Saturday, April 6, 2013

Documenting wasted effort

After drowning in paperwork I asked Do grant applications ever get shorter?
I was interested to learn that several researchers from down the river at QUT recently got a letter published in Nature, Funding: Australia's grant system wastes time. They focussed on the National Health and Medical Research Council claiming:
Australian scientists spent around 550 years' worth of research time writing applications for project grants in 2012, many of which were more than 100 pages long. 
Yet 400 years' worth of that valuable research time was wasted because only around 20 per cent of applications were successful. 
Applicants spent an average of 34 days writing preparing their proposals, at a combined estimated salary cost of $66 million.
Unfortunately, I doubt this is that different from most countries. I review applications from overseas which look just as bulky, full of frivolous information, and with comparable low success rates.


  1. I think EPSRC switched to a new format a couple of years ago. The first step is now a preproposal of two pages, and only if that is approved does a full proposal have to be written. The same is done for collaborative research grants in Germany.

  2. Surely we could reduce the wasted time enormously by asking researchers to only prepare and submit their best 30% of potential grant applications?

  3. Is the page count really indicative? Isn't most of the content auto generated and tables?

    My point really, is that a 10 page article with 60 references takes me a month to write. Well, it takes 3 days to write a terrible version, and a month to write something worth reading. Maybe more.

    So, i find myself wondering how much of the total time time is spent on the proposal section of a grant application. And considering the request is for hundreds of thousands of dollars, what is a reasonable amount of time?

    This is a genuine question. I have no idea.