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Suppose I want to pay a postdoc $65K for salary. How much research fund do I need to have to support this postdoc (on average, of course, not exactly)?

Is it only the 65K or are there many other hidden costs?

PS: this is about ballpark, back of the envelope calculations, and to understand the general costs involved in such hires. It is not to get an exact number.

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    You should ask your department's financial officer. But as a rough rule of thumb in the US you should double the salary to determine the amount of funding you need to find to employ a post doc. And your department or institution may set that salary.
    – JHare
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:29
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    I cleaned up the long thread of comments which was clearly veering toward a polemic. NewAP, please familiarize yourself with the rules of this site having a look at the Tour and at the Help center. And please beware that we expect everyone to keep a professional tone in the comments and to adhere to the Code of Conduct. Dec 30, 2020 at 20:26
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    Eg: if specific percentage in one institution is 47.5% and in another 37% it doesn't matter that much to the question, so it doesn't make sense to close due to this reason.
    – New AP
    Dec 30, 2020 at 20:29
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    @NewAP - Most open/close decisions here are made by community vote, not by moderator fiat. If you edit your question, it will be placed in a queue for a reopening vote. The hard part of question-asking is the amount of detail: it should be specific enough that there is a correct answer rather than an open-ended discussion, but general enough that future readers might find the question useful. In your case, a good starting place would be to specify your country (or part of the world) and field.
    – cag51
    Dec 30, 2020 at 21:50
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    There is a meta discussion on the closure of this question here
    – cag51
    Dec 31, 2020 at 20:46

1 Answer 1

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This differs significantly by country. In some countries, it will also be different for each university.

In the US, each university shows the government what its additional costs for supporting research are and negotiates percentages with the federal government. This calculation will apply to all federal government funding but other funders are free to make other demands. You ask your university's grants office for the details that apply to you university.

For my university, the calculations are:

On salary, my university adds 30.70% for fringe benefits, so an additional $20K on top of the $65K. This pays for things like social security tax (the part paid by employers), health insurance, retirement benefits, and life insurance.

In addition, on the $85K (from $65K+$20K), my university adds 47.50% for indirect costs, which is a little more than $40K. This pays general university resources that the postdoc will use, like office and lab space, heat and light, library books and subscriptions, the accountants managing the grant, and basic office supplies. (Any grant project specific supplies, like lab equipment or lab consumables or travel, is budgeted separately in the grant.)

This comes out to roughly $125K total. Note this doesn't include some items you almost certainly need to have, such as travel funding for the postdoc.

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  • If the postdoc is working online (zoom) can the university still charge these "indirect" costs?
    – New AP
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:37
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    There is a lower rate (26%) for activities that are off-campus. If the postdoc is permanently working remotely, you might be able to convince your university that this should apply. Dec 30, 2020 at 17:40
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    I don't see why you care about this. You just write the larger amount in your grant budget. The size of the grant has basically zero effect on its likelihood of being approved. The grant will now look bigger, but that looks better on your CV. If it's a private funder with limited budget, they can negotiate separately with the university. The whole thing is just a scheme for the university to get more money from the government (and we can argue about how justified it is somewhere else). Dec 30, 2020 at 17:45
  • Thanks, I might have funds coming from elsewhere already, and want to know how I can make best use of them.
    – New AP
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:46
  • @NewAP - but other funders are free to make other demands. I have a small grant from a private foundation which said "We will pay this much for indirect costs. Take it or leave it." My university allowed me to apply. Dec 30, 2020 at 17:53

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