He said this has had a profound effect on the way he does his job:
[There is] more time spent on compliance, and much more limitation on what we can do with individual animals. The cage-space requirement limits my facility to half the animals it was designed to house. Unless I can justify the need — typically with more grant awards (which are also much harder to get — NIH now funds about seven percent of applications received, down from 12 percent four years ago, down from 24 percent in 2003) — the institutions do not want to give an investigator more space or renovate the space we have. Thus we have to do more with less.
The issues of more work with less capacity and decreased NIH funding have likely dropped productivity by anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. Unfortunately, we are also seeing researchers leave academic settings — over the last four years we’ve lost three faculty to early retirement and not replaced them.
I know of at least six colleagues who have left academic research in the last four years, after more than 20 years in research, and not anywhere near retirement age. From an animal welfare and workplace safety point of view, the regulations are helpful, but the increased regulatory burden is largely tied to merely incremental improvements. Frankly, I don’t see much benefit to most of the new regulations beyond satisfying bureaucratic egos.