar if regulators got rid of some of the red tape.

The complaints arrived this week in the form of a congressionally mandated report, penned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, known collectively as "the Academies."

The Academies comprise thousands of scientists, doctors and researchers who serve as a volunteer expert panel for politicians, policy makers and regulators -- fielding questions, offering advice, writing reports and appearing at congressional hearings.

In the Academies' new report, titled "Optimizing the Nation's Investment in Academic Research," scientists call on federal agencies to lighten the regulatory burden placed researchers receiving federal funding.

"Federal regulations and reporting requirements, which began as a way to exercise responsible oversight, have increased dramatically in recent decades and are now unduly encumbering the very research enterprise they were intended to facilitate," Larry Faulkner, president emeritus of the University of Texas and chair of the committee that authored the new report, said in a released statement. "A significant amount of investigators' time is now spent complying with regulations, taking valuable time from research, teaching, and scholarship."

The report highlights a number of examples of regulatory excess, pointing out that researchers receiving fundings from multiple agencies often have to complete grant applications and fill out disclosure forms that aren't coordinated across agencies.

These overlapping regulatory and reporting requirements often require duplication of effort by researchers, authors of the new report complain.

Federal agencies should work together to simply the application process, researchers recommend. The letter also encouraged agencies to adopt uniform disclosure forms -- including reporting and assurances regarding financial conflicts of interest, animal welfare, human subject protections and other regulatory safeguards.

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