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As one of the world’s top research universities, UC San Diego partners with the federal government, industry, foundations and other organizations to conduct research that leads to life-saving treatments, new technological developments and a constant stream of game-changing discoveries that provide economic and other practical benefits for our nation and local community.

Direct Funding

In 2017, the university was awarded $1.16 billion dollars for its research activities, $693 million of which came from the federal government. This overall funding comes to our university in two forms. The first is called direct funding. Direct funding pays the salaries of scientists, postdocs, students and other research personnel. It also pays for supplies and equipment, for travel costs associated with the conduct of research and for subcontractors world-wide who collaborate with our researchers.

F&A Costs

But our researchers—from social scientists to biomedical researchers, physicists, chemists and engineers—need other types of support to conduct their work, which requires a second type of funding—Facilities and Administration, or F&A, funding. This funding helps pay for the cost of constructing or retrofitting of offices and labs for research. For maintenance and security. For desks and computers, electricity, water, cooling and heating for research spaces and shared research equipment. For central and departmental research administration, all types of security – including cyber security and institutional compliance.  And for a portion of the computing needs of researchers and their personnel to assure compliance with the university’s and government’s health, safety, human subjects, animal care and data regulations.  All totaled, F&A from sponsoring awards makes up approximately 28 percent of the total funding we received in 2017.

New Rates

Unlike other federal contractors, research universities are required to share F&A costs with the government. Also, the federal government doesn’t provide support for certain F&A costs like equipment, capital expenditures and the rental costs of off-site facilities.

As a result of a standardized negotiation process with the federal government, UC San Diego has negotiated an F&A rate of 56 percent for 2018, which will rise slowly to 58 percent by 2022. This rate is low compared to our peer institutions.

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Implications

Because of caps on F&A costs and exclusions for certain kinds of expenses all universities, including UC San Diego actually receive much less than their negotiated percentage. Our actual amount received for F&A ranged from 28 to 34 percent during the last 5 years.

Many researchers are not aware of this detailed federal process, nor the extent to which UC San Diego already funds all costs not recovered by our sponsors. And despite our decades-long partnership with the federal government in supporting academic research, some in Washington want to significantly reduce federal funding for F&A to universities. Efforts to reduce or cap F&A reimbursement would hurt UC San Diego researchers and trainees. It would limit our ability to conduct research because the university cannot pay for these costs alone. A lack of sharing these costs with the funding agencies would limit our ability to make important discoveries—discoveries that will in the future provide economic and other benefits for our society.  It would also require tough decisions in what research our university can continue to support. 

Takeaways

  • The F&A rate covers costs actually incurred by the University to pay for the costs of research, such as  administration, buildings, utilities and the $37 million in IT services not covered by recharges nor by the NGN tax, etc. These costs are audited in great detail by the Federal agencies as part of their site visits.
  • Even a 58 percent rate does notcover the full F&A costs borne by UC San Diego to support its research enterprise. The administrative part of the rate is capped at 26 percent. The capital portion is negotiated down.
  • Many of our public university peers have rates similar to or higher than ours. Private universities have much higher rates (80 percent to 100 percent) and unfortunately, with the State support down to seven percent of our overall revenues, we need to self-fund a portion of our costs, very much like private institutions.
  • The increase in rate from the last round reflects our increasing investment in infrastructure to compensate for the lack of State funding: while the ratio of staff to faculty continues to decline, infrastructure investments include $14 million a year in campus funding toward deferred maintenance, and campus investment in the recently dedicated Tata Hall for the Sciences (matched by the State), projects under way in Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Altman Clinical & Translational Research Institute (ACTRI).

For every $1 of research support, 73 cents is for direct costs and 27 cents is for F&A:

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