Indirect costs scandals and a new federal mandate pressure budget officers to grapple with what they see as a befuddling to grapple with what they see as a befuddling task

WASHINGTON--University research administrators across the United States are moving to comply with a newly imposed limit on how much money they can recover from the government to compensate their schools for administrative support of federally funded research.

And in the process of observing the new federal regulation, some of these administrators are becoming frustrated by what they see as a fundamental flaw in the system of indirect costs recovery--namely, the lack of consensus on how to calculate the real cost of research at their institutions.

"For all the accounting that goes into it, it's still not a precise science," says Marvin Ebel, a physicist and associate dean of the graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, referring to the...

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