Support for RICIs

University Support for Activities of Externally Funded Research in Research Institutes, Centers, and Initiatives

Office of the Provost
Vice Provost for Research
January, 2021

I. Principles Underlying Indirect Costs for External Grants and Contracts

Research activities funded from external sources are supported by a range of common services and attributes of the university — space, facilities (e.g., libraries), human resource management, payroll, financial services, procurement services, legal services, and a variety of other support services.  These costs are real.  Since the 1970’s, it has been routine for Federal funding agencies to supplement each grant or contract with funding to support these costs, in an amount equal to an audited approved fraction (see current rate) of the direct costs of the award.  Other sponsors, such as private foundations, have not in general recognized these costs in the same way, and have typically limited support for the activities to some lower percentage of direct costs (e.g., 10% maximum indirect cost support).

II. The role of Research Initiatives, Centers and Institutes

Faculty have traditionally been grouped into discipline-focused departments and/or schools, allowing for the exploitation of research and teaching synergies.  But as the demand for interdisciplinary approaches to complex problems has risen, as exemplified by new funding priorities of both Federal and non-Federal sponsors, new organizational structures have emerged to exploit the complementarities that exist across departments and schools.  The university is committed to supporting Research Initiatives, Centers, and Institutes (RICIs) that are positioned to respond to the evolving funding landscape.

As well as creating a network of researchers, RICIs that administer multiple funding proposals and research projects simultaneously may be best positioned to provide certain services to affiliated faculty, such as pre-award and post-award support.  These services are normally provided by central university units (e.g., Office of Research Services, and Sponsored Projects Financial Operations).

This policy provides an incentive to RICIs to attract outside funding and to take on certain administrative functions in the interests of increasing the volume of faculty-led research.

III. Main Campus Support for RICIs and other Units with which the Principal Investigator is Affiliated

Currently, as described here, the university incentivizes external funding by providing PIs, Departments and Schools with support equal to, respectively, 10, 10, and 5 percent of the total IDC generated.  In the case of PIs in schools without departments, the school receives support equal to 15% of the IDC.

Under this RICI policy and as detailed in sections III.A, B, and C below, for grant/contract activity that is routed through Provost-approved RICIs, the university will maintain its support for PIs and Departments at 10%, and will replace the 5% school support with support for the RICI equal to 20% of the IDC.  The treatment of grants not administered through an eligible RICI will remain unchanged.  PIs are at liberty to route their grants either through their departments or through the RICI with which they are affiliated.

A. Support for RICI Administrative Activities: a new RICI Incentive Policy

The university will provide resources and incentives to Research Initiative, Centers, and Institutes to attract increasing external funding.  In particular, the university will use operating revenues to support research administrative activities absorbed by RICIs, as a function of the volume of those activities that would otherwise be provided by central university units.

Under this RICI incentive policy, the university will make an auxiliary budget allocation equal to twenty percent (20%) of the IDC of each grant or contract administered by the RICI. 

B. Support for Departmental Research Administrative Activities

Just as research centers take on some of the support activities for research grants and contracts, so too does the principal investigator’s department (or in cases of schools with no departments, the PI’s school).  Departments generally are involved in financial transactions involving the PI and his/her staff, including student supporting roles.  The department or unit head is often involved in coordinating faculty support issues arising when grant support goals are not achieved.

For this reason, the PI’s tenure-home department or, in cases of schools with no departments, the PI’s tenure-home school, will receive a budget allocation from university funds equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the IDC on any grant or contract administered by the RICI.  When the PI has a shared joint appointment, each academic unit will receive this support, proportional to the fraction of each appointment.  For grants with multiple investigators with different department and/or school tenure homes, the 10% support can be shared across units by mutual agreement of the relevant departmental chairs and school deans.

Departments and schools are free to reallocate some or all of the university budget support described above to the RICI, with approval of the Provost.  This flexibility allows departments or schools to provide further support to RICIs on a case-by-case basis.

C. Support for the Principal Investigator and Co-PIs

From time to time, unexpected events during the course of a research project require financial support.  In an effort to maximize the agency of PIs to handle such costs of a relatively small nature, when grants or contracts are routed through an approved RICI, the PI will receive support from university funds at a level equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the IDC generated.  This PI support can be shared across multiple investigators on the same grant by mutual agreement.

PIs are free to reallocate some or all of the university budget support described above to the RICI, with approval of the Provost.  This flexibility allows faculty members to provide further support to RICIs with which they are affiliated.

IV. Requirements for Approved RICI Status

A RICI is eligible to operate under the RICI Incentive Policy if it is designated by the Provost’s Office as a qualified RICI for the purposes of this policy.  Designation is based on the following criteria:

  1. The RICI should have affiliated tenure line or NTL-research faculty;
  2. The RICI should actively support original research, with at least one FTE dedicated administrative staff fully funded by external sources (including support provided to the RICI by the university);
  3. RICI affiliates should aim to publish in peer reviewed outlets, or in the RICI’s own series of policy briefs, working papers, etc.

A RICI that engages solely in advocacy and dissemination work will typically not be considered eligible for the RICI-IDC policy.  Centers that are created as part of an NSF (or other sponsor) “Center Grant” are not automatically eligible for the Incentive Policy.

The Provost can designate any RICI, including those that are newly created, as eligible for the RICI Incentive Policy.  However, faculty-led initiatives will typically be required to show at least one year of research activity and external funding before seeking eligibility for the Incentive Policy.

Eligibility will be granted for a period of three years, renewable upon review by the Provost’s Office.

Eligibility will be assessed by the Research Executive Committee, chaired by the Vice Provost for Research, and confirmed in an MOU between the Provost’s Office and the RICI, renewable upon review every three years.

V. Guidelines

If operating under the RICI Incentive Policy, a RICI must adhere to the following budgeting and operational guidelines with regard to sponsored research:

  • All allowable costs associated with administration and implementation of a research project should be included as direct line items in the budget, including part of the time as appropriate of pre-award and post-award management personnel;
  • If allowed by the sponsor, allocable rent for RICI office space should be included as a line item;
  • Inclusion of allowable administrative, rental, and other costs will be reviewed as new proposals are developed, as part of a process of continued monitoring of eligibility;

Grant management services that might otherwise be performed by department administrators should be performed by the RICI.

VI. Approved RICIs

Institute for Soft Matter Synthesis and Metrology

Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation

Earth Commons

Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation, gui2de