The enormous pressures involved in applying for NHMRC grants have a huge impact on researchers’ productivity, health and well-being, say Australian experts.
Their study surveyed 215 Australian researchers, almost all of whom agreed that preparing their proposals took priority over their work and personal commitments.
Almost all said they became stressed by their workload and restricted their holidays during grant-writing season.
And again almost all supported changes to the current submission and peer review processes.
Ironically, the grant-writing often came at the cost of stopping researchers’ current research projects from progressing, the authors from the Queensland Institute of Technology said.
The conflict between the single annual funding deadline and spending holidays with children and family was a recurring issue for researchers with family responsibilities, the authors found.
Comments including “incredible anxiety”, “depressed”, “despondent” and “soul-destroying” provided strong indications of worker stress and burnout, they said.
The personal impact of unsuccessful proposals with a lack of feedback for the reasons of the failure may be adding to researchers’ misery, they added, with success rates dropping to as low as 17% in 2013.
Writing in BMJ Open, the authors called for either a change to the timing of the annual funding scheme or for the introduction of multiple rounds throughout the year.
“Much of the stress comes from having a heavily bureaucratic process that demands a lot of work and data from researchers for a single annual deadline,” they noted.
”The timing of the funding cycle could be shifted to minimise applicant burden, give Australian researchers more time to work on actual research and to be with their families,” they concluded.
BMJ Open 2014; online