If the agency does not pay benefits, then the effect is that
the "overhead" or indirect costs (that 49%) will cover that, though
not officially. The overhead or indirect costs are not necessarily
49%, but rather they vary from institution to institution based on
negotiations that have taken place, and they vary from grant program
to grant program. For example, on the most recent grant that I have
had, the program specified in the call for proposals that it would pay
indirect costs in the amount of 25% of salaries and benefits, but no
indirect costs on equipment, supplies, travel, or other direct costs.
Indirect costs are supposed to cover what the grant adds to the costs
of the university operations. Every university has a personnel
department, a physical operations division, a library, a bureacracy
for administration, a fiscal affairs office, a grants and contracts
office .......... . Academic departments have secretaries and other
clerical staff, stock rooms, orders and uses mundane office
supplies .................. . All these things add up, and a grant
consumes some fraction of the costs, without them being "line-itemed"
in the grant or included in the grant budget as separate, payable
costs. If I have a grant that provides for two post-docs to be on
staff, they must be officed, lab space provided ......... . Of
course, if my program becomes large enough, I can seek a facilities
grant ......... and include indirect costs in the application budget
Indirect costs have a bad reputation, among faculty, and among the
small fraction of the public that knows of their existence. Stanford
University a few years back got in both official and public hot water
when (1) its standard indirect cost figure of 69% was made public, and
(2) some office there was found to have bought flowers for a reception
out of indirect cost money, among other things that investigators and
the public thought inappropriate. I doubt that a bureacracy exists
without abuses, and they should be always looked for and actions taken
to eleminate or reduce them.
But, universities take on the tasks of creating, archiving, and
desiminating knowledge. To do that, they must maintain an
infrastructure. Money to support the infrastructure must come from
I have attempted at my university to get indirect costs added to the
departmental budget, at least some fraction of indirect costs,
something that is justified by the fact that grants impact the
department beyond the line items that they support. No luck.
Indirect costs are controlled by other offices, period.
And, Irate, though Peter is right concerning these matters, he also
expresses them in a way that makes them sound more negative than they
are. True, a traditional project in systematics using only the
methods of the mid-twentieth century is not likely to obtain funding
from NSF, and might not be looked on with favor in an academic
department currently. However, the advent of new tools, especially
molecular tools, for diversity studies, and the renewed interests in
diversity studies as those tools and new theories about evolution have
developed has resulted in a great deal more attention and money for
systematics in recent decades than existed just a short while ago.
Consequently, we know a lot more than we did. Is it "practical"
knowledge? Proxmire would have probably had a "golden fleece"
irruption. But, so ......... ?
David L. McNeely, Ph.D., Professor of Biology
Langston University; P.O. Box 1500
Langston, OK 73050; email: dlmcneely-in-lunet.edu
telephone: (405) 466-6025; fax: 405) 466-3307
home page http://www.lunet.edu/mcneely/index.htm
"Where are we going?" "I don't know, are we there yet?"
----- Original Message -----
From: Irate Mormon <archimedes-in-bayspringstel.net>
Date: Monday, August 21, 2006 11:09 pm
Subject: RE: NANFA-L-- Suction - I know, I know...
> I'm ignorant of how the system works - this is something I didn't
> "Indeed, in many biology departments these days you are expected
> to be
> bringing in large grants as the university gets overhead (usually
> 49% of
> your total grant)."
> Would you say that you are expected to "donate", via that 49%,
> your own
> salary and then some (for administrators, or course)?
> Sarcasm - just another free service I offer!
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/ Association (NANFA). Comments made on this list do not necessarily
/ reflect the beliefs or goals of NANFA. For more information about NANFA,
/ visit http://www.nanfa.org Please make sure all posts to nanfa-l are
/ consistent with the guidelines as per
/ http://www.nanfa.org/guidelines.shtml To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get
/ help, visit the NANFA email list home page and archive at