On Tuesday, January 12, the Office of the President announced to the faculty that, as a cost-cutting measure, research incentive funding would be eliminated as of July 1, 2010. The stated reasons are the ongoing fiscal crisis and the need to redirect funds to hiring new faculty.
When a research professor wins a grant from a federal agency, the Institute withholds a percentage for what is called Facilities and Administrative Costs. This percentage covers laboratory space and Institute staff expenses, and the percentage depends on several factors. The current practice is to return a small percentage of the F&A fee to the Principal Investigator, or lead researcher, as Research Incentive Funding.
This funding allows research faculty to pay for expenses outside of the grant’s scope, since research grants can have strict rules on the usage of said money. Items and fees, such as books, printers, travel, and professional membership fees, which may not be explicitly covered by grants but contribute to the functioning and performance of a laboratory. According to financial documentation regarding supplemental pay, the Research Incentive Fund was designed specifically to provide for these occasions.
The existing policy also provides funds to the department, splitting resources between the Principal Investigator, the department, and applicable research centers. According to a memo from Provost Robert E. Palazzo, the new policy calls for increasing the School of Engineering budget in order to mitigate the effect that the budget cut will have on academic units. The budgets of individual PIs are to remain unaffected.
A closed-door meeting between Palazzo and the faculty is set for the week of February 8 in order to discuss the new policy.