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The impact of funding deadlines on personal workloads, stress and family relationships: a qualitative study of Australian researchers

Abstract

Objective To examine the impact of applying for funding on personal workloads, stress and family relationships.

Design Qualitative study of researchers preparing grant proposals.

Setting Web-based survey on applying for the annual National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grant scheme.

Participants Australian researchers (n=215).

Results Almost all agreed that preparing their proposals always took top priority over other work (97%) and personal (87%) commitments. Almost all researchers agreed that they became stressed by the workload (93%) and restricted their holidays during the grant writing season (88%). Most researchers agreed that they submitted proposals because chance is involved in being successful (75%), due to performance requirements at their institution (60%) and pressure from their colleagues to submit proposals (53%). Almost all researchers supported changes to the current processes to submit proposals (95%) and peer review (90%). Most researchers (59%) provided extensive comments on the impact of writing proposals on their work life and home life. Six major work life themes were: (1) top priority; (2) career development; (3) stress at work; (4) benefits at work; (5) time spent at work and (6) pressure from colleagues. Six major home life themes were: (1) restricting family holidays; (2) time spent on work at home; (3) impact on children; (4) stress at home; (5) impact on family and friends and (6) impact on partner. Additional impacts on the mental health and well-being of researchers were identified.

Conclusions The process of preparing grant proposals for a single annual deadline is stressful, time consuming and conflicts with family responsibilities. 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.

  • Public Health
  • Qualitative Research
  • Mental Health
  • Medical Education & Training

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