Research Design Service
National Institute for Health Research

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Cost it right!

Cost it right!

01 June 2019

Niesha Doyle, Business and Operations Manager, RDS North East & North Cumbria

Preparing costs for a funding application can be time consuming and will usually require you to link in with various members of the research finance team within your organisation, plus other organisations if you have collaborators.  It is important to carry out a full and realistic costing of your proposal to ensure that you have the funds required to do the research.

Always read the funders guidance on eligible costs – guidelines can change, depending on the funding stream, so be sure to check what can be included, even if you have applied to the same funder previously.  Read through the costs section of the application form too, to see what information they are asking for, thus avoiding any last minute surprises.

Check your organisations timelines and procedure for preparing costs and factor this in when working on your application.  Alert the costing team if external co-applicants are involved as it can take longer than you think to receive their costs, plus all of the organisations involved will have their own signoff procedure and timescale that they will need to follow so avoid causing unnecessary stress by leaving it too late!

Costs you may need to consider:

Staff time – be sure to include staff costs in line with the funder’s guidance whilst also being realistic about the amount of time required.  It may be tempting to include less time for a researcher, or reduce administrative time to keep costs down, but will you be able to complete the work you are proposing? 

Are there patients and members of the public involved? – How will you reimburse them for both their involvement and any out of pocket expenses (travel and parking, subsistence, childcare)?  Check the INVOLVE website for advice.

Other costs to consider:

  • Consumables (stationery, photocopying etc.)
  • Audio visual (posters, photos)
  • Transcription costs, honorary contracts (for any researchers you may need to employ to work on the project)
  • Recruitment costs, open access publication costs (depending on what the funder will allow), Conferences, training courses, workshop and seminar costs
  • Project meetings and steering groups (travel for participants as well as room rental and catering)
  • Equipment (IT, voice recorders)
  • Data storage
  • Survey costs
  • Clinical Trials Unit costs
  • Dissemination activities.

NHS costs – these will need to be obtained from the relevant Trust and will be broken down into Support Costs, Research Costs, Treatment Costs and Excess Treatment Costs. Further details about attributing the costs of health and social care research and development (AcoRD) can be accessed via your local CRN as part of their Study Support Service.

Do you need to add VAT to any costs?  This can make a really big difference to the total cost of an application (particularly for subcontractors or if an NHS trust are providing a vatable service).

A handy tip is to keep notes of any workings out (i.e. travel for multiple trips per year) as it may take a long time from the point of submitting an application to receiving an outcome and can be frustrating when the funder asks how you have calculated costs and you can’t remember!

Remember, finance teams are likely to be supporting many other applications at the same time so expect possible delays in obtaining quotes. There can often be many emails back and forth before getting the final cost so allow time for this.  Large applications, especially those involving external collaborators and NHS costs need even more time. 

It is also worth remembering that, following approval of costs, there are often several further sign off steps to go through within your own organisation before you can press ‘submit’ – plan ahead and make sure that the relevant people are going to be available to complete their parts on time.

For advice with your application, contact your local Research Design Service - and good luck!

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