IDCs and research administration

Pamela Norton pnorton at
Tue Mar 26 14:58:03 EST 1996

In article <4j6de0$elm at>, drmarts at (Drmarts) wrote:

> I'm no accountant, but I do know that there are at least two ways to
> calculate indirect costs. The high percentages quoted by Art are for
> indirect costs on a salaries and wages base. In other words, it's not 105%
> of the entire grant amount, its 105% of the salaries category only. The
> lower percentages are calculated on a "modified direct costs" base. I'm
> not certain, but I think this is a percentage of the direct costs of the
> grant LESS salaries and wages. I believe Art is correct in stating that
> many non-university based research institutions use the salaries and wages
> base while most universities use the modified direct costs base. 
> I've read several disparaging remarks about research administrators and
> accountants here. It seems to me that those making the remarks remain
> quite ignorant of what it is these people to _for_ them. How can you
> remain ignorant of such details as _how_ the indirect costs for your
> grants are calculated and still gripe about the people who take care of
> such petty details for you, so that you can use your superior intelligence
> in the pursuit of Higher Knowledge. 
> Sherry

   Neither of these schemes describes the situation at my institution. IDC
are calculated based on all costs, including salaries, fringe and
supplies, excepting equipment (I'm looking at a recent award notice from
NIH).  I find it hard to imagine that any institution would agree to
excluding salaries and wages from the calculation of indirect costs, as
these usually represent the bulk of the direct costs. 

   In practice, I and probably many other researchers _are_ ignorant of
the details of what research administrators do _for_ us (I'm referring to
administrators within our own institutions here). Isn't that the point?
They don't need to know what we do. Their job is to ensure that paperwork
is filed, keep up with changes in regulations, negotiate IDC, etc., so
that individual researchers don't have to do this. In turn, I fill out
lots of confusing forms for them. Now, I don't think that research
administration should be beholden to me for bringing in grants. However, I
do resent the attitude that they are there to catch our mistakes, as I
think that they should be helping us _prevent_ mistakes. Maybe if
administrators told us a little more about what they are doing and why
they need to do it, we would be less disparaging.

   Pam Norton

Pamela A. Norton, Ph.D.          Assistant Professor of Medicine
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA 19107           p_norton at

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