New benefit fund expands resources for grant writers

Chris Wilcox
Staff writer 

Effective July 1, the Murray State indirect cost formula for awarded grants will be changed in order to benefit the principal investigator.

The old, indirect cost formula left no awarded money to the grant writer. This new formula will be administered by allowing the principal investigator or researcher of the grant to have direct access to 12.5 percent of the indirect cost generated by the awarded grant.

Jay Morgan, associate provost, said the project was a collaboration of the Research Policy Committee and the Office of the Provost.

“This change was supported by the President’s Office and ultimately was given the approval by President Randy Dunn,” he said.

The Office of Accounting will create an account for each researcher with funds that they may access quarterly for several uses.

Morgan said the funds will provide faculty and staff with more resources.

“The PI benefit fund will expand the resources that faculty and staff have at their disposal for the support of grant writing,” he said.

Morgan did say the change, supported by many members across campus, has some prohibited uses.

These include sponsorships, food (except travel reimbursement), professional liability annual dues, professional associate dues and faculty salary stipends for any faculty member associated with the grant.

Although some limitations have been set, Morgan said the benefit fund, as a whole, is still better than no fund at all, as was the case previously.

“This PI fund is now being provided to foster a more awarding environment for grant writing,” he said.

Approved uses of the PI benefit fund include cost share for future grants, student workers, graduate assistants or part-time administrative assistants, materials, technology and supplies for scholarly research or grant development and related travel.

Peggy Pittman-Munke, Faculty Senate president, said the new formula for awarded grants would provide the faculty more opportunities to access information on grants and would help in the context of their jobs.

“It will pay for conference travel, books and student workers or graduate assistants,” she said. “As tight as budgets are, the administration has done a great service to the faculty by providing this incentive.”

Pittman-Munke said a part of Murray State tradition is rewarding its faculty for their hard work.

“Faculty will not begin writing grant proposals simply because of the new formula,” she said. “The faculty who are already writing grants will simply receive a part of the awarded money in order to help them with their work.”

David White, director of the Hancock Biological Station, said while the change didn’t necessarily mean there would be more grant writing, it does provide an incentive.

“I’ve been pushing for a formula like this for nearly 10 years,” he said. “The uses of the new indirect cost formula will help faculty with their professional work.”

White said he is in the process of writing a large grant proposal to the National Science Foundation, so he is especially glad there will be a principal investigator benefit fund.

“The uses don’t allow faculty to add to their salary,” he said. “It is just a way to help finance our projects. They can be very costly.”

Said Dunn: “This new incentive goes to the core of what, in part, the University is about and that is the creation of new knowledge and the application of that new and existing knowledge in ways that make life better.”