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From the Overhead

The budget blueprint proposed by President Donald Trump last week may partially balance out cuts to research funding by decreasing overhead payments to universities and research institutes, ScienceInsider reports.

The budget blueprint outlines the Trump Administration's plan for government spending for fiscal year 2018, and it includes a nearly 20 percent budget cut for the National Institutes of Health, as GenomeWeb has reported. Under this plan, the NIH budget would be cut by $5.8 billion.

But a source tells ScienceInsider that the administration is concerned about indirect costs, which are payments made to research institutions to cover things like administrative costs and utilities, but are sometimes also used in other ways, and wants to cut them. For NIH grants, ScienceInsider says that research institutions can receive as indirect costs an amount that equals between 10 percent and 100 percent of the direct costs. ScienceInsider calculates that if the indirect cost rate at NIH had been limited to 10 percent in 2016, the agency would have spent $4.7 billion less.

However, Tony DeCrappeo, president of the Council on Governmental Relations, tells ScienceInsider that these costs are "real and necessary" to maintain the infrastructure needed for running research labs.