Indirect Costs of Research
The indirect costs of research, also known as overhead costs, are the operating expenditures that UNBC incurs to undertake its research mandate; they do not include expenses which are directly associated with the research project (e.g., researcher salaries, researcher travel expenses, student stipends, research materials, etc.). These indirect costs include, but are not limited to, provision of space including the costs of maintenance and utilities, maintenance and repair of research equipment, computing resources, library resources, insurance, technical support for communal equipment and facility operation, and services provided by UNBC staff members—for example, through the Facilities Department; Finance Department; Geoffrey R. Weller Library; Human Resources Department; Information Technology Services; Office of Research; Purchasing, Contracts and Risk Management; and Security Office. The federal Indirect Costs Program provides overhead funding for research grants received from the Tri-Councils: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
Allocation of UNBC's 2013/2014 Indirect Costs Program Grant
Research Facilities: $0.410 Million | 30% of Total Grant
Includes compensation for four technical staff (two each in the I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Laboratory and Northern Analytical Laboratory Services facility), the operating costs for a communal research laboratory (I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Laboratory), and compensation for a Survey Research Centre employee (50% of salary).
Research Resources: $0.233 Million | 17% of Total Grant
Includes compensation for a Northern BC Archives staff member, cost of access to online databases (36% of total access cost), and cost of access to high-speed optical internet (30% of total access cost).
Management and Administration of Research: $0.522 Million | 38% of Total Grant
Includes compensation for grant facilitators (2.5 FTE), human resources administrator, payroll officer, research accounting personnel (2), and research contracts staff member.
Regulatory Requirements and Accreditation: $0.150 Million | 11% of Total Grant
Includes compensation for administrative support personnel for the Research Ethics Board (0.5 FTE), risk and safety staff member (60% of salary), and the operating cost of a communal research laboratory (50% of total operating cost; Northern Health Sciences Research Facility).
Intellectual Property: $0.050 Million | 4% of Total Grant
Includes the operating costs of the Partnerships and Innovation Office.
Impacts of the Indirect Costs Grant at UNBC
UNBC is extremely supportive of the Indirect Costs Program because it has played a major role in the rapid expansion of research at the institution. It can be stated unequivocally that this growth would not have occurred with the same vigour or outcomes without the Indirect Costs Program. The University is particularly grateful for the sliding funding scale adopted by the Indirect Costs Program, which results in smaller institutions receiving a higher overhead rate on their Tri-Council awards than larger institutions, as it partially compensates universities such as UNBC for their higher operating costs. UNBC expects to increasingly benefit from the Indirect Costs Program over the coming years as faculty members’ research programs mature, and the number and value of their Tri-Council awards increase accordingly.
Two concrete examples of benefits that accrued to UNBC recently from the Indirect Costs Program are described in the following paragraphs:
Due to the Program, UNBC was able to continue re-directing some institutional funding to a pilot Undergraduate Research Experience program, which provided $1500 to each of 20 students who chose to participate in a research project led by a faculty member. Due to the popularity of the program, only a fraction of the students who applied could be accepted. Providing funding for undergraduate research—both to enrich students’ educational experience and to enhance their ability to embark on a research career—was a long-term goal of the institution that was first realized in 2011/12. UNBC is grateful to the Indirect Costs Program for providing funding that enabled the continuation of the Undergraduate Research Experience program in 2013/14.
The operating costs for UNBC’s I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Laboratory were covered by the Indirect Costs Program. This building has been home to a number of research projects over the years, including projects focused on the mountain pine beetle and bioenergy. This facility was one of the sites of a major research project last year regarding the potential application of ash from bioenergy plants to agricultural and forestry soils. The ash is high in nutrients, and UNBC researchers will investigate whether it can be used as fertilizer on agricultural and forestry lands. This work—jointly funded by Canfor Pulp Limited Partnership ($75,000 over three years) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council ($124,001 over the same time period)—is one example of the many research projects at UNBC that are contributing to the viability of local industry. This project has benefited significantly, and will continue to benefit, from the infrastructure available in the I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Laboratory.
UNBC scholars—both students and faculty members—have been able to undertake important research that has advanced the state of knowledge in a variety of fields due to financial support from the Indirect Costs Program, in conjunction with the institution’s other funding partners. In 2013/14 this funding helped sustain the employment of crucial research-support personnel and the operations of key research facilities, and it allowed the institution to re-direct some money to assist with the direct costs of research. As a result, the Indirect Costs Program has made a lasting contribution to the social and economic development of Northern British Columbia, the province, and the country.