Research Overheads

Dave Boone boone at ese.ogi.edu
Thu Jun 22 10:11:00 EST 1995


> [snip]  [I]n the US, the university
>takes about 50% off the top before the PI is allowed to waste 50%
>of their 50% on grant writing.  It's the university's 50% that I
>am referring to as administrative overhead, and which private
>foundations have seen fit to limit, and towards which I see no reason
>for Congress not to impose limits as well.
>
>	I'm not debating grantsmanship waste.  I'm merely
>pointing to an area that seems to be cut-able in the light of fiscal
>cut back.

Indirect costs cover more than car leases for vice presidents. They are
used to pay for electricity, water, the buildings that house our
laboratories, university libraries, accounting departments, purchasing
departments, and many more services without which it would be difficult to
do research.  Sure, there is waste that can be identified in every
university, but the search for such waste will rarely save significant
money.  The problem identified (too much time writing proposals) can be
traced immediately to shrinking percentages of proposals that are funded. 
We have to write more proposals in order to get enough funded to continue
our research.  I recently competed for a program that, *after* preproposal
screening, funded 2% of the submitted proposals.  If we have to submit 50
proposals in order to get one funded, we won't have much time to do
research.  Why are the percentages dropping?  Increasing numbers of
academic faculty, increasing demands by their institutions for extramural
funding of their salaries, and shrinking or static federal funds for research.

dave boone
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David R. Boone                  | "Many scientists classify bacteria.  Which
Prof. of Environ. Microbiology  | means that it is only for them to know, and
Oregon Graduate Institute       | they won't tell other people about it."
503-690-1146, fax 503-690-1273  |        --from a 4th-grade science project
boone at ese.ogi.edu; http://www.ese.ogi.edu/ese_docs/boone.html
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