How to explain F&A to critical stakeholders in a simple handout

Expert Insight

How to explain F&A to critical stakeholders in a simple handout

Despite the importance of facilities and administrative (F&A) funding to the research enterprise, CROs and their teams struggle to explain the concept in a straightforward way. While many research offices post their F&A rate on their website or include a brief section about F&A in their policy catalog, these descriptions tend to be overly technical and difficult to leverage during conversations with critical stakeholders. This leads to ongoing stakeholder confusion and skepticism about the value of F&A.

To better educate a broad audience on F&A, CROs and their teams should develop a concise and easily shareable handout that provides stakeholders with a basic introduction to F&A and its uses. See how the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill designed an effective one-page resource.

Effectively communicating a complex topic

UNC Chapel Hill created a simple, publicly accessible handout that includes a visual representation of F&A and breakdown of the costs that F&A covers. UNC Chapel Hill was deliberate about what information is included—and what is deprioritized.

Click to view the full PDF

Define direct vs. F&A costs

To ensure stakeholder understanding, it’s critical that any handout on F&A explains the difference between the direct costs of research itself and the costs of facilities and administrative services required to conduct research.

The very first sentence on UNC Chapel Hill’s handout simply defines direct and F&A costs. UNC Chapel Hill went a step further by including a visual representation that dissects a dollar into these categories of research costs. This makes an abstract concept more concrete and shows how the majority of every dollar goes to direct costs, thereby addressing a common faculty misperception.

Include subcategories of F&A

CROs and their teams should include several examples of the subcategories of F&A costs on their handout. These concrete examples help faculty make connections between F&A and the services and resources they benefit from as researchers.

For example, the back side of UNC Chapel Hill’s handout outlines many different subcategories of F&A and even provides a list of examples for each one.

Show the distribution of institutional F&A costs

Most education materials fail to explain how F&A is used by the university. Showing the distribution of institutional F&A costs on a handout can help CROs and their teams debunk myths and concerns about how and where F&A costs are incurred.

The back side of the UNC Chapel Hill handout provides a good example. Along with outlining the subcategories of F&A, UNC Chapel Hill also showed the portion of a research dollar that is allocated to each subcategory based on their cost calculations.

Draw the connection between F&A and overall research expenditures

Some handouts show how direct funding and F&A funding combine to make up the institution’s overall research expenditures, which can help stakeholders develop a realistic sense of how much F&A the institution receives and why it’s so important.

For example, the front side of UNC Chapel Hill’s handout highlights the total dollars the institution received for federal research expenses in fiscal year 2017 and breaks this down by direct and F&A funding. However, some institutions may opt to exclude this information to avoid drawing attention to their F&A recovery rate.

Use our template to create your own one-pager on F&A

Visit our F&A Communications Toolkit to learn about other types of information to include on an F&A handout and download a ready-to-use template based on the UNC Chapel Hill example.

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