Overhead – indirect costs

Roland Jonsson

Overhead – Indirect costs
The Devil is known by many names, and so are these concepts that scientists often don’t like, but still have to deal with. Why do I
adress this in an editorial in K2Nytt? Well, because this is a very
significant part of the department’s finances, that we are so utterly
dependent on.
But what do these terms mean? The University of Bergen has implemented the TDI model (total direct and indirect costs) that we are now budgeting for projects based on. This model consists of both indirect costs (overhead) and direct costs like research infrastructure. As of today, the indirect costs of a scientific FTE is 413.000 NOK and for a technical / administrative FTE it is 114.000 NOK. The indirect costs are the costs of infrastructure such as offices and common areas, services like the library, IT, administrative and financial management, safety, training, legal assistance, documentation and so forth. The direct costs are another component of the total cost model (TDI). This is composed of investment and depreciation of instruments, service contracts, general laboratory costs, including rent and technical support – called the research infra-structure resource cost (RIR). The Department of Clinical Science has calculated the RIR-cost for 2015 to be 95.000 NOK per FTE. The RIR-cost include technical support to get laboratories ready, laboratory costs like gloves, gas, pipette tips, etc. – the common infrastructure costs. The Department of Clinical Science is currently the department with the largest portfolio of externally financed projects on MOF. The NFR and EU/H2020 projects are exemplary in the way that they contribute overhead funds that cover the costs the department incurs to be able to operate the project. But what happens when indirect costs are not part of the grant for the projects? Who must then pay? Well, then it will be the Department in collaboration with the Faculty that takes the costs. In this way the Department’s economy is continuously weakened whenever a project with zero overhead is accepted. What can we do about this? Do we have to refuse projects that do not include overhead? How long will it take to get a new “culture” – changing the attitudes of contributors? How do we achieve it? These questions concern us all together!

Roland

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