President Barack Obama spoke the following during his 2009 inaugural address:
We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its costs. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.
How has Obama performed on these promises: “restoring science to its rightful place” and “transforming our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age”? PJ Media spoke with a scientist at a major university for his take on the Obama administration’s effect on his profession. (He requested anonymity, based on his opinion that the revelation of his political conservatism could damage his livelihood.)
Our source told PJ Media that less of his time is spent on actual science, and more is spent dealing with regulations and administrative work. This has become worse over the last four years, and more intrusive as well:
It used to be the case that faculty were appointed to 80 percent research and 20 percent teaching and administration. The intent was to spend no more than 1-2 percent on administration unless you were … an administrator. The teaching effort is also supposed to include the time we spend writing papers and grant applications. With tightening budgets, the institutions want researchers to bring in more of their salaries, up to 95 percent on research. Yet the regulatory effort increases each year — again, a net of about 10 percent of total time, but in many cases the institutions are paying less of our administrative effort, and not more.
This actually causes a conflict of interest — one of the regulations is to accurately report effort to NIH (and DoD) each year. We are not supposed to charge effort to NIH grants that we don’t actually spend doing research on those grants — yet we are expected to perform all of our regulatory compliance effort on grant-paid time. We spend at least 10 percent of our time on average dealing with regulations, with brief spurts up to 50 percent of our time.
Moreover, while he spends only 3-4 hours a week on regulations which directly affect his research, there’s tons more time spent dealing with, of all things, the IRS:
Several times a year I have to work on reports to USDA and our internal Animal Care and Use committee that will take several entire days to complete.
I also spend a lot of time dealing with budget tracking, quarterly reports to the DoD, and yearly reports to NIH for each grant we hold — I would say that we spend a net of about 4-5 hours a week on regulatory issues (as faculty, with technicians handling the daily records). This doesn’t even take into account the number of times I am interrupted by email or phone with a paperwork request whose sole purpose is to satisfy the CYA (“cover your ass”) attitude with respect to IRS reports. Last month alone I had to fill out 100 percent additional burden of paperwork that was placed on the investigators simply because of the threat of IRS audit.