Grants fund research

By Brian Slupski

Although research is a big part of the university operations, it is no longer budgeted by NIU’s individual colleges, but rather comes from externally-funded grants.

Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean James Norris said no money is actually budgeted for research by his college.

He said at the end of the year faculty memebers fill out an activity form which lists items like direct instruction and research. This research, which faculty do on their own time, used to be part of departmental costs.

In the last year, the Illinois Board of Higher Education changed the classifcation of this type of research. It used to be classified under “direct instruction” because it was thought to directly benefit classes. It is now classified under “research.”

Norris said it is impossible to seperate teaching from research. He said if he reads and writes about his subject to stay current, it’s not only research, but it also is very benefical to teaching.

“There is no doubt that out of a budget of $200 million for education that some money is wasted. Even within my own department not every penny is spent as efficiently as I’d like.

“But the notion that too much money is spent for research is silly,” Norris said.

Sponsored Projects Director Linda Schwarz said sometimes when faculty receive a grant, funds from the university will have to be put up to match it.

“Sometimes we have to put up 50 percent, but we try not to, most often it’s less.

“The purpose of the grants is to help the university pay for things it couldn’t afford otherwise,” Schwarz said.

The said provisions of the grants vary from project to project, but very often they include the indirect costs of the project.

The indirect costs of the project might be office and laboratory space, utilities, library services and other support services.

“Recovered indirect costs may also pay for additional research, including hiring undergraduate and graduate assistants,” she said.

Associate Provost and Dean Jerrold Zar said, “A relatively small amount of university money goes to research.”

He said last fiscal year $16 million for research came from outside agencies.

“Research doesn’t cost us very much, especially in relation to its benefits,” Zar said.

He said much research is directly related to course work at the graduate level.

Zar also said grants which include indirect research costs, such as utilities, can benefit students. Equipment can be purchased with grant money for research, but still be used for teaching purposes and by students.