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TRAC fEC

TRAC full Economic Cost (fEC) is an extension of the original Annual TRAC process and involves determining the full economic costs of Research at a project level.

The fEC of a project is made up of:

  1. Directly incurred costs
  2. Directly allocated costs
  3. Indirect costs

This classification determines how they are recorded and validated. Directly incurred costs are recorded on the basis of actual expenditure. The directly allocated and indirect costs are recorded on the basis of standard costs established at the time of project approval.

pFACT

pFACT is the University’s web based Research costing system. It allows users to cost projects using the principles of TRAC fEC.

Users can access the system through Queen’s Online with their user ID and password. On the Queen’s Online homepage the link to pFACT is on the left hand side under the Research heading.

On the pFACT Login page there is a link to the User Guide for pFACT which can also be accessed here. In addition full assistance in the use of the system is available from the pFACT helpdesk (pfact@qub.ac.uk) and from the Research Support Office.

Directly incurred costs

Directly incurred (DI) costs are items or services incurred or purchased specifically for a project and include:

  • research staff
  • dedicated technicians or other support staff
  • equipment purchase
  • non-staff costs such as consumables or travel and subsistence

Directly allocated costs

Directly allocated (DA) costs are costs of services on a project, where the services are shared by other activities and projects and include:

  1. principal and co-investigators
  2. estates costs
  3. directly allocated laboratory technicians
  4. charges for major research facilities

1. Principal and co-investigators

Academics need to estimate the number of hours that are likely to be required for the project robustly (building up, over time, a knowledge and experience of good forecasting techniques).

An estimate should be made of the actual number of hours that are necessary, up to a maximum of 1650 hours per annum for one individual on one project. A salary rate per hour is then applied to the hours charged, to produce a total salary cost on the project and per annum.

The hourly salary rates can be calculated using that individual’s salary (including ‘on-costs’ such as employers’ National Insurance and pension costs), or using an appropriate pay banding. pFACT uses pay banding for all academic staff salaries to preserve anonymity of staff salaries. Estimated pay increments are then added. All salary costs are indexed.

The TRAC methodology does not require academics to prepare project-level timesheets. However, they need to be able to show evidence that they have actually worked on the project. Academics also need to be able to certify, if asked, that the project has (very broadly) required the amount of time originally estimated, but they do not have to show time records for this.

2. Estates costs

The estates costs are calculated in the same way as indirect costs, £ per FTE. Two separate rates are used, depending on whether the research project being costed is laboratory or non-laboratory based.

The rates include the total estates costs of academic departments, including repairs and maintenance, utilities, rates, buildings depreciation and the net TRAC infrastructure adjustment, and estates staff.   Equipment depreciation (and purchases under capitalisation limits) is also included.

Rates are calculated on 1 February of each year and apply for the following 12 months. Rates are benchmarked regularly, and institutions must be able to justify rates above the upper quartile for the sector.

The current non-laboratory and laboratory rates for Queen’s can be obtained from stephen.grant@qub.ac.uk.

3. Directly allocated laboratory technicians

These are staff who are not dedicated to one project and who do not complete timesheets. Charge-out rates are used to directly allocate an appropriate part of their costs to each research project.

There are two types of charges:

  1. The time the technician spends working on specific projects (but this is not recorded on timesheets). This time is called ‘pool technician’ activity.This ‘pool technician rate’ should include all of the costs of the time that the technicians work on a research project, on institution-/own-funded Research, or in support of PGR students.
  2. The time they spend providing infrastructure support. This could include health and safety, workshops, management, etc. This time cannot be directly charged to any specific project and is to be charged as an amount per academic FTE. 

4. Major Research Facilities (MRF)/Small Research Facilities (SRF)

It is a TRAC requirement for the University to separately cost at least one MRF and two SRFs to enable the services provided by the facilities to be separately charged to research grants.

For MRFs the methodology involves identifying an annual full Economic Cost (fEC) for the research facility in question together with a projected annual activity to arrive at a unit charge out rate. The annual fEC should include –

  • Depreciation costs based on replacement cost of equipment
  • Technicians and other direct staff costs
  • Consumables and equipment running costs
  • Equipment maintenance and insurance costs
  • Estates costs where material

For SRF's, the costing is not based on fEC. Depreciation and Estates costs are excluded from the charge-out rates.

It is important that these charges are fully incorporated into research project costs where applicable.

Indirect costs

Indirect costs are not directly related to any one project or activity, but are a necessary part of the costs of undertaking an activity. These costs are attributed to projects through a proxy - £ per FTE.

The indirect cost rate includes:

  • the Support time (cost) of academics
  • clerical and administrative staff in academic departments *
  • non-staff costs in academic departments *
  • central services including academic services such as the library and information services
  • the estates costs of central service departments
  • the Return for Financing and Investment (RFI) adjustment

*Note:  These costs exclude any costs that have been charged to a project as a directly incurred cost, or are being charged as a directly allocated cost.  By definition, the Support time/cost of academic staff already excludes time/cost that has been charged to a project or otherwise relates to a direct Research, Teaching or Other activity.

The indirect cost rate for Research is calculated by taking the total indirect cost for Research divided by the FTE number of research students (weighted) and research and academic staff working on Research.

The current indirect cost rate for Queen’s can be obtained from stephen.grant@qub.ac.uk.

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