The majority of costs on research projects stem from personnel required to complete the research. As such, many departments, institutes and universities are concerned with the question: What is the real cost of hiring research personnel?
There are several factors to consider when evaluating the cost of hiring research personnel. Today’s article will highlight some of these factors and how an institution, through the use of a grant accounting system, can track, monitor and prepare for future costs of hiring research personnel.
Factors to consider*:
- Start-up funds
- Space allocation and setup
One major component which influences the cost of hiring research personnel is the position being hired. A senior or tenured research faculty member will come at a much higher cost than a graduate student. As such, to perform a true evaluation of costs of hiring, it is crucial to track hiring costs of similar positions together rather than compile all recruitment costs together.
Associated with position is the current market or competition for the posted position. Depending on the field, specialty nature of the position, necessary skill set and general market conditions, position costs can vary substantially. Again aggregating positions of this nature is critical for obtaining an accurate average for forecasting future costs.
Recruitment costs include a myriad of items:
- Posting of position advertisements including local and national sources such as web based media, journals, scientific communities and career sites
- Personnel costs of individuals managing the search
- Personnel costs of search committee members and interviewers
- Travel costs associated with interviews (airfare, lodging, rental car and/or mileage, meals and other miscellaneous expenses)
- Meals during the interview process – interviewers and candidate
- Short term travel visa costs
In many instances, relocation packages are also provided during the hiring of research personnel. Smaller allocations are generally provided to postdoctoral candidates and higher allocations to senior research personnel. Relocation costs can include transportation of the employee, their family and personal effects to the new location; insuring such personal effects; finding a new home (advance travel for researching and locating living quarters/temporary lodging); closing costs associated with the employee’s former home; continuing costs of maintaining ownership of the former home or cancelling an unexpired lease (for limited period).
Additionally, many research faculty members receive a start-up allotment to assist with initiating their research program at the new institution. This allotment can range anywhere from a few thousand to several hundred thousand depending on the type of space, equipment, personnel and program the individual is initiating.
If not included in the start-up package, institutions must also consider space requirements and alterations that will be necessary to facilitate these research personnel. Other considerations include obtaining and furnishing office space including electronic devices required for day to day responsibilities.
Tracking, Monitoring and Forecasting the Cost of Hiring Research Personnel
With so many components to consider and the need to aggregate components separately due to the type of positions and market factors, how can a research institution effectively track and monitor these expenses? For many institutions, they may track some of these costs through their central general ledger; however, the costs are typically accumulated with other like expenditures (for example travel for interviewees is simply tracked as a travel expense, no distinction from standard employee travel). So what options exist? Many use spreadsheets to identify and manage these costs. This process is exceptionally cumbersome and prone to human error as many costs can be overlooked and unaccounted for. For research intensive institutions, the solution comes in the form of a grant accounting software system.
A grant accounting system enables an institution to assign coding to transactions to allow for tracking of just these types of expenses. Coding can be established in the grant accounting system for each recruiting category: Recruit-SR Faculty; Recruit-PD, Recruit-GS. These groupings of expenses can then be used for reporting purposes to determine average costs over a designated period of time enabling the research institution to more accurately forecast costs associated with hiring research personnel.
Examples of grant accounting software solutions frequently used in research intensive institutions include the Department Manager, College Administrator, and Research Administrator products provided by IT Works. For more information regarding these products, contact the IT Works team.
*While this article has included a wide breadth of costs associated with hiring research personnel, this list is not meant to be fully inclusive. It is also important for institutions to determine the sources of funding for hiring research personnel and if using federal funds to ensure that the regulations found at 2 CFR 200.463, 464 and 474 are adhered to.