Top administrators are charting ways to shift off-campus researchers back into GW-owned buildings this fall to pull more grant money back into the University.
The government only covers 26 percent of indirect costs – like administrative and building expenses – associated with research conducted in leased spaces, like 2020 K Street and the Watergate complex, using federal grants. If researchers work on campus, the University recovers double that amount to help foot the bills, while also raking in about half a million dollars of extra revenue.
Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa said he will join Provost Steven Lerman, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz in setting a “chess board” of moves into motion this year to plan researchers’ potential relocations.
The University is relying on these indirect cost recoveries to help fund the $275 million Science and Engineering Hall and startup packages to lure more academics to GW through Chalupa’s research-focused office, which has steadily built up since he arrived in 2009.
Most research is already done on the Foggy Bottom and Virginia campuses, but University spokeswoman Latarsha Gatlin said GW does not keep track of the percent of researchers who work off campus. Chalupa said no researcher will be forced to move.
Some off-campus researchers would likely move into the Science and Engineering Hall or the Virginia Science and Technology Campus, or space on the Foggy Bottom Campus that opens up as new buildings are completed.
One of GW’s most successful departments in nabbing outside funding – the department of health policy – maintains a portfolio of about $40 million in outside money, said Leighton Ku, the director of GW’s Center for Health Policy Research. But because it operates out of a leased office building on K Street, the University misses out on recovering much of those funds.
Ku said he’s been told the department will not entirely fit in the new School of Public Health and Health Services building, set to open in 2014. He said he does not know whether his off-campus space, will move.
“The risk is that if we’re not successful in attracting more researchers – particularly in the other departments – to do more research, then potentially we have a big budget hole of how we’re going to fund the Science and Engineering Hall,” Ku said.
The University projected a $55 million net increase in indirect cost recoveries over the next decade, according to funding estimates last December that Katz called a “reasonable project” Tuesday. About three-fourths of all indirect cost recoveries over the next decade will fund the Science and Engineering Hall, according to the same projection.
The University earned $21.6 million in indirect cost recoveries last year – far below peer schools like University of Southern California, which received about $132 million from indirect cost recoveries last year.
Over the last three years, indirect cost recoveries increased by $2 million at GW, a figure Katz said would rise as research dollars continued to funnel into GW.
“We never said you’re going to make money, per se, but you’re still getting revenue to the institution,” Katz said. “There are other reasons to build up the sciences and engineering and do the research, and we believe in how this is overall going to raise the reputation and prestige of the institution and build the critical mass in those areas.”
The University brought in about $146 million in outside grants and contracts in fiscal year 2011, the last year data was available, a slight dip from the year before.
Two teams of researchers earned one of the largest hauls in recent history, the University announced last week, earning $24.5 million in two grants for public health studies.
Anthony Yezer, an economics professor who chairs the Faculty Senate’s research committee, said much of the extra federal money will need to be funneled back into the research projects before it can go toward the Science and Engineering Hall.
“A sponsored research project doesn’t pay for itself with a Xerox machine. There are a lot of things that have to be funded with indirect costs recoveries before there’s anything left over to pay for a building,” Yezer said.
This article appeared in the September 13, 2012 issue of the Hatchet.