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New TRAC guidance that applies from 2014-15 has now been published. This is hosted on the HEFCE web site on behalf of all funders. The current TRAC requirements continue to apply for TRAC reporting for the year ending 31 July 2014, but once the 2013-14 TRAC reporting is complete, the HEFCE web site will become the sole resource for TRAC as well as financial sustainability materials.

Part IV - Charge-out rates

Section G: Other Charge-out rates

Chapter G.1 Laboratory technicians

  1. Where technical staff work directly with researchers or in support of their rooms or equipment on laboratory projects, costs should be directly charged to projects no later than 1 August 2007. (I.e. estates charges or indirect cost rates based on 2006/07 costs should not include these items, and they should be charged directly to all relevant projects from 1 February 2008.)
  2. The direct charges will be of either of two types:
    1. if the staff are dedicated to a project, and/or project timesheets will be completed, these costs should be charged as they are incurred (on the basis of those timesheets);
    2. if the staff are part of a shared or pooled team, an appropriate part of these staff costs should be directly allocated to all projects.   A charge-out rate, such as £ per academic/research staff, is used for this.
  3. Staff who are shared between projects, or part of a pooled team, (ii) above, might be:
    1. working on several projects. Where it would be inappropriate for them to complete timesheets – if they did, they could be treated as a directly incurred cost – their costs should be directly allocated to projects;
    2. providing services to laboratories including in health and safety, storeroom/supplies, hazardous materials handling, laboratory equipment maintenance, carpentry or in administration. Again this time should be directly allocated to projects.
  4. All of the time of the staff in (a) and (b) should be directly allocated, including an appropriate part of their general duties, administration, supervision, etc. To this should be added any support time of technicians completing timesheets which is then not being charged as a DI cost to projects ((i) in the paragraph above). Staff costs can be grouped for the purposes of making the charge; and types of staff or individuals need not be identified.
  5. The estimated costs of shared, pool, or directly allocated, staff should be recorded as a cost against each appropriate project periodically throughout the project life. The charges applied to each project need not be updated during the project life (except for the annual indexing built into the original estimate), unless there is a substantial change to the programme of work.
  6. It is good practice for these dedicated technician staff to be charged to projects earlier than August 2007.
  7. Actual time spent on supporting each project need not be recorded. However, it is good practice periodically to survey total time spent supporting a group of projects, on a sample basis, to provide data that can be used to establish the standard charge-out rates for pool staff in their support of different types of project (and activity).
  8. It is good practice for institutions to produce costing schedules that provide a simple guide to the levels of costs that might be appropriate to charge for different types of project.
  9. Estates charges and indirect cost rates should not be applied to the time of technician and Support staff, when calculating the estates and indirect cost totals for a project.

Identifying the costs of directly allocated technicians

  1. The total costs of laboratory technicians should be established and directly charged. These costs should therefore be excluded from estates costs, no later than 1 August 2007.
  2. The minimum requirement focuses on types of technician who are in laboratory departments but are not in non-laboratory departments. However, institutions can define technicians in a more inclusive way if that is more useful to them. They can be:
    • specific staff or posts of technicians who are in laboratory departments, but not generally in non-laboratory departments;
    • all technicians in laboratory departments; or
    • all technicians in both laboratory and non-laboratory departments (different charge-out rates would then be required for each type of department) e.g. IT technicians.
  3. Institutions can use their own definitions for the purpose of classifying which technicians are to be directly allocated. However, it is good practice to ensure that the chosen definition minimises complexity and burden in implementation. The same definition should be used across all relevant departments and all projects.
  4. Only technicians in academic departments need be directly allocated, not those in central support departments such as occupational health, estates, etc.
  5. Several institutions are carrying out surveys to establish the number, type, and activities, of ‘technicians’ in order to inform their TRAC allocation and charges. An example of this, provided by a pilot institution, is given in document link Annex 17. This provides an example of emerging good practice, but is more than the minimum required under TRAC.
  6. A simpler method of establishing the technicians’ costs which are to be directly allocated is as follows:

    take the total costs of technicians allocated to Research (excluding DI costs) for non-laboratory departments, and the equivalent figure for laboratory departments.   

    divide each by the relevant Research FTEs (Research time of academics, research staff and PGRs included at the estates weightings of 0.5 and 0.8) to arrive at a cost per FTE.

    resulting in a laboratory cost per FTE which would normally be higher than that of the non-laboratory cost.

    The difference in the cost per FTE would then be multiplied by the Research FTEs in laboratory departments: 

    providing a notional cost of the ‘extra’ technicians in laboratory departments from those in non-laboratory departments. It is this figure that would then be excluded from estates charges and directly allocated, at least from 1 August 2007. It is then good practice (but not a minimum requirement) to identify the types of technicians that fall into this category of ‘laboratory technicians’.

Directly allocating laboratory technicians’ costs to projects

  1. When directly allocating laboratory technicians’ costs to projects, again a number of methods could be used:
    • identification of the respective levels of input required for equipment-intensive (or otherwise defined) projects, compared with other projects, and allocating technicians’ costs in a way that reflects this differential level of use. This could be through:
      • the use of standard £ costs chargeable to each project of a defined type; or
      • identifying a technician cost per technician hour (as described in the laboratory technicians’ example shown in document link Annex 17) and charging different numbers of technicians’ hours to each type of project;
    • a simpler method, where a standard charge expressed as a £ per academic/research staff FTE would be applied. This would have ‘fallen out’ of the simpler method described above as ‘the difference in the cost per FTE’.
  2. Irrespective of the methods used, institutions should ensure that:
    • they can verify the time that is being charged as directly incurred – either technicians (and other staff) are wholly dedicated to a project, or they complete project-level timesheets that are used to charge their time. These should be at least quarterly and it is good practice for them to be countersigned by an appropriate manager;
    • their methods are not so complex that they are in danger of under-recovering their costs;
    • there is no double-charging of technicians in the two categories of directly incurred costs and directly allocated costs;
    • as well as attributing laboratory technicians’ costs of Research to externally funded Research projects, they are also attributed to institution-/own-funded research and PGR activity. If laboratory technicians, for example, are being charged to projects on a £/FTE basis, then the FTEs used to calculate that rate would normally have taken PGR students into account. In that case laboratory technicians’ costs would be allocated to PGR student activity through application of the charge-out rate onto the PGR FTE.
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