Indirect Costs of Research Report

This study was undertaken in a context of growing research activity and complexity, increases in infrastructure operating costs, increased levels of regulation and compliance requirements – all of which result in increases in costs driven by research but not funded as direct research costs.

Specific objectives of the study were to:

  • assess the impact of growing research activity and the resulting ICR on universities’ ability to support research;
  • identify and document barriers to the full recovery of ICR;
  • consider the need to better communicate the impacts of ICR on the organization to internal and external stakeholders.

The three key areas of policy and practice explored were:

  • Measurement of indirect costs.  To what extent and how do Canadian universities measure or estimate the indirect costs of research, and what are the results of that exercise?
  • Recovery of indirect costs.  What are the policies and practices regarding cost recovery, and what are the challenges to such recovery?
  • Allocation of funding received.  How are indirect cost recoveries managed and allocated within the institution, and what is the basis for the allocation?

Most of the information in the report is based on the results of a broad survey, covering the three areas noted above, distributed to all Canadian universities.  Responses were received from 48 institutions including all of the 15 most research-intensive universities and a broad sample of the others, both in terms of size and geographical location.  With this response rate, the results are considered representative of the situation nationally.

The study found that about half of Canadian universities measure indirect costs of research, primarily to meet external reporting requirements but the results are also largely applied for internal budgeting purposes. While the approaches used to measuring indirect costs vary, the results are consistent: those respondents that provided an estimate of indirect costs indicated that they were between 40% and 60% of the direct costs.

Policies for the recovery of indirect costs exist at most universities, typically as a fixed rate but with many variations depending on the type of research – e.g. grant or contract – or by sponsor, category, and other distinctions including direct negotiation with funders. The two most commonly cited challenges to the recovery of indirect costs, likely linked, were refusal on the part of some funding organization to pay indirect costs, and reluctance on the part of researchers to include them in their research budgets.

Read the full report by clicking on the link below:

Indirect Costs of Research Report – Report

Indirect Costs of Research Report – Policies

Further Reading and Study on Indirect Costs of Research and Related Topics:

Fundamentals of the Research Enterprise – CAUBO Online Course (click to see when it will next be offered)

Enabling the Research Enterprise: An Institutional Challenge, A National Imperative – 2013 Conference Session recording available through the CAUBO Live Learning Centre

The Role of the Compliance Officer in Post‐Award Research Administration – 2013 Conference Session recording available through the CAUBO Live Learning Centre

Emerging Risks Impacting the Research Enterprise: Minimizing Risk, Promoting Opportunity – 2012 Conference Session recording available through the CAUBO Live Learning Centre