We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this fascinating report on research administrator rule breaking and workaround behaviors. Read the paper here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0095399720947994
Death by a Thousand 10-Minute Tasks: Workarounds and Noncompliance in University Research Administration
Barry Bozeman, Jan Youtie, Jiwon Jung
The article examines administrative workarounds in the context of university research administration. The empirical results from 116 semi-structured interviews with academic researchers with active National Science Foundation awards are framed by a “Rules Response” model positing relationships among rules compliance requests, administrative burden, red tape, and response choices, including compliance, appeal, rule bending, rule breaking, and workaround behaviors. Propositions are presented and reviewed in light of empirical results. The article concludes with implications of empirical results for improving the Rules Response model and a more general discussion of research needed to improve the understanding of both rules compliance and workarounds.
The authors write that “more than 25%, report using workarounds on rules and regulations that they perceive as barriers to their research productivity. Possibly, 25% is a conservative estimate.” And I love their ending lines….”So, are workarounds good or bad? The answer to that question depends…”
As with all things in research administration, “it depends.”
In all seriousness, I love this study — it’s pushing the boundaries of the profession and looking at issues we all face every single day. I applaud you, dearest Bozeman, Youtie, and Jung–this is a fantastic paper.