Tagged / proposal writing

fEC step by step guide to costing! ~ Step 4 Estate and Indirect costs

This week is fEC week on the Blog! Each day we will be explaining a different element of fEC as a quick reference guide to help you prepare the budgets for your research proposals. Today’s focus is on estate and indirect costs.

See Friday’s blog post (Introduction to full economic costing) for an explanation of what fEC actually is and why we use it to cost projects.

Step 4 – Estate and Indirect costs

There are some major items of expenditure in support of research activities made both by the School and centrally by the University. These costs are important as they ensure that the University has a well-maintained infrastructure and administrative support to enable research and enterprise activities to be carried out. Under fEC these are termed estate costs and indirect costs.

Estate and indirect cost charges replace the previous ‘overhead’ charge that was applied to research projects. Whereas the overhead was a fairly arbitrary charge, the estate and indirect costs are true costs that the University is incurring and are based on the expenditure contained within the audited annual accounts.

The calculation of estate and indirect costs is a mandatory requirement for all UK HEIs, and is done using the same methodology in each institution. The costs that are calculated will be different, but they will have been calculated in a standardised and consistent way.

Estate costs – these provide a share of the cost of providing the physical infrastructure for research, and are calculated by each HEI using its own cost rates.

Indirect costs – these are non-specific costs charged across all projects based on estimates that are not otherwise included as directly allocated costs. Examples of costs included in the indirect cost charge are:

  • academic support time not spent on teaching, research or other (as defined by TRAC)
  • clerical and technical staff costs
  • non-staff costs in academic departments
  • staff and non-staff costs in central service departments
  • gross cost of capital employed (i.e. restructuring and interest costs and the net COCE)

Estates and indirect costs are driven by the academic/research FTE allocated to the project and will be calculated by the CRE Operations team as part of the costing.

See tomorrow’s blog post on exceptional costs for the final exciting installment of fEC!

fEC step by step guide to costing! ~ Step 3 Directly Allocated costs

This week is fEC week on the Blog! Each day we will be explaining a different element of fEC as a quick reference guide to help you prepare the budgets for your research proposals. Today’s focus is on Directly Allocated costs.

See Friday’s blog post (Introduction to full economic costing) for an explanation of what fEC actually is and why we use it.

Step 3 – Directly Allocated (DA) costs

Directly allocated (DA) costs are the costs of resources on a project where the same resources are shared by other activities and projects. Directly allocated costs are different to directly incurred costs because the costs are not exclusively related to any one individual project.

DA costs are charged to the project based upon an estimate, rather than actual cash values.

Examples of DA costs include:

  • Principal Investigator (PI) and co-Investigator (Co-I) salary costs
  • Estates costs

Investigator salary costs – yesterdays fEC post explained how to estimate the time that the PI and Co-Is will need to spend on the project in terms of average hours per week. This will now need to be used to calculate the salary cost of each of the Investigators on the project.

You will need to know, for each Investigator, the average hours per week they will devote to the project and the CRE Operations team will then use BU’s costing software to apply these hours to the appropriate salary banding in order to calculate a project salary cost for each Investigator.

Please note that if you have an investigator who is going to be 100% funded from the project (such as Research Fellowships) then this cost should be included as directly incurred, as these staff will need to be charged as actual costs to the project. 

Estate costs – these are a directly allocated cost but will be included in tomorrow’s post as the process for calculating estates and indirect costs is the same.

See tomorrow’s blog post on indirect costs for the next exciting installment of fEC!

fEC step by step guide to costing! ~ Step 2 Estimating staff time

This week is fEC week on the Blog! Each day we will be explaining a different element of fEC as a quick reference guide to help you prepare the budgets for your research proposals. Today’s focus is on estimating staff time.

See Friday’s blog post (Introduction to full economic costing) for an explanation of what fEC actually is and why we use it to cost projects.

Step 2 – Estimating staff time

A key resource in the delivery of any project is academic staff time. All projects will have a Principal Investigator (PI) and some may also have Co-Investigators (Co-Is). PIs and Co-Is are the core academic staff who probably also spend time working on other research/enterprise projects as well as having other duties, including teaching and administration.

Academic staff are required to estimate how much time they think they will need to spend on a particular project. Below is a suggested approach as to how this could be done by taking into account three considerations: i) time available to do new research/enterprise, ii) project tasks, and iii) what to include and what to exclude. Considering these three things should help to produce an estimate of the average number of hours per week over the life of the project that could be spent on the project in question.

Academic staff will generally not have to keep detailed formal records to verify this, but will have to be able to:

  • justify this as a reasonable estimate of the effort required to deliver a particular project
  • produce some evidence of time spent on the project at the end of the project, e.g. lab notes, minutes of project meetings etc

Some funders (such as the EU) require more detailed documentation to justify the amount of time spent on a project; this can include keeping accurate timesheets showing time spent working on the project and the tasks that were undertaken. Where necessary, the CRE Operations team will advise as to the exact requirements. 

Time available to undertake new research – It is worth considering the amount of time already committed to teaching activities, management/administrative duties and other research/enterprise projects. 

Project tasks – The second consideration is the factors that are likely to affect how much time a particular project may require. Projects differ in terms of scale and complexity and have varying requirements for the amount of academic time needed. The following factors might be worth considering, but this is not an exhaustive list as each project will differ:

Research project tasks Factors likely to affect this
Establish methodology, approach, technique What is PI’s experience?How well understood is the area?
Assemble project team / plan / coordination of team meetings How many PI/COI?How many collaborating partners?

Frequency of meetings

Fieldwork, Laboratory, Studio What is PI’s experience?How well understood is the area?

How accessible is the location?

Recruitment of sample/research subjects

Report writing (initial, progress, final) How demanding is the funder?How many words is each report?
Conference attendance / dissemination activities How large scale is the planned activity?Where are the conference held?

What to include / exclude – Under fEC methodology, certain activities be included whilst others can’t.

Include:

  • Write-up time for reports and dissemination activities
  • Direct time required to manage the project, undertake the work and supervise any project staff

Exclude:

  • Bid preparation time
  • Postgraduate research student supervision (if applicable)
  • General administrative duties not directly related to the project 

Time estimate – The PI should now be in a position to confidently estimate the amount of time which will be spent by staff on the project.

You can use the BU estimating staff time spreadsheet as a rough guide to calculate time available to undertake new research and enterprise activity.

See tomorrow’s blog post on Directly Allocated (DA) costs for the next exciting installment of fEC!

fEC step by step guide to costing! ~ Step 1 Directly Incurred costs

This week is fEC week on the Blog! Each day we will be explaining a different element of fEC as a quick reference guide to help you prepare the budgets for your research proposals. Today’s focus is on Directly Incurred costs.

See Friday’s blog post (Introduction to full economic costing) for an explanation of what fEC actually is and why we use it to cost projects.

Step 1 – Directly incurred (DI) costs

Directly incurred (DI) costs are items or services which are incurred or purchased specifically for a project. Costs are charged to projects on actual cash value and are auditable in the financial accounts (e.g. supported by a supplier invoice). If the project didn’t go ahead then these costs would almost certainly not be incurred.

Care should be taken when identifying costs for inclusion as some costs, such as telephone, photocopying or stationery, will already be covered by the indirect cost charge. The CRE Operations team will be able to advise you on this.

You should consider whether the project requires the following DI costs:

  • Fixed-term project staff (research assistants, research fellows, dedicated technicians or administrators)
  • Travel, subsistence and conferences
  • Equipment and consumables (purchased specifically for project)
  • External consultancy fees

See tomorrow’s blog post on estimating staff time for the next exciting installment of fEC!

fEC week on the Blog! Introduction to full economic costing

Next week is fEC week on the Blog! Each day we will be explaining a different element of fEC as a quick reference guide to help you prepare the budgets for your research proposals.

What is fEC? – Full Economic Costing (fEC) is a standardised method of calculating the actual costs of an activity which was developed in response to the funding councils’ ‘Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC)’ methodology with the aim of increasing funding whilst making HEIs responsible for their own financial stability. TRAC data indicated that publicly-funded research in particular was significantly under-funded as the true costs of running the activity were not being adequately identifed or subsequently reimbursed. fEC was introduced for all UK HEIs in September 2005, with the first fEC grants being awarded from April 2006.

In essence, fEC is a national, standardised costing method that provides a forecast of the full cost of undertaking a research project.

How do I calculate the fEC? – All bids at BU must be costed in accordance with the principles of fEC by the CRE Operations team using BU’s costing software. Everything must be costed and cross-checked against the funding body’s guidelines. You must ensure all costs are included at this stage as funders will not make up a shortfall after money has been awarded, but ensure costings are realistic and offer good value for money as most funders require a full justification of the requested resources.

How do I price the work? – After completing your costing you will need to establish what funding is available, i.e. the price, and consider how this compares to the cost (fEC recovery). The majority of research funders have set guidelines stating how much of the Full Economic Cost (fEC) they will fund or whch elements of the costing they will fund. However, where the funder/client does not have guidelines on this then a decision needs to be made of how to price the work to be undertaken. Pricing should be considered carefully and discussions should take place after the fEC has been calculated. Pricing decisions should always be discussed with your Deputy Dean (Research & Enterprise ), Dean and/or Director of Operations prior to quoting a price to the client. Pricing for contract research and enterprise should be carefully considered to ensure that ‘pricing precedents’ are not established with a particular funder.

  • Research Councils and NHS 80%
  • Charities averaging around 50%
  • EU around 75%
  • Industry 100%

The rate for commercial work varies but BU aims to recover 110% fEC across the whole Research & Enterprise portfolio. Therefore surpluses must be achieved where possible (i.e. over 110% fEC) to cover the deficit made by research (typically 80% fEC and lower).

Upcoming Missenden Centre workshops – book your place now!

The Missenden Centre still has places available on a number excellent workshops this autumn/winter.

The Research Development Unit has some funds available to support academics and research support staff to attend. If you are interested please contact Julie Northam in the first instance.

Ensuring PhD completions for REF 2014
15/16 September
With: John Wakeford, Head of Missenden Centre and Fiona Denney, Head of Postgraduate Development at King’s College London
Special session for academic, registry and graduate school staff
http://www.missendencentre.co.uk/s1

Successful bidding: third of our day clinics
18 November
With: John Wakeford
Bring a draft or previously unsuccessful application for advice on how to turn it into an award-winning form.
http://www.missendencentre.co.uk/s4

Bidding for research funding: pathways to success
9/10 November for academics
10/11 November for research support staff
With Sarah Andrew, Dean of Applied and Health Sciences, University of Chester
Robert Crawshaw, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Lancaster University
‘The course was excellent. I think it will probably change my entire approach to writing grant proposals and will most wholeheartedly recommend it to my colleagues. So, once again, many thanks.’  Dr. Miriam V. Dwek, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry, University of Westminster.
http://www.missendencentre.co.uk/s2

Effective supervision
12/13 January
Our unique preparation for supervisors and those with responsibilities for training them.
http://www.missendencentre.co.uk/s6

Speak to the Research Development Unit and book your place now!

Top Tips for writing LIFE+ Proposals

The EC has highlighted to National Contact Points a number of issues and common problems that have caused LIFE+ proposals to be rejected in previous calls. Below is a generic top tip list for all LIFE+ strands. Specific tips for Nature and Biodiversity, Environment Policy & Governance and Information and Communication can be found in our I Drive folder: I:\CRKT\Public\LIFE Proposal Rejections

  • Ensure proposals provide sufficient detail to enable a proper evaluation to be undertaken.  Explain fully what is proposed.  Many proposals fall down on the lack of detail in Forms B2, which set out the project description and problem to be targeted.
  • Ensure you fully explain the relevance of the proposal to EU policy and why the problem targeted is a concern at EU level.  Proposals are evaluated for European added value, with this criterion scoring up to 30 points at the Award Phase of the evaluation. 
  • Provide more detail on the demonstration/ innovative elements of the proposal, such as explaining why the innovative aspect is innovative in the project’s area; and that the innovation has not already been applied elsewhere.
  • Ensure that agreements on any co-funding are in place before proposal submission, to avoid possible disappointment at a later stage, should the proposal have to be pulled through withdrawal of co-funding.
  • Know your stakeholders before submitting the proposal e.g. get them on board at an early stage; know who you need to work with to deliver project actions.