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The National Science Board issues a report on cost sharing: Leveling the NSF Playing Field for Universities.
Leveling the NSF Playing Field
August 31, 2009
Colleges and universities contribute significantly to the cost of federally sponsored research projects, through what they spend on research labs and equipment, faculty start-up packages, and "indirect" costs that aren't reimbursed by the government.
At various points, federal agencies have either required or encouraged them to quite literally "share" the costs of research grants they win, essentially putting up their own funds to match a portion of the grant's value. The practice has been debated, though, with proponents arguing that it shows institutions' commitment by forcing them to put their own "skin in the game," but detractors saying that requiring or encouraging "cost sharing" puts less-wealthy colleges and universities at a disadvantage against wealthier peers, and can lead grant reviewers to favor proposals from institutions that volunteer to contribute even though that isn't supposed to factor into the decision making.
The 2007 American COMPETES Act asked the National Science Board to weigh the pros and cons in reassessing the cost sharing policies of the National Science Foundation, and the board issued a report Friday that calls for ending the practice of "voluntary" cost sharing in all circumstances, while continuing "mandatory" contributions in a small number of industry-focused federal programs as recommended by an interim report the board issued last year.