are some frequently asked questions. Please also consult with the PHS
Research Management Policy on Research Core/Recharge Centers also available
in the “Policy
and Guidelines” section.
Q: I am interested in offering a service to the
research community. How do I start?
A: The development of shared resources and core facilities are part of
the institution’s commitment to interdisciplinary research. If
you are interested in running a core or service that would be available
to the research community, please click on the link for Starting up a New
Core. In short, you will need to submit a business
plan, obtain departmental and chief signoff and provide a financial back-up
Q: Can I run a deficit?
A: Cores are meant to operate at break-even or revenue-neutral and
must be self-sustaining. With start-up cores, break-even must occur
within the first two years of operation as stated within their business
plan. They should not generate a significant surplus or deficit. A
back-up fund must be provided upon commencement of the core to cover
any deficits in excess of 20%. The core will be reviewed semi-annually and the appropriate course of action will be applied with regards to the timing and use of the back-up funding.
Q: What is a “back-up fund”?
A: A back-up fund is an appropriate departmental (or institutional) cost
center or Peoplesoft number that is provided by the requesting department
and documented as a “back-up” or “guarantee” fund
to cover any un-resolvable fund deficits that may arise from the operation
of the core. The back-up fund must be a non-federal, unrestricted departmental or sundry fund.
Q: Can we make a profit?
A: Cores should not generate a significant surplus in excess of operating
expenses. Any excess funds generated should be used to lower user-fees
or enhance Core services. A surplus generally does not exceed 20% and is generally
the result of services provided commercially or to external users. Accumulated
surpluses resulting from charges to internal users cannot be transferred
out of the center to another fund.
Q: How is overhead handled?
A: When approved as a Core facility/Recharge Center, the recharge center
will use the “direct cost” methodology and should be set up
at a 0% overhead rate. The overhead rate assessed is based on the user’s
source of funding. The invoice for “internal users” will only
reflect the “direct cost” of providing that service.
Q: Can I depreciate equipment already purchased?
A: Depreciation is handled on a case by case basis and would be determined
at the time the business plan is written.
Q: Can I charge different rates to different users?
A: As stated in the Federal Guidelines, charges should be based on actual
usage and a schedule of rates that does not discriminate between federally
and non-federally supported activities of the institution. Government
users should never be charged more than the actual cost and charges must
be based on costs that are allowable, allocable and reasonable. The application of the Policy and charges should be applied consistently across all users.
Q: Can I offer services to external users?
A: Some centers may provide services to both “internal” users
(entity specific users) and “external” users (e.g. PIs whose
labs and grants are at non-PHS organizatons such as Harvard, MIT, HFCI,
etc.) Services can be offered to “external” users but a bundled
fee including direct costs and overhead would be included.
Q: How often are the cores reviewed?
A: A basic review of each recharge cost center will be done on an annual basis so that significant variances
can be addressed and resolved and not allowed to grow from year to
Q: How would profits be handled?
A: Accumulated surpluses resulting from charges to internal users cannot
be transferred out of the center to another fund. They should be used
to reduce “user-fees” in the next period.
Q: What kinds of expenses can I include in an
A: You can include
- Administrative support staff who support research/grant operations
but are not currently paid through these funds.
- Shared expenses including office supplies, Xerox/copies, shared equipment
repairs and maintenance, training for administrative staff if directly
related to providing administrative support.
Q: Can I set up pre-payments for charging investigators
within the core group?
A: Charges for services must not be pre-billed or pre-paid. Users should be invoiced after the service is incurred. Invoices
should be generated on a monthly basis.
Q: What kinds of expenses are unallowable in a
A: This can be addressed on a core by core basis but as a general guideline
– food, coffee, meals, gifts, parties and travel should not be included.
Q: How do I calculate the user-fees?
A: Recharge centers base user-fees on the direct operating costs of the
core which include direct labor (salary and fringe of technicians
and staff), operating supplies and materials, and other expenses such
as service contracts or equipment leases. The user fees must reflect
the actual cost of operating and must be assessed consistently to
all users. Capital equipment depreciation (or capitalized lease costs)
may also be included in rates in certain cases however these costs
must be reviewed and approved by the Research Core Facilities Team.
However, depreciation on federally purchased (or shared) equipment
is not included. A User-Fee Calculation template is available to help
you with the unit costing of the service to calculate user-fees. It
can be customized to your service.
Q: What are market rates and how do I obtain them?
A: Prices must be reasonable and competitive when compared with other
institutions and commercial companies offering similar services. A sampling
of 4-5 local academic institutions and commercial companies offering similar
services and pricing should be included in your business plan. These market
rates are then compared to the user-fees that are calculated based on
your core’s direct expenses. You would obtain this information by contacting other institutions or performing a web search.
Q: How often should I be generating bills?
A:Users should be invoiced on a monthly basis. PHS Research Management
establishes cut off times (15th business day of the month) to get
current charges into the monthly close to ensure that charges are
reported in a timely manner. The importance of charging on a timely
basis cannot be overstated since it allows for proper monitoring by
core center staff, users, and Research Management. This also helps
to facilitate timely error correction and allows for on-time filings
of FSRs to sponsors and reduces the need for retroactive cost transfers.
Q: What % effort would be acceptable for directing
A: There is clearly a range but generally directors include between 0%
- 15% with the average between 5-10%.
Q: How do I submit the internal charges to Research
Management for processing?
A: The standardized Core Journal Entry Template should be used
to charge and credit the Core Cost Center. The form is processed by
Research Management as part of the monthly Peoplesoft G/L close for that
activity. These forms are available clicking the “Forms” button
on the homepage.
Q: What Peoplesoft Account Numbers
should I be using to bill people and record the core’s revenue?
A: Please use PS account # 951250 to record internal user-fee revenue for
grants being charged. This is recorded as “Research Core Services”
on the users’ financial statements. PS account # 779050 should be used to
record the receipt of internal user-fee income (recorded as “Research
Core Revenue” on the Core Facility financial statements). Uncashed checks
should be forwarded to Ryan Boisselle at Partners Research Management, 101 Huntington Ave, Suite 210, Boston, MA 02199.