Budgeting in research

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Some questions associated with librarian involvement in research
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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 16 June 2017


See also Applying for grants | Ethics and the health librarian | Research Portal for Academic Librarians | Teaching library users

Budgeting in research is an essential part of participating in the academy and may encompass applying for grants as well as management of costs (and, being accountable to funding and granting agencies). To inform funders about your project and the deliverables associated with it, detailed budgets/costs and timelines must be submitted and followed (or reasons provided if and when deadlines are not met).

Many funding agencies require you to follow prescribed formats in order to submit grant applications. Typically, this will include an overview of the project, and a detailed budgeting plan. Some items may have to be listed and their costs provided line by line; in any case, you should aim to follow the granting agency's instructions for budgeting as closely as possible. Both before and after your project is completed, you may need to demonstrate your budget is fiscally sound by detailing major costs, and accounting for any unseen costs. Any contingencies must be explictly accounted for in your budgeting which may include activities such as consultations with others about the research undertaken. A word of caution: be extremely wary of lifting budgets from guidebooks or manuals because many of the printed templates are only meant to provide a general sense of how a budget should be devised and followed. In addition, remember to include all subtotals in your various (e.g., transportation, living expenses, supplies, and research assistants), and all probable expenses. Major expenses should be covered but you will need to provide rationale for major line items.

When writing a budget for a project, it will be important to think about your daily, monthly and annual expenses from books and software as well as incidental costs such as wireless access and depreciating values of equipment. If your project relies on regular meetings, remember to budget for travel and ancillary costs for your research members. Any funds that you receive are for expenses linked to your project (e.g., keep in mind many grantors do not fund certain costs such as meals on the road or transportation). Be sure to check and compare your budget to any previous budgets or models that have been provided, and amend yours accordingly. If your budget is higher than what was supported, indicate how you plan to make up any additional costs. You may want to mention other grants you have applied for or received. When relevant, any professional funds or payments that you have already received due to your consulting work should be included. If you are anticipating funding from other sources, be as upfront as possibile and indicate how it will cover some of the costs. Show you have other funding in place rather than submit something incomplete. It is both professional and ethical to be as honest in your grant applications as possible.

Library budgets & technology

Academic library managers continue to worry about the constraints of funding in 2015, and what might be a good formula to invest in information technologies for the future. To organize and shape libraries, many academic librarians are adopting major parts of their strategic plans to help guide library programming and investments in technologies. Many librarians do not have a clear sense of the return on investment (ROI) for their library programs, services, or technologies. And because budgets are very tight, and restricted in Canada by the low dollar, demand for services and features outpace our ability to respond. Academic libraries continue to experience rising demands for online materials, and there is no end in sight. Academic libraries are information technology learning commons and centres, but an increasing number of libraries have turned to outside service providers for support. Some libraries are using cloud computing for infrastructure and communications infrastructure.

Indirect costs (budgeting for a librarian)

Health librarians are always alert to providing value to clinical care but increasingly are attuned to their value in research projects. Most clinical research project incur a range of indirect costs, which must be appropriately considered before the project is undertaken. This includes providing a line item for the consultation with a subject specialist librarian or information retrieval expert to cull the literature. The indirect costs of research are often focussed on institutional costs that support programs and projects but there are other matters which must be included such as:

  • The use, maintenance and upgrading of space, utilities and research libraries;
  • The consultation with a subject-specialist librarian working in a similar research area;
  • Central technical support of labs, offices, core and other facilities;
  • Management and administration of finances, regulatory requirements and compliance (i.e. research ethics, biohazard certification, patient care etc.);
  • Hazardous waste disposal, radiation and occupational safety and liability.

Future strategies for health librarians

In 2014, the Canadian government created a Canada First Research Excellence Fund to provide $1.5 billion CDN from 2015-2025 to support research that contributes to the country’s long-term economic competitiveness. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) responded to this announcement by saying that modest increases in research funding were welcome as we4ll as the "government’s recognition of university research as a significant driver of prosperity."

Clearly, health librarians will want to help their users tap into this fund in the future to demonstrate their value in the research process.


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