Thursday, 26 July 2012

This post would have been about bureaucracy, but it got caught up in red tape

Posted by Bronia Arnott

When your research is funded it is such a great feeling. You have spent hours toiling over your budget spreadsheet, having it rejected by the Institute finance officer, reclassifying your directly incurred and indirectly incurred costs. You have carefully crafted your theoretical argument and honed your methodological choices. You have even agreed to do another systematic review. And all that hard work has paid off; your research grant has been funded. Now that the money is finally in your hands you can do what you wanted. Right? You clearly haven’t worked in a University before, have you? 

If you had, you would have met the Director of the Institute of Red Tape: Mr Bureaucracy*. Mr Bureaucracy doesn’t care what your research project is, how much money you got, or who it was funded by; all that he cares about are rules and regulations. Before his promotion to Direction of Red Tape, he was Head of Health & Safety. The most impressive thing on his CV to date is his design of the Research Passport System.

I wouldn’t mind but I’m not asking to go out and buy a designer handbag with the money, I’m not asking to inflict torture on participants, I’m not even suggesting that my colleagues and I go on a round the world cruise; I’m asking to do what I said I would do and what I was funded to do. If I carefully researched the cost of an iPhone, made sure I put it into the right costings column on my grant application, and then the funding body agreed that we needed it so that we could develop a smartphone app to investigate mHealth then please, PLEASE, don’t tell me that a Nokia is just as good AND significantly cheaper.

Thankfully, all of the staff within my research institute who deal with finance and research governance are absolute stars and are not like Mr Bureaucracy at all. But if you do come across him please let me know; I need to speak to him about an iPhone.

*This character is entirely fictional, and any resemblance to any individual dead or alive is coincidental.

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