Science - April 14, 2005

Overheads cost almost half income

For every euro that DLO earns, between 52 and 58 cents go to researchers. The rest is used for other costs. The biggest guzzler is administrative support department at the sciences group level, where 22 percent of the income ends up. The Wageningen UR Administration Centre costs about 4 cents of every euro earned.

The Department of Finance at the Administration Centre carried out a cost-price analysis, basing the figures on the accounts from Alterra for 2003. The amount that goes on overhead costs is often cause for complaint. Researchers have been complaining for a long time that they have to charge too high rates for their work because the Wageningen UR overheads are so high. But exactly how high overhead costs are remains unclear. Who counts as overhead? The director of a sciences group is clearly an overhead, and the same goes for the financial accountants, but what about a project leader, or the secretary in a department?

The Department of Finance was not prepared to release the figures for all institutes, but a memorandum concerning the government subsidies in the Bsik programme reveals something. According to the memorandum the overhead costs at Alterra form 89 percent. This means that to break even, on top of the salary costs of the researcher, another 89 percent has to be added to the client’s bill. At ATO the figure is 91 percent. Plant Sciences is the group with the lowest mark-up, 72 percent. This figure is also the norm that the Corporate Board has fixed as an acceptable level. / KV