- The Government has allocated additional funds for research in Higher Education but has required, as a quid pro quo, transparent costing of teaching, research and other activities at institutional level. This requirement resulted in the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC), a costing methodology which has been implemented in varying degrees in Higher Education since 1999/2000. TRAC showed that all research was under-funded, if its full cost was calculated. In response, the Government awarded additional funding for research both on a recurrent basis (as QR and the Science Budget) and as capital through SRIF (Science Research Infrastructure Fund). However, the condition accompanying the additional funding was that Institutions must take responsibility for their own financial sustainability, particularly with regard to the research infrastructure. This has led to the introduction of the concept of Full Economic Cost (fEC), which is derived from TRAC.
- To enable Brookes staff to calculate costs using fEC, the University subscribes to an off-the-shelf costing package called Worktribe. This will calculate all the indirect costs relating to a project. You will only need to include details relating to the direct costs. Once the fEC has been calculated, the costing tool will also show the difference between what the fEC is and what the funder will pay. The costing tool is available on the RBDO web pages.
- Having identified a project and an opportunity for research funding, you should run the potential costs through Worktribe to see how feasible it is for the bid to progress. This can be done with help from the RSO, or from Research Administration staff within your Faculty. Once the Faculty has given initial permission for the bid to be developed, you should work on the proposal, using the funder's forms. You also need to complete the requisite forms, following your Faculty's procedure including assessment by the Faculty's Grant Panel, for receiving internal Faculty approval.
- In addition, and at an early stage, please contact us in the Research Support Office (RSO) to discuss the bid, how it should be structured to meet the funder's requirements, and likely direct costs. Funders will always give clear information about the form your application should take. Do follow their instructions to the letter - failure to do so might invalidate your whole proposal.
- This is a summary of the general process but the actual process within individual faculties may vary:
Procedures for progressing research
|i)||Bidding opportunity is identified by academic, member of research support or RBDO|
|ii)||Staff member begins work on the form and structure of the bid and contact the Grant Panel Chair within the Faculty as appropriate|
|iii)||Initial bid costing with Worktribe, working with Faculty support and/or RBDO|
|iv)||Approval needed within the Faculty to progress the bid to the formal bid stage|
|v)||Refinement of costing using fEC costing tool, working with Faculty support and/or RBDO|
|vi)||Completion of funder-specific forms relating to bid, working with Faculty support and/or RBDO|
|vii)||Formal Faculty Approval (including Grant Panel approval) for bid to progress to University via RBDO|
|viii)||Formal University Approval. This will include the usual checks carried out in RBDO (ensuring the bid has been costed using fEC and an appropriate cost/price is to be charged, the bid meets the requirements of the funder, insurance, IP issues etc). Please note that all applications must be submitted to RBDO in full, with their accompanying Faculty approval at least one week before the formal bid deadline.|
|ix)||Bid submitted to funder by Faculty, or by the University if to the JeS electronic system. All submitted bids will be automatically copied from Worktribe to Converis (the University's Current Research Information System (CRIS)) which is used to store and manage details of research projects at Oxford Brookes.|
|x)||Outcome of bid:|
- Bid awarded. Award value used to amend costing and confirm bid is still viable. Bid therefore accepted. University/Faculty records updated in Worktribe and Converis.
- Bid not awarded. University/Faculty records updated in Worktribe and Converis and bid file closed
|xi)||After having confirmed the viability of the award, RBDO will log relevant details in Converis, including the amount awarded and a breakdown of costs in various categories. A new activity code will be set up by RBDO and Management Accounts and the costing spreadsheet will automatically calculate the costs to be incurred broken down by financial year. This will generate a journal which will post Directly Allocated and Indirect costs to the activity code which has been created in e5. Then, the residue of the income will be allocated between the University and the Faculty in direct proportion to the Principal Investigator costs, the Faulty's indirect costs and the University's indirect costs in the original budget. Any revenue shortfall will be shown as a deficit against the project and this will be transferred partly to the Faculty and partly to the University. RBDO will also liaise with the Contracts Manager to arrange any necessary contracts with third parties etc.|
|xii)||Awarded project runs from the start date shown on the award, following agreed project deadlines and OBU processes for project management|
- Worktribe will be used for all bids to establish the actual cost of undertaking a project
- For bids to the Research Councils, it has been confirmed that the level of support will be 80% of the fEC
- For bids to charities or the EU, full use should be made of the staff in the Research Support office in RBDO to establish the extent to which the funder will recognise fEC and how to submit costings in those circumstances.
Usually, bids to Research Councils, Charities, the EU and some Government Departments require costings to be displayed as part of the bid. However, actual costs should not normally be shown within proposals to commercial organisations. In a commercial proposal the price should be quoted and, if appropriate, a breakdown of the price into broad categories can be included. Contact RBDO for advice on this.
Where the amount charged to the funder is not based on a cost based formula pricing principles for research and consultancy are being established and disseminated by RBDO. (e.g. if the funder is a commercial organisation and the ownership or exploitation of the research lies with them, then the price should be significantly more than the fEC. If the University is retaining all of the IP, the results will be freely published and the work will contribute to the enhancement of the UK research base then the price could be set just above the level of the fEC etc).
Agreement from the Dean(s)of the Faculty(ies) submitting the bid, or from staff in the Faculty to whom that authority has been delegated (usually Research Directors) must be confirmed before the bid can be formally submitted to the University, for final agreement.
Once the above has been obtained, University agreement will be sought via RBDO and once RBDO have undertaken their usual checks.
If a bid is awarded, and is confirmed as viable, the award letter must generally be signed by the University, via RBDO. RBDO will then set up the new activity code. In cases where an award letter is not issued a Contract will be raised between the Funder and Oxford Brookes University which must be signed by both parties. Research Council awards are forwarded to RBDO and accepted via the Je-S website after confirmation is received from the PI.
Staff submitting Expressions of Interest would need to be clear that an EoI submitted with either no or very rough costings did not commit the University to any financial outlay before a full fEC had been completed. They should use Worktribe as good practice to establish broadly what the costs are likely to be as it is unusual for a costs in an EoI to change very much when a full bid is submitted. Faculty approval at least should always be received before submitting an EoI to ensure that the appropriate staff time can be committed in the way outlined.
Running the project
A checklist for Principal Investigators is available as part of this Handbook (see the checklist in the appendices).
There are procedures in place for project monitoring in Faculties each year and random, sample monitoring by the University. Part of the monitoring process in the Faculties should be to review the actual costs of the project as well as the income received from the funder. RBDO have in conjunction with Finance and Legal Services developed record keeping guidelines for projects which have to be audited.
Exclusions from bidding
Any member of staff who has not updated the three times a year time analysis return to comply with TRAC will not be eligible to bid for external funding.
For bids which have not been costed using fEC and where agreement for the work has been given by the member of staff rather than the University, the University will calculate the fEC of the work and the first charge on any income will be to cover the indirect costs incurred by the University and the Faculty NOT the direct costs associated with the work.
- At a very early stage, consider any possible implications regarding Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance, ethics approval and third party participants (such as students, collaborators, suppliers of data). We can offer you guidance on these important points. Please note that all applications must be submitted to RBDO in full, with their accompanying Faculty approval at least one week before the formal bid deadline.
- Bids and Tenders
Be aware of the difference between a bid and a tender. A bid allows both the Faculty and the funding body more flexibility, in that the Faculty can bid knowing it might be possible to negotiate about the sum of money involved and what activities it can undertake for that amount. Once that is done, a contract will be drawn up which the University can agree. A tender - which should be defined in the sense of "to present for acceptance" - is much more binding. Once the funding body has agreed to the tender submitted, it is up to the Faculty to deliver the project. Should an error have been made in the costings, the Faculty will not normally be in a position to change the tender.