Administration of Research Overheads

Research and Scholarly Activities

Responsibility: Vice-President, Research
Authorization: Board of Governors
Approval Date: Dec 17, 2004


This policy has been rescinded and replaced with Institutional Costs of Research Policy (approved by the Board of Governors March 18, 2014, effective May 1, 2014)

The purpose of this policy is to outline the practices governing the calculation and allocation of research overhead recoveries.

Research overhead recoveries are intended to compensate the University for the general costs associated with research activities such as: faculty time, the provision of space and its maintenance and servicing (utilities), the use and maintenance of equipment, a proportionate share of other costs such as insurance and legal services, and services provided by the University's support staff, e.g., Research Services, Financial Services Division, Human Resources Division, Purchasing Services, Facilities Management Division, Auxiliary Services, Office of the Registrar, Library.


The University has a wide range of research contracts, from those that meet all or most of the definitive terms for a grant to those that meet all or most of the definitive terms for a contract. In addition, contracts may serve the aims and objectives of a faculty member's research and the pedagogical and other aims and objectives of the University in different ways and degrees.

Costing of Research - Principal Investigators must include in the budgets prepared for submission to contracting agencies all items that can be legitimately charged to the research project. All research accepted by the University must include an allowance for overhead at University approved rates. If, in so doing, the total cost of the proposed research project is greater than the sponsor is either willing or able to pay, then the cost of the project is also beyond the University's range of support. Reducing or omitting costs included in a research proposal with the expectation that the University will be able to absorb the costs is unrealistic since the University does not have the obligation or the financial resources to subsidize contract research. Nevertheless, it may be feasible to reduce the amount of the work required to fit the resources available to fund it. Responsibility for a budgetary shortfall is ultimately the responsibility of the Principal Investigator.

Distribution of Overhead Recoveries - In order to meet the legitimate costs of research, which are part of a College's overhead expenses, the University will allocate to a specific purpose account administered by the Dean of the college where the research is being conducted, overhead recovered on research and service contracts. The amounts transferred will not be less than 50%, and will be shared with the researcher and Department. The Colleges are to distribute a significant portion, that is 50% or more, of the Colleges' portion to the specific area that generated the research which may include one Principal Investigator or more than one co-investigator within the same College, or from different Colleges or units. This distribution would be pre-arranged among the parties. A full reporting of the overhead cost recovery and the distribution of funds will be defined at the outset of the research activity.

A three year rolling average of research overhead recoveries will be used to determine a base amount to be allocated to the operating budget. The incremental amount above this allocation is retained under the responsibility of the Vice-President (Research) to be re-invested in college and centre research initiatives, and essential central research services, and to contribute to changing business practices.

Exemptions and Special Cases - Exemptions and special cases have been defined for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), Vaccine & Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), Saskatchewan Drug Research Institute (SDRI), and Toxicology Research Centre (TRC).

Consulting Work - Consulting work is commercial in nature and some or all of the following conditions are normally found in contracts for its performance: payments to the Principal Investigator; restriction or prohibition of publication; deliverables which are very specific as to method and quality control; penalties associated with time delays; assignment of all or a major portion of the rights to copyright, patents, inventions or industrial know-how; substantial holdbacks to be paid on delivery or after delivery of the final report; exclusion of graduate students or other faculty and staff members because of confidentiality of data.

The University, per se, does not engage in consulting work unless the following conditions are met:
1. such work is in the public interest and is related to the purposes of the University,
2. no other party is practically able or available to conduct the work,
3. the University has special facilities which are not otherwise available and which are not fully committed to other work.

As a teaching and research institution, the University receives certain tax exemptions, which preclude it from engaging in commercial activities without bringing that status into question.

Faculty and certain staff members are entitled to engage in consulting work but must obtain permission before doing so as required by the provisions of collective agreements under which they are employed and the general regulations of the University regarding such activities.

Consulting work when undertaken by the University will be charged an overhead rate of 150% of all direct payroll costs including fringe benefits. In addition, the University shall be paid a fee for the use of any University space, equipment or facilities and compensated for the time, which employees devote to the work. Consulting fees are credited to University general revenue or when appropriate to other special revenue accounts, e.g., equipment rental income. Overhead recovery will be distributed in accordance with the conditions above.


The Vice-President (Research) is responsible for the administration of this policy and may approve changes in the Guidelines and to the standard overhead rates, exemptions and special cases, and modifications to procedures if she/he is satisfied that the changes are in the best interest of the University.

All research grants and contracts held by the University, unless otherwise exempted, must provide an allowance for overhead. Exemptions from overhead, special cases, or changes in standard rates require prior approval of the Vice-President (Research) in consultation with the Dean or the Associate Dean of the Colleges in which the research is to be conducted.

The Guidelines and the Standard Overhead Rate Schedule will be maintained in Research Services and will be reviewed annually. The Vice-President (Research) may change the guidelines and the rates to reflect changing conditions. Any changes will be approved in consultation with the Deans or Associate Deans of the colleges.

Related Documents

There are no other documents associated with this policy.

Contact Information

Contact Person: Director, Research Services
Phone: 306-966-8575