Press Release No. 35 | 14 June 2007
DFG Welcomes the Introduction of Overhead Funding
Kleiner: "A Boost to Research and an Incentive for Successful Scientists"
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) welcomes the introduction of "overhead funding" for research. "This is a crucial step, which boosts research and rewards successful scientists and universities," explained DFG president Matthias Klein in Bonn, following the agreement of the leaders of the federal government and states to the financing of indirect overhead costs as part of the "Higher Education Pact 2020".
With this overhead cost funding, the research projects funded by the DFG will in future receive an additional 20% of their respective funding amounts. The funds should be used to cover maintenance costs for test facilities, the renting of laboratory space, software licenses, general administrative costs and other expenses that have an indirect relation to the research project. Until now, the costs have had to be paid by the universities or non-university institutions themselves, and were thus not available for the actual research work. "Essentially, this amounted to a penalty against strong research institutions," recalls Kleiner. "The more third-party funding a university received from the DFG, the more money they themselves had to add to the pot. This Pyrrhic victory had a high cost for the most successful of them." For this reason, the DFG has supported the idea of full cost funding for a long time.
According to Kleiner, the introduction of full cost funding, which has now been achieved, is a further incentive to universities and non-university institutions to intensify their research activities and to acquire greater national and international prominence. This applies equally to institutions that already have strong research reputations and to those which have not yet had great success in obtaining third-party funding from the DFG. "This will also encourage competition in research," underlined Kleiner.
Following the signing of the Higher Education Pact 2020, the Collaborative Research Centres, Research Centres and Research Training Groups funded by the DFG will receive their 20% overhead cost payments this year, and all newly approved funding projects will receive them from 2008 onwards.
After the agreement, the DFG President gave special thanks to the leaders of the federal government, which will be providing all of the overhead funding until 2010. Kleiner applauded the fact that this additional investment is not at the expense of previous funding. It is just as important that the universities and research institutions, or even the states, do not offset this bonus in other areas. The DFG considers it desirable in the long run that university management and participating scientists make a joint decision regarding the use of the overhead cost funding.
Finally, Kleiner pointed out that this step is only the beginning. "In many subjects and projects, the actual indirect programme costs are significantly higher than 20%." In many countries, substantially higher overhead cost funding has been granted. In the United Kingdom, for example, more than 50%, and in the USA, between 70% and 90%, of indirect research costs are already being allocated in addition to normal funding. "Therefore, we must strive for an increase to an average of 40% in Germany too, if only with a view to international competitiveness," said the DFG President.