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  November 13, 2000

Portion of Indirect Costs to be
Distributed to Principal Investigators

Principal investigators who generate external research funds from the federal government, private foundations and corporations will get an extra piece of the pie come the New Year.

They'll be on the receiving end of five percent of the indirect costs recovered from their research grants, which have been returned to the Research Foundation.

This is an extension of last year's policy, when 10 percent of those costs were distributed to the deans.

The change becomes effective in the University's current fiscal year; the actual disbursement of the funds will begin early in 2001.

The Research Foundation's 11-member Research Advisory Council, including five new appointees, adopted the change to include the principal investigators in the distribution plan at its meeting on Oct. 31 at the Whetten Graduate Center.

"We're working now on a process for that distribution," said Ilze Krisst, assistant vice provost for research. "This is a first for all of us."

Indirect costs recovered represent the portion of externally funded research grants that the University retains to cover the costs of the research infrastructure. Indirect costs recovered also fund the Research Foundation's programs, including internal research grant competitions, faculty travel and doctoral-related programs.

"There was considerable discussion last year on the issue of indirect costs," said Ian Hart, interim vice provost for research and graduate education who, by virtue of his post, serves as chair of the Research Advisory Council.

"Last year, deans received 10 percent of the indirects generated by their school or college. The advisory council decided for this new budget year, we would return not only 10 percent to the deans, but five percent to the principal investigators," said Hart. "I'm happy over that decision."

In adopting the new policy, Hart said that he and the advisory council wanted to ensure a furthering of research and other scholarly activities.

"We want to work toward a strategy where there's sufficient money within these indirects to invest in targeted areas of research," said Hart. "The current program will give faculty and their deans income to invest in those targeted areas."

Council member J. Larry Renfro, professor of physiology and neurobiology, said the return of some indirect costs to principal investigators provides them with some flexibility.

"The cost of doing research can't always be predicted," he said. "The five percent gives some flexibility to people conducting the lab or scholarly work."

In addition to the nearly $1 million in indirect cost redistribution to deans and principal investigators, the budget for the Research Foundation's programs for fiscal year 2001 is $2,600,000, a 9.6 percent increase over last year, according to Hart.

"The increase is due mainly to the efforts of the faculty," said Hart. "They need to be complimented on their successes in garnering the grants that generated these indirect returns to the Research Foundation."

The Research Foundation's budget includes more than $1 million for research grant competitions. Other major budget items include $354,360 for faculty travel and short courses and nearly $600,000 for doctoral-related programs.

The emphasis in these internal competitions, Krisst said, is to enable faculty members to bolster their competitive position by providing funding for pilot projects or essential data collection for major proposal preparation.

"You can't go to the National Institutes of Health, for example, to compete for a grant and say you're just starting out," she said.

While the deadline for the first large grant competition of this academic year has passed, the next large grant competition will be awarded in the spring. There are no deadlines on the small grant programs. Proposals may be submitted by any faculty member in any field and on any subject.

Krisst said the Research Advisory Council is working with the AAUP to revise guidelines for the use of travel funds, in order to give faculty members more flexibility.

The council serves in an advisory role to Hart, who recommended the five new members to Chancellor John Petersen for appointment.

"My goal is to work closely with the council to enhance the research income and the reputation of the University among our contemporaries," said Hart. "One way of doing that is to help our faculty better position themselves in grant applications."

Richard Brown, professor of history and a new member of the council, said the council "is crucial to the advancement of the University."

Other newly appointed faculty are Mark Bridgen, professor of plant science; Larry Hightower, professor of molecular and cell biology; Davita Glasberg, professor of sociology; and Ashis Basu, associate professor of chemistry, who will serve as an alternate for Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos, associate professor of chemistry, during this academic year.

In addition to Renfro, faculty members already serving on the council are: Janine Caira, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; Baki Cetegen, professor of mechanical engineering; William Fitzgerald, professor of marine sciences; psychology professor David Kenny, for whom Pouran Faghri, associate professor of allied health, is serving as an alternate this semester; and Charles Hagen, associate professor of of art and art history.

The Research Foundation was created by the state legislature in 1945 to receive and disburse funds in support of research.

Claudia G. Chamberlain