I mentioned the launch of Horizon 2020 last week. Looking through the detail I was interested to see that the proposed reimbursement rates are, to quote the League of European Research Universities (LERU), 'a true simplification for the participants, not only for the administrators handling the budget, but also, and very importantly, for the principal investigators.' Like LERU, I was pleased about this, though the European Universities Association (EUA, AKA the People's Front of Judea) is not so happy, though, seeing it as 'a clear step backwards'.
But what's not to like? The EC is proposing that it will fund 100% or direct costs, and 20% of indirect costs for all research projects. This would replace the current system which funds according to the activity, with research activities being funded at 75%, management activities at 100%, and demonstration activities at 50%. Moreover, indirect costs are calculated at 60%. As you can imagine, this all causes a large amount of stress and brain ache for both applicants and research offices, especially as the result often ends up as a figure roughly equivalent to 100% direct +20% indirect.
So top marks to the EC for taking the simple route. Interestingly, I was told that a similar algorithm had been used by them in previous iterations of the Framework Programme (though before my time). All of which brought to mind TS Eliot in Little Gidding:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.