During my PhD it bothered me how much time my supervisor had to spend on writing proposals to get funding to do science, which in practice pretty much meant that he had no time to do science because he spent all that time in the time-consuming business of getting money.
As I was finishing my PhD and looked at postdoc opportunities, I wrote myself a project proposal for starting investigators in which I spent overall about one month (literature review, securing collaborators, writing itself, etc). This was very competitive and only one in every 100 applicants got funded - I did not get funding, although I made it to the interviews, which I was told meant I made it to the top 10%. I am not completely unsatisfied about the outcome because I gained experience and contacts, which eventually led me to being offered a postdoc position by one of the people I had included as collaborators. However, the whole process of putting the thing together meant I lost about one month that I could have spent doing science. It also made me realize that even writing a high quality proposal in which I had spent a lot of time working on the details would not necessarily lead to guaranteed success. If only 1% of applicants get funded it means that statistical noise alone is enough to push you out of the winners pool!
Now that I am a postdoc I have to spend some time helping my new boss with his proposals and in the near future (maybe in the next year) I will have to start applying to some competitive project money myself. Again, this means that I will not be doing research during that time and will spend a considerable amount of time trying to get that research funded.
How can this loss of productivity be quantified? Are there studies on how much less research is carried out because of the time spent on competitive hard-to-win grant calls?