Report Says NSF Should Require Cost Sharing

By JEFFREY BRAINARD

The National Science Foundation should resume requiring universities to ante up their own cash, including donations they secure from industry, as a condition for receiving certain kinds of industry-oriented research centers, the National Science Board recommends in a new report.

The recommendation is part of a continuing review this year by the science board, which sets policy for the foundation, about this financial practice, known as cost sharing. In 2004 the foundation ended a policy of requiring grant applicants to kick in a chunk of the direct cost of some research projects. That change did not reverse a statutorily required match of 1 percent, and foundation grants continue to include a component for overhead or "indirect" costs, like administration and buildings.

Cost sharing had stretched limited research dollars, but foundation officials became worried about the practice. Cost sharing was seen as favoring grant proposals based on a criterion other than their scientific excellence.

The new document, "Report to Congress on Cost Sharing Policies at the National Science Foundation," says that the foundation should make some exceptions and require cost sharing for some types of research programs in which industry and academe had collaborated before the policy change in 2004. Those include the science foundation's Engineering Research Centers and Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers, as well as the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or Epscor. Before the policy change, colleges were expected to put up 10 percent to 50 percent of the cost of those projects.


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Volume 54, Issue 25, Page A25