There are many ways my NIH colleagues and I keep up with the concerns of the research community, but one way that I have not discussed in depth on the blog is the Federal Demonstration Partnership or FDP. The FDP is a forum of federal agencies and funding recipients, sponsored by the Government, University, Industry, Research Roundtable of the National Academies, that comes together to work on identifying, testing, and implementing effective processes and systems for the management of federal government-supported research and education. What started out in 1986 as an experiment between the Florida State University System, the University of Miami, and 5 federal agencies, including NIH, has evolved into an organization of 120 research institutions and 10 federal agencies that work together on efficient support of extramural research.
NIH, and my office in particular, is very active with the FDP. Michelle Bulls, the head of the NIH Office of Policy for Extramural Research Administration within the Office of Extramural Research, is a longstanding member of the FDP Executive Committee, which provides overall direction to the entire partnership. Several NIH leaders also serve as co-chairs of FDP subcommitees that are convened to discuss important topics in depth, such as conflict of interest and the outcomes of scientific investments.
The FDP has contributed to a number of significant improvements to the grants process, helping to identify and promote changes such as allowance of no cost extensions, increased budget flexibility, allowing pre-award costs, and more. One particularly important FDP initiative is quantifying how the administrative tasks associated with federal grants affect time spent on research. The FDP has undertaken two major faculty burden surveys with the goal of identifying potential ways to maximize researchers’ time spent on active research, without sacrificing accountability and compliance with federal regulations. The 2005 survey received responses from over 6,000 investigators, and the 2012 survey received feedback from over 13,000 investigators. Both surveys show very similar patterns of burden areas – in both 2007 and 2012 researchers report spending 42% of their federally-funded research time completing pre- and post-award requirements. (See the Faculty Standing Committee page to read more about the 2005 survey, and for preliminary results of the 2012 survey.)
Wondering if your institution or agency is part of this group? Current FDP member organizations are listed on the FDP website. Every six years the FDP enters a new phase to identify priority areas, and they are now accepting applications through March 28 for new organizations to join the upcoming phase. I welcome new institutional representatives, faculty and administrators alike, to join us in working together through the FDP to improve the grants process.