UO F&A rate to increase to 45%

1/20/2012: It’s currently 42%, the lowest in the AAU, I believe. 45% is still very low. I think it was 50% when I got my first NSF grant here, falling ever since. Memo from VP for Res Kim Espy here. Obviously they tried very hard to boost it, paid a bunch to consultants, and had some success. What’s the big deal? Low rates mean less money for UO to support research. UO can’t negotiate a higher rate with the feds because UO does not spend enough money supporting research. Why don’t we? Because Dave Frohnmayer, Lorraine Davis, John Moseley, Linda Brady and Frances Dyke pissed the money away on their pet projects. Police? Renovating Johnson Hall? Diversity plans? Arena? Alumni palace? That started a vicious negative cycle. Rich Linton didn’t have the guts to stand up to them. And Linton completely messed up ORSA, so now we are paying Huron exorbitant fees just to manage our grants. So there is not even enough money left in the research pot to pay for startup for the new science professors that we need to bring in grants to stay in the AAU. Forget about funding the research institutes and centers. Shelton’s budget model didn’t account for the possibility that things would be this badly messed up. So Espy is hitting up Coltrane to spend some CAS tuition money on this – or at least let her borrow some of it. But there’s only so much student money to go around, not helped by the fact that Bean has been letting the athletic department take $1.83 million a year for the Jock Box, and now $180,000 for his own sabbatical. And Bob Berdahl thinks UO’s biggest enemy is George Pernsteiner?

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12 Responses to UO F&A rate to increase to 45%

  1. Anonymous says:

    So now UO Matters is souring on Bob Berdahl’s judgment!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This will all come to a head in the next month or so when the numerous current searches start asking the VPR for startup packages.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is actually a splendid example of how an independent board would be useful. The OUS board couldn’t care less about research startup packages at UO — in fact, in their sheer ignorance and disdain for UO, they’d probably be just as glad if they’re weren’t any.

    Whereas an independent board, if it was doing its job, would see that heads roll over this situation.

    Whatever happened, it’s incompetence of a rare order.

  4. A very naive humanist says:

    Now I am confused. Who is paying for startup now? and how was it done in the past? aside from mismanagement of the research office, what has changed? and what are the roles of the CAS and of the VPR in allocating and monitoring? And where are the funds coming from? Through the budget model? i.e., through student tuition? or through Indirect Cost derived from the new newly negotiated 45% rate? Is a 3% increase sufficient? Frankly I do not understand how startup has suddenly became such a problem given that we have met the expenses for years.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Having to pay 45% from my grant instead of 42% takes away money from supporting my students and my research. No clear whose research is benefitting from increasing the rate. Not mine. Not the research of the person who wrote the grant for sure. So please stop saying that increasing the rate helps research.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The VPR paid for most of start-up costs, with Departments and Institutes sometimes adding to that. What has changed? Loans by the previous VPR and money to Huron. An expensive science hire might need $1 million in start-up, more lean below a few hundred thousand $. So the Huron costs alone would support up to a dozen mixed research hires.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A few things:

    • At least for NIH grants, indirect costs are a separate part of the budget so a higher F&A rate means more money to the UO without affecting direct costs. Of course this may not be true for all funding agencies but at most research universities where NIH money is a big percentage of the pot, increasing the F&A rate does help research.

    • The VPR’s office is responsible for providing startup funds and my understanding is that much of the VPR’s budget comes from indirect costs. I believe that traditionally tuition has not flowed into the VPR’s office.

    • “incompetence of a rare order” part of the problem no doubt. We are going to pay for the decisions of the last 5-10 years for a long time into the future – unless we get bailed out by uncle phil or another big donor, or espy pulls a rabbit out of a hat.

    • Speaking of donors – my understanding is that another problem has been “pledges” that haven’t come through because of the downturn. Plans were made based on these pledges which caused trouble when the money didn’t appear. So incompetence doesn’t explain all of our woes.

  8. Anonymous says:

    “At least for NIH grants, indirect costs are a separate part of the budget so a higher F&A rate means more money to the UO without affecting direct costs.” This is not correct as the total amount that is awarded does not change accordingly with the change of the F&A rate. So a higher F&A rate means less direct cost.
    This change affects dramatically grants that can support a couple of students, such as NSF.

  9. Anonymous says:

    ” This is not correct as the total amount that is awarded does not change accordingly with the change of the F&A rate.”

    I’m afraid that’s incorrect. As an example, a modular NIH budget of $250,000 (direct) would have different total amounts at universities with different F&A rates, yet the direct costs would be the same. Higher F&A = more total research dollars (at least for NIH). Clearly our consultants at Huron need to educate the UO research enterprise a little better.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Let’s have a fight! You educated faculty with the NIH grant.
    We poor scholars with NSF suffer for these changes.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The NIH model is for the researcher to ask for the direct costs to complete the project, and the indirect costs are added on top and do not affect the direct funding. This is not true for NSF. But while the NIH model makes sense for the researcher, it does lead to bad incentives to increase the F&A by going on a construction boom.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Dog says

    Yes, I have tried for years on various NSF review committees to get to a more modular, direct cost way of grant funding.

    So in the NIH model I get 250K of direct funds.

    In the NSF model I get 250K of funding that includes all indirect costs so I only have
    about 70% of that 250K in direct costs.

    If there is no form of overhead return back to the PI (which is the current state at the UO) then yes, any increase in F&A is a penalty

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