Saying NO to Bureaucracy in Science

When you work pretty much solo without any admin or someone to push those little niggly things to you really feel the pressure. Well I do when there is a stack of science things I want to do just piling up. Its Jan 24 and I already feel buried in projects and am nowhere close to clearing the leftover ones from 2013. Bottom line. There are only so many things a person can do in a day.

So you would think I would be grateful for any, repeat ANY opportunity to sit on a panel, give a talk and be reimbursed. Wrong.

A few months ago I was very honored to be invited to a panel for the upcoming BIO meeting (another San Diego meeting) to talk about being part of an European Commission funded science project. This kind of thing does not happen everyday and the odds of getting the proposal accepted are probably not that great. Time goes by and a week or so ago I was informed the panel was accepted. Terrific, I then ask if they will reimburse my travel expenses etc. A week goes by and I get an email from the European Commission informing me that I have to register on some website and also have to register under some authentication site etc in order to be eligible for travel expense reimbursement. And of course this will take about 10- 15 minutes. I think for 30 seconds..

I realize I would be going to San Diego and this entails >5-6 hr on flights to sit on a panel, I would have to stay at least one night, and probably I would get chance to comment about my experiences being part of a project for about 10-15 min. So I politely decline to register in yet another database as I know the EC already has us in a myriad of databases because they fund the company I represent on the project. To me this is just another example of the silly bureaucracy that is rampant in science.

Most times I just have to submit travel expenses to organizations, this example just illustrates how something pretty simple can become tedious when there are other things that have a much higher priority.

Don’t even get me started on all the University required forms I am filling out in order to work as a consultant on an NIH project that has been funded for months. While my part on the project is relatively small and for a very short time period, I and the PI had to fill out documents that described the goals and deliverables of the project. Of course all of this information was in the grant submitted to the NIH. Repetition = Bureaucracy = Time wasted.

I guess I just have to be brutal and triage opportunities in future if the amount of effort required to deal with bureaucratic stuff equals or exceeds the actual amount of science to be done. In future I will be even more blunt and just say NO.



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