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The Paperwork Threat

While some argue that funding is the greatest threat facing science, Steve Caplan, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center writes at Occam's Corner at the Guardian that bureaucracy is right up there near the top, too.

"In every profession, good management practices and appropriate administration are essential for success, and science is no exception," he says. "However, as I sat and puzzled over how I would write a 'progress report' for a project that had not yet begun, it occurred to me that things are spiraling out of control."

Caplan says that with all the reports and updates, safety exams, and other workplace courses and compliance issues, researchers barely have time to think about their research anymore.

He notes that many of these regulations are in place for good reason, but he wonders whether they have to be fulfilled so frequently. Why, he asks, does he have to take course and exam on safe microbiological practices each year rather than every five years or 10 years?

"[A] balance needs to be struck to prevent researchers from seeing these important topics as a chronic waste of time," Caplan adds. "Just as too much medication is not necessarily more effective in [combating] a disease, but might even be dangerous, such is the case with excessive reporting, compliance and other bureaucratic requirements for scientists."