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Danish scientists: Four hours a week spent on bureaucracy

Study by Danish think-tank DEA reveals facts about researchers' time-use

The average Danish researcher spends 12 per cent, or half of a full day every week on administrative paperwork. And for a minority of university researchers, administrative tasks take up 25 per cent of their time. This is according to Danish think tank DEA.

The numbers are broadly in line with a study carried out by the University Post on PhDs at the University of Copenhagen.

For the DEA analysts responsible for the study, this administrative load is too much: “Danish researchers do not face particularly good conditions when it comes to how they can use their time,” says Maria Theresa Norn, head analyst t at DEA to the Universitypost. “The question is how we can improve on that, notably by helping them spend less time on administration”.

50 per cent on research

In the survey, researchers were asked to report how they spend their time during a ‘typical’ workweek. The question was included in a study reviewing the cooperation between researchers and wider society.

Researchers and scientists, including all levels from PHD-students to full professors, were asked to report the time spent on five categories: administration, teaching, other forms of dissemination, research, and the procurement of funding.

Overall results show that researchers use on average almost half of their time on research, 30 per cent on teaching and dissemination, and 20 per cent on administration and procurement of funding.

Procurement champions

There is a difference between the natural sciences and the social and human sciences. In the natural sciences, researchers use only 20 per cent on teaching and related activities, whereas social and human scientists use 32 per cent of their time on teaching.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen use an average of 22 per cent of their time for teaching.

“Variations between universities could be explained by a number of factors: Differences in disciplines, teaching requirements, and the length of the average work-week,” says Maria Theresa.

The study reveals that not only are some researchers ‘administration’ champions with a significantly higher administrative workload. There are also ‘procurement champions’. A small group of researchers (15 per cent) use more
than a fifth of their time acquiring funding.

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