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Costing your proposal

Estimating and Verifying academic Time Spent on Research Projects

Estimating Time

With the introduction of fEC investigators time is an allowable cost on Research Council and other research projects. As a result investigators have to estimate the time they spend on all research projects for which they bid. Costs are charged to projects based on this estimated time.

Guidance for investigators

This is applicable to all contracts regardless of sponsor.

All investigators should estimate the time they think they will spend over the life of a project in hours. The time estimated should be total time and need not be profiled across the life of the project (although it can be if the time spent on the project will vary significantly during different phases of the project).

All direct research time such as project management time, supervision of research assistants, time spent preparing and presenting conference papers, writing project reports and papers should be included.

Time spent training and supervising postgraduate research students funded by the project should be included if sponsor rules allow. Research Councils and government departments will not fund supervision time. Commercial sponsors will.

Time should be the time of the staff carrying out the work on the project and not that for replacement teaching.

Time spent preparing the grant application should be excluded.

Estimating time

The average number of hours to be spent each week on the project should be estimated. This should take account of the relative demands of the project on the academics time such as whether they are principal or co-investigator; the number and experience and number of the research assistants, the number of investigators, the number of reports to be written, the sponsors administrative requirements, previous experience with this type of project and the techniques involved.

The average number of hours per week should be multiplied by the number of weeks available on the project. This will not be 52 per annum. At least 8 weeks should be deducted for leave and sickness leaving 44 weeks in a year. Allowance should also be made for any other time unavailable on the project such as attendance at conferences and other leave and commitments.

An further allowance should be made for writing up at the end.

Based on fictitious figures an example would be:

  • Hours per week = 3
  • Weeks per year = 37 (52 weeks minus 8 weeks for leave, 4 for conference attendance, and 3 for other commitments)
  • Writing paper(s) = 20 hours
  • Total for a 3 year project would be:
  • 3 hours x 37 weeks x 3 years = 333 hours + 20 = 353 hours

Investigators should keep records of how the total number of hours on the project was calculated.

Research and Enterprise Development Managers will provide advice and assistance to PIs when costing the proposal and will review all estimates of time for reasonableness.

Commitment of time

It is a requirement that institutions should ensure that PIs do not charge more than 1650 hours per annum to publicly funded (research council and government e.g Innovate) projects. A record of PI and Co-PI hours is recorded centrally. These are reviewed periodically to ensure no PI is overcommitted.

Verification of Investigator Time

As investigator costs are based on estimated time rather than actual time, the Research Councils require that the PI confirms (or otherwise) that broadly, the amount of time estimated at the start of the project is likely to have been spent, and will be spent, by the staff on the project. Broadly means cumulative over the project so far, with reasonable assumptions as to future work on the project, plus or minus 20%.

At the start of each new Research Council project PIs are sent a proforma indicating hours awarded. PIs are asked to return and sign with any amendments at the end of the project. Further information is available from your Research Accountant.

The records that should be kept will depend on the sponsor. For example, EU projects require time sheets. For Research Council projects timesheets or other formal records of time spend are definitely not required. However PIs should be able to produce Evidence of time spent on the project such as paper-based diary entries, records of meetings, volume/quality of outputs, laboratory notes. It is suggested that good practice would be for the PI to keep simple records in a desk diary of the significant inputs made to the project. It is events rather than individual hours that need to be recorded.

Costing Resources for Researchers

The Costing Resources for Researchers document can be viewed here.