Subcommittees Explore Reducing Red Tape for University Research

Jun 12, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Research and Technology today held a joint hearing to examine concerns raised in a recent National Science Board (NSB) report on how to minimize regulations and increase effectiveness of federally-funded research universities.  The NSB report outlined concerns raised by educational institutions about the workload associated with applying for and receiving federal funds for research.  The report cited a statistic that on average, researchers spend 42 percent of their application time on meeting administrative requirements. 

Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun M.D. (R-Ga.): “In my opinion, forty-two percent sounds like an extraordinarily high number. I have often spoken against the bureaucracies associated with a large federal government, and it appears that our educational institutions may indeed be victims of bureaucratic red tape. Consequently, I am interested in learning about not only how the federal government can -- and needs -- to do a better job in cutting down red tape to bring that 42 percent number down, but also about the tools, or in this case, the paperwork the NSF Inspector General needs to access in order to do her job effectively.”

The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R. 4186), introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), includes a provision to review federal regulations surrounding research universities in order to minimize the regulatory burden. The FIRST Act was approved by the Committee on May 28, 2014.

Chairman Bucshon: “Reducing burdensome red tape caused by an overly entangled bureaucratic web on the research community is an important subject for all of us. I want to be sure we address the concern that 42 percent of a researcher’s time is spent on administrative tasks which may take away from the conduct of science. But we must also ensure that we maintain processes to safeguard accountability, transparency and responsibility in handling taxpayer resources.”

In 2009, the Science Committee sent a bipartisan and bicameral letter to the National Academies requesting a report identifying the top ten actions to be taken in order to maintain the excellence of U.S. research and doctoral education. On June 14, 2012, the National Academies released the report that included a recommendation to “Reduce or eliminate regulations that increase administrative costs, impede research productivity, and deflect creative energy without substantially improving the research environment.” Witnesses today discussed the findings of multiple reports and explored ways to minimize the red tape that has become pervasive in academia.

The following witnesses testified:
Dr. Arthur Bienenstock, Chairman, Task Force on Administrative Burden, National Science Board

Dr. Susan Wyatt Sedwick, Chair, Federal Demonstration Partnership; President, FDP Foundation

Dr. Gina Lee-Glauser, Vice President for Research, Syracuse University, Office of Research

The Honorable Allison Lerner, Inspector General, National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General

For more information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.