The impact of a streamlined funding application process on application time: two cross-sectional surveys of Australian researchers.
Barnett AG., Graves N., Clarke P., Herbert D.
OBJECTIVE: To examine if streamlining a medical research funding application process saved time for applicants. DESIGN: Cross-sectional surveys before and after the streamlining. SETTING: The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia. PARTICIPANTS: Researchers who submitted one or more NHMRC Project Grant applications in 2012 or 2014. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Average researcher time spent preparing an application and the total time for all applications in working days. RESULTS: The average time per application increased from 34 working days before streamlining (95% CI 33 to 35) to 38 working days after streamlining (95% CI 37 to 39; mean difference 4 days, bootstrap p value <0.001). The estimated total time spent by all researchers on applications after streamlining was 614 working years, a 67-year increase from before streamlining. CONCLUSIONS: Streamlined applications were shorter but took longer to prepare on average. Researchers may be allocating a fixed amount of time to preparing funding applications based on their expected return, or may be increasing their time in response to increased competition. Many potentially productive years of researcher time are still being lost to preparing failed applications.