In the wake of the opening of the $40 million Multidisciplinary Research Building on Kansas University's west campus, KU officials say they hope to bring in more money for their research efforts.
The university is renegotiating its campus facilities and administrative cost rate, or F&A - or the percentage of a research grant that goes toward overhead costs such as research administration, bonds on new construction and other indirect costs.
"We should be getting a little more credit for the investments we've actually made at KU," said Kevin Boatright, spokesman for the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.
When researchers, such as KU physics professor Judy Wu, receive grant funds, KU also receives money for indirect costs, such as facilities and administrative salaries.
KU, which negotiates a standard charge with the federal Department of Health and Human Services, charges 44 percent.
That means a $100,000 grant also brings in another $44,000 to the university for indirect costs. There are some exceptions, but this generally is the rate.
KU called for new negotiations, Boatright said, and hopes to increase the rate. The rate likely won't jump, if it moves at all. The rate slipped from 45.5 percent in the last round in 2003. Diane Goddard, assistant vice provost and comptroller, said the rate dipped in part because the university was collecting more for grant funding than it was spending on facilities and other indirect costs.
"The more research you have, and if you're not growing all of your other costs, then the rate goes down," she said. "I'm hoping we can regain that point and a half that we lost."
Goddard said a percentage or so higher would bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
KU collected $18.6 million from its F&A income in 2005 and about $21.4 million in fiscal 2006.
Chemistry professor Craig Lunte said changing the rate can have various effects on KU researchers. He said some funding agencies look at the total costs of research, which means when indirect costs rise they may require a researcher to trim costs, while others don't do this.
"There's subtle differences on how this impacts the individual from agency to agency," he said. "You try to figure it out and do the best you can. You go in and ask for the money you think you need."
Wu, whose research is in the growing field of nanotechnology, said she likes to see the university support research.
Working from her lab in the basement of Mallott Hall, Wu continues to seek grants.
She is the lead on a new grant that will include development of a new class about nanotechnology.
The interdisciplinary course that should begin next semester would draw on what's been learned in recent years in the emerging field.
"Some problems you cannot solve if you're only in physics or only in chemistry or only in one field," Wu said.