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Indirect Costs a Bigger Bite of NIH Funding at Universities

Mike Mitka, MSJ
JAMA. 2013;310(23):2496. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.284045.
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding of research by universities covers both direct costs—for labor and material used solely to carry out the studies—and indirect costs, which include various facility and administration expenses incurred by the schools. But during a time when overall spending by the NIH for such research has slowed, indirect costs have increased at a faster rate than direct costs, reports the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO report, issued October 31 and requested by Sen Jeff Sessions (R, Ala), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, stated that for fiscal years 2003 to 2012, indirect costs increased 16.9%, while direct costs increased 11.7%. The greater increase for indirect costs came during a time when the NIH’s budget for such research slowed to 5% growth for fiscal years 2008 to 2012, compared with about a 21% growth for fiscal years 2002 to 2007 (http://1.usa.gov/1b6Duv6).

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