Academics opposed to a White House proposal to cut indirect costs (or overhead) from NIH grants can breath a bit easier. As of July 12, 2017, the House of Representatives has rejected the White House’s plan to cap indirect costs related to NIH-funded research. This comes amidst continued efforts by the Trump administration to downsize NIH, NSF and most other nationally funded STEM programs.

House legislators also proposed increasing NIH’s 2018 budget by $1.1 billion.  In addition, many high-profile projects, such as the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, would see increased funding if the plan gets through the Senate unscathed.

The original plan put forth by Trump sought to reduce the NIH budget by 18% in 2018 (a $5.8 billion cut to NIH’s current $31.7 billion budget), largely by capping indirect costs at 10% of an NIH grant’s value. Currently, each university negotiates its own indirect cost rate with the government every few years. Rates vary widely because of factors such as geography and type of research. The average rate for NIH grants is 52%.

While proponents of the 10% cap believe a cut in indirect funds would reduce potential fraud and misuse of payments, many universities and research organizations argue even at current levels, payments for indirect costs don’t come close to covering the full cost of utilities, ethics review boards, animal care facilities, administrative staff, hazardous waste disposal, high-speed computers, and other services needed to support NIH-funded research projects.

The Senate subcommittee has not yet released its version of the bill; however, the House bill is available to view.

 

 

 

 

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