May 19, 2017

Here's how much NIH spends on indirect costs

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans are starting to give more scrutiny to how much the National Institutes of Health spends to cover administration and overhead costs, rather than research expenses. This chart, taken from NIH budget tables, shows how the two kinds of funding compared to each other since fiscal 2005. This is the information Rep. Andy Harris used when he questioned NIH director Francis Collins about it at a Wednesday hearing.

Data: NIH; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The takeaways:

  • Indirect costs have hovered at roughly 27 percent of total spending for more than a decade.
  • Direct costs have remained steady at around 72 percent.
  • For private funders, 10 percent is more typical for indirect costs, like this example from the Alzheimer's Association Research Fellowship. (Collins says universities can only afford to accept such low overhead funds from private funders because NIH gives them more.)
Go deeper