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The impact of a streamlined funding application process on application time: two cross-sectional surveys of Australian researchers
  1. Adrian G Barnett1,
  2. Nicholas Graves1,
  3. Philip Clarke2,
  4. Danielle Herbert1
  1. 1Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation & School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adrian G Barnett; a.barnett{at}


Objective To examine if streamlining a medical research funding application process saved time for applicants.

Design Cross-sectional surveys before and after the streamlining.

Setting The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia.

Participants Researchers who submitted one or more NHMRC Project Grant applications in 2012 or 2014.

Main outcome measures Average researcher time spent preparing an application and the total time for all applications in working days.

Results The average time per application increased from 34 working days before streamlining (95% CI 33 to 35) to 38 working days after streamlining (95% CI 37 to 39; mean difference 4 days, bootstrap p value <0.001). The estimated total time spent by all researchers on applications after streamlining was 614 working years, a 67-year increase from before streamlining.

Conclusions Streamlined applications were shorter but took longer to prepare on average. Researchers may be allocating a fixed amount of time to preparing funding applications based on their expected return, or may be increasing their time in response to increased competition. Many potentially productive years of researcher time are still being lost to preparing failed applications.


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