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Guidelines for Cost Sharing of Sponsored Research Proposals
Because of the current increase in research proposal activity and the challenges some of those proposals have posed, GRS Associate Dean Scott Whitaker provides the following guidance on the University’s and the College’s policies on cost sharing and on the best procedures for submitting proposals through CAS, including critical timing issues. CAS cannot guarantee that it will be able to handle cost sharing and other negotiations in time for grant deadlines if these questions are not dealt with in a timely way before submission. As a rule, CAS will not negotiate cost sharing after a grant proposal has been approved.
University policy is not to offer more cost sharing than is required by the funding agency (i.e., the minimum set by agency guidelines), which can vary with the program. If the guidelines say cost sharing is important or essential, but are not specific, we rely on the director of the Office of Sponsored Programs to determine what the minimum plausible level will be.
Cost sharing can take one of two forms: under-recovery by the University of the indirect costs (also called facilities and administrative costs) that it incurs in the support of research, or a University contribution to the direct costs of the proposed project. University policy is that proposal budgets will include indirect costs at the full applicable federally negotiated rate or at the maximum rate allowed by the funding source. In rare instances, under special circumstances (e.g., required budget reductions), a case may be made for a voluntary reduction in the indirect cost rate. Such requests are typically decided by the director of the Office of Sponsored Programs.
Requests for direct cost sharing should be detailed and specific. For equipment projects, out-year maintenance and support should be addressed. A clear statement of the payout schedule for BU funds, by BU fiscal years, should be furnished.
Finally, the sources of the cost-sharing funds are needed. Possibilities include faculty start-up funds, funds available from department budgets (e.g., faculty AY effort and proportionate salary), IDC Return or other departmental discretionary funds, funds from other sources (e.g., non-federal agencies), and new commitments from the provost or the dean. The cost-sharing split among the various sources should be explicit, from each one according to its abilities.
All of these questions must be addressed well before any deadline for proposal submission, so the budget is developed in a clear and consistent way, last-minute delays or surprises are avoided, and everyone knows where the necessary dollars will come from when the award is received. Discussion of cost sharing will typically begin with the chair and then progress to the Dean’s Office. Practices and expectations about the distribution of cost sharing among the department, the College, and the Provost’s Office vary according to the nature of the program, the type of cost sharing, and the overall budget situation. Associate Dean Whitaker will work with the Office of Sponsored Programs to iron out the specifics and facilitate proposal development. Ask questions early and often.