Faculty members often chafe at high overheads, because they see them as eating up a portion of the NIH budget that could be spent on research. And lack of transparency about how the money is spent can raise suspicions. “Sometimes faculty feel like they’re at the end of the Colorado River,” says Joel Norris, a climatologist at the University of California, San Diego. “And all the water’s been diverted before it gets to them.”
Nature compared the negotiated rates, as provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services, to the actual awards given to more than 600 hospitals, non-profit research institutions and universities listed in RePORTER, a public database of NIH funding (see ‘Overheads under the microscope’). The analysis shows that institutions often receive much less than what they have negotiated, thanks to numerous restrictions placed on what and how much they can claim. Administrators say that these conditions make it difficult to recoup the cash they spend on infrastructure.
In addition, new administrative regulations have meant that universities have had to increase their spending, even as federal and state funding for research has diminished. “We lose money on every piece of research that we do,” says Maria Zuber, vice-president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, which has negotiated a rate of 56%.
But many worry that the negotiation process allows universities to lavish money on new buildings and bloated administrations. “The current system is perverse,” says Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University in Athens who studies university financing. “There is a tendency to promote wasteful spending.”
What are indirect costs?
Indirect costs — often called facilities-and-administrative costs — are expenses that are not directly associated with any one research project. This includes libraries, electricity, administrative expenses, facilities maintenance and building and equipment depreciation, among other things.
The United States began reimbursing universities for indirect costs in the 1950s, as part of a push to encourage more research. An initial cap was set at 8%, but that had risen to 20% by 1966, when the government began to allow institutions to negotiate their rates. Institutions were assigned to negotiate with either the US Department of Health and Human Services or the Office of Naval Research, depending on which supplied the bulk of their research funding. And the agreed rate holds across all federal funders, irrespective of where the negotiations took place.
A common misconception is that indirect-cost rates are expressed as a percentage of the total grant, so a rate of 50% would mean that half of the award goes to overheads. Instead, they are expressed as a percentage of the direct costs to fund the research. So, a rate of 50% means that an institution receiving $150 million will get $100 million for the research and $50 million, or one-third of the total, for indirect costs. But there are multiple caps that lower the base amount from which the indirect rate is calculated, or that limit the amount of money that a research institution can request. So very few institutions receive the full negotiated rate on the direct funding they receive.
Since a low point of Hong Kong’s property market in 2003, average house prices have increased by more than 300 percent, according to data from the Centa-City Index, which is compiled by the real estate agency Centaline and the City University of Hong Kong.
Helping propel this rise has been Hong Kong’s thriving economy, which significantly expanded over the last 10 years after the rapid growth of China. Strong demand from wealthy mainland Chinese and limited land supply have also helped to prop up prices, although this effect has slowed since the government put into effect a series of cooling measures, like additional taxes paid on property purchases.
First-time buyers now dominate the market, spurred on by the ultracheap interest rates.
“The mortgage rate is below 2 percent, so it is very attractive for the buyers,” said Patrick Wong, a property analyst at BNP Paribas.
It is still too early to know if and where global warming will enhance lake effect storms. They stop when lakes freeze over, but global warming puts more moisture in the air. Early season polar vortex events, predicted by some models, might create very potent events.
Preserving coal jobs in the US is a fool's errand .. there are only 83k full time jobs in mining (0.12% of all US jobs) and 174k total (mining, transportation and power stations - Department of Labor statistics). On the other hand cycling employs over 650k people in Europe with considerable room for growth.