Fraser Health investigators are responsible for creating or negotiating a budget to cover all expenses related to the conduct of a clinical research, which includes both the direct costs and indirect costs.

Updated December 22, 2022

Full Cost of Research = Direct Costs + Indirect Costs

Direct cost is the cost that is attributable to a specific research project (e.g. staff salary, materials and supplies, equipment, departmental fees, consultant fee, publication costs, etc.).

Indirect cost, also known as overhead, is the central, and/or department, and/or facility cost that Fraser Health incurs to support research but that is not attributable to specific research projects. Overhead fee may or may not be attributable to specific project activities. This is a real cost to the institution to maintain the infrastructure and support the Department of Evaluation and Research Services (DERS) to allow research project to proceed at Fraser Health Authority. Indirect cost includes but is not limited to usage of space, accounting (invoicing, research account maintenance, preparation of financial reports), and research administration (reviewing contracts, review of research proposals etc.).

In order to recover institutional indirect costs, an institutional overhead charge is incorporated into the research project budget. This applies to all funded research where indirect costs are not recovered via alternative mechanisms.

See Clinical research overhead rates policy for the overhead rates.

How is overhead calculated?

Overhead is calculated as a percentage of applicable direct cost.

Overhead = Direct cost x overhead percentage

For example, if direct cost of the screening visit is $100, the overhead fee is $100 x 40% = $40. The total cost of the screening visit will be $100 + $40 = $140.

Are there exceptions to the overhead rate?

The only exceptions to the rate specified in the policy are funds from tri-agencies like Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (which provides indirect cost payments annually through the Federal Research Support Fund) and certain grant funders where they clearly state a different indirect cost recovery rate.

Different overhead rates for a grant-funded study will only be accepted if the sponsor’s indirect cost recovery rate can be verified by the research contracts coordinator (if a contract is required) or research development specialist through grant policy on the grant funder’s website.

Authority of waiving the indirect cost recovery requirement (Research policy section 1.10) rests with the Fraser Health vice president (VP) of Patient Experience.

What are my responsibilities?

Researchers are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that the indirect cost is included in the budget for all applicable items (please refer to “Which item should I apply overhead to?” on this page).
    Including overhead as a separate column in the budget to avoid any unnecessary confusion, i.e. if direct cost of the screening visit is $100, the overhead fee is $100 x 40% = $40:
    Item Direct cost Indirect cost Total
    Screening visit $100 $40 $140
  • Submitting the Fraser Health Institutional overhead checklist to the research contracts coordinator found in the Contract intake event form, applicable for studies with contracts only.

It is expected that the researchers have negotiated the budget in accordance to the Clinical research overhead rates policy. Please note that Fraser Health may contact the funder directly if the overhead fee has not been applied to any of the cost items that are subject to institutional overhead.

Does this mean I will get less money for my research project?

No. Researchers are to apply overhead rates to the direct costs of the research. The full cost will include both the direct cost and indirect cost.

Which items should I apply the overhead to?

You must ensure that overhead is applied on items such as:

  • Start-up payments (including pharmacy start-up, lab start-up, medical imaging start-up fees)
  • All per subject costs (including patient visits, unscheduled visits, conditional procedures)
  • Research staff activities (e.g. principal investigator hourly fees, research assistant/coordinator time spent on submitting protocol amendments, SAEs, preparing for a monitor visit or inspection, re-consenting)
  • Screen failure reimbursements
  • Medical procedures (including biopsies, radiological services, blood draws)
  • Pharmacy fees (including dispensing of study medication, on-call pharmacist services)
  • Close up fees (including research staff time)
  • Service fees (including consultant services, laboratory analysis services)
  • Traveling fees (including transportation, accommodation, subsistence)

Please consult with during the budget negotiation if a sponsor does not agree to include overhead on any of the items above.

You should try to negotiate to apply overhead to the following items:

  • Patient reimbursement
  • Archiving/storage fees
  • Equipment fees

The following items are not subject to overhead:

  • Initial review fee for Research Ethics Board
  • Annual renewal fee for Research Ethics Board
  • Other fees for Research Ethics Board
  • Patient partner honorarium
  • RealTime eDocs module fee

Are sub-awards or sub-grants to Fraser Health from other institutions subject to indirect cost recovery?

Yes. The main site is responsible to negotiate on behalf of the sub-sites sufficient funds so that the appropriate indirect costs are included in the transfer of funds to each institution. Sub-contracts are usually charged the same overhead rate as the main site.

How are institutional indirect costs collected from my research funding?

See the Institutional research overhead collection process Q&A.

Who can I contact for additional questions or support?

For industry-sponsored studies, please email For grant-funded studies, please contact the research development specialist.


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