Overhead FAQs

How is the Research Support Fund (RSF) allocated at SFU?

Most of this funding is dedicated to maintaining and upgrading its research facilities, as well as supporting the management and administration of SFU's research enterprise.

Beginning in the 2011/12 fiscal year, SFU implemented a new model for the internal allocation of the grant that it receives annually from the Canadian government. It is now divided equally between the University and the initiating faculty, as is the case with overheads realized from research funded through contracts. The initiating faculties report each year on the use of these funds, so that the University can fulfil its reporting requirements.

Why should SFU researchers recover indirect costs when budgeting for research projects?

The indirect costs revenue contributes to SFU's ability to provide a supportive research environment through the provision of staff and services that allow researchers to pursue their research programs and seek new funding opportunities. It also enables SFU to provide research facilities and other resources that help to attract and retain high-caliber researchers and graduate students. In turn, the presence of leading researchers and highly qualified personnel ensures SFU's continued participation in major, multi-institutional and international research initiatives.

Does this mean I will get less money for my research project?

No. You are to include the indirect costs in addition to the direct costs of research. It is intended that the indirect costs are built into each budget item (“price” model) so that the funder understands that the indirect costs are a legitimate component of the actual cost of research and not an “added” cost.

Why is funding from the Tri-Agency (i.e., NSERC, CIHR, and SSHRC) excluded?

The Tri-Council agencies are not exempt from indirect costs of research charges. Indirect costs of research funded by the Tri-Council agencies are partially recovered through the federal Research Support Fund grant as a lump sum at the end of each year.

Who negotiates the indirect costs rate with individual agencies and companies?

It is the University’s responsibility, through the Office of the Vice-President, Research and ORS, to set or adjust indirect rates charged to funders. Faculty members are not authorized to negotiate indirect costs rate with funders independently without consultation with the University.

What is the rate that other universities are using?

Most Canadian universities charge between 15-30% of direct costs on grants, and 40% on contracts and agreements. Most U.S. universities have negotiated federal indirect cost rates that range between 50-90% of salaries, wages and benefits.

If I build the indirect costs into the price of a research project, isn’t this deceptive?

No. Indirect costs are normally included in the price of goods and services worldwide.

Will indirect costs apply to awards made directly to graduate students?

No. Awards made directly to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in a competitive process will not be subject to indirect costs.

However, indirect costs will be charged against salaries or stipends paid to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from external funds (e.g., grants and contracts), excluding Tri-Councils funds (see above). The University has provided a standing indirect costs rate of 0% for certain research programs involving graduate students such as the Mitacs accelerate program.

How are the indirect costs calculated?

It is recommended that budgets should build the indirect costs into each budget line item. For example, personnel costs are calculated as (salary + benefits) x 125% = total salary cost. When a government or non-profit agency requires that indirect costs be presented as a separate line item, budgets should include an indirect costs line item equal to 25% (or other, agency-specific rate) of the total costs. Please go to the Budget Development page for more details.

Will sub-awards from/to SFU be subject to indirect costs?

Yes. It is the responsibility of the PI to negotiate on behalf of the Co-PI sufficient funds so the appropriate indirect costs for each institution is included in the transfer of funds.

How are indirect costs collected from my research funding?

Indirect costs of research will be automatically deducted from your research account at the negotiated rate as expenses are incurred.

Will equipment-only grants and contracts be subject to indirect costs?

No. Grants for which 100% of the funds are to be applied toward the purchase of equipment, and not directly connected with a specific research project, are exempt from indirect cost recovery.